My experience on the Pinsent Masons virtual vacation scheme

Latest blog post by LLB law student, Maddison Seed.

My name is Maddison and this summer I joined Pinsent Masons as a vacation scheme student, albeit a virtual one! Despite its differences to traditional in-person vacation schemes, this was a fantastic experience that was innovative, engaging and fun.

The Virtual Platform

The Virtual Vacation Scheme was hosted on Inside Sherpa; this is a digital platform with online programs that contain tasks designed to simulate various career roles.

The vacation scheme consisted of five tabs: Home, Schedule, Internship Hub, Networking Hub, and Chat & Inbox. The Home page presented your upcoming events; the Internship Hub was where you could access the resources for your assigned tasks and various videos on Pinsent Masons; and the Networking Hub was a directory of students and employees involved in the vacation scheme. It showed a photo of each person, and if you clicked on a person’s photo you could read a fun fact about them!

In addition to Inside Sherpa, Pinsent Masons used Microsoft Teams. By clicking on the event you wanted to attend on either the Home page or Schedule, you were automatically directed to Teams, where you could join the event call.

Contact on the scheme

We were each allocated a mentor (a qualified solicitor) and a trainee buddy who were our main points of contact throughout the scheme. They were easily reachable via the Inside Sherpa platform, Teams or email. They were also extremely supportive and on hand to give advice and answer all our questions.

Plus, we were given a teammate – this was another student who had applied to the same office, and shared your mentors and trainee buddy. Teammates acted as a friendly face during the scheme, and someone who you could work together with.

Structure of the scheme

The scheme consisted of live webinars on Teams, tasks to complete in your own time, and the odd social!

The webinars were a mixture of talks and workshops. The talks ranged in subject: examples include a presentation on how to be a successful trainee, panel discussions on COVID-19 and innovation, and Q&As with Richard Foley, the global Senior Partner at Pinsent Masons. The workshops were interactive, and the use of ‘breakout rooms’ on Teams allows us to collaborate in smaller groups. An example of a workshop was the commercial awareness exercise: we were faced with tricky ethical dilemmas which each group had to discuss and provide a solution for.

We were assigned two tasks to complete in our own time. The first one was to review a contract in order to provide answers to the client’s questions. The second one was to complete a due diligence report- this involved reading through all the client’s company documents to identify any issues. When we finished the tasks, we had a 1:1 session with our mentor who provided us with positive and constructive feedback.

Pinsent Masons made a big effort to ensure that we could still network and have fun! We had a quiz and a game of bingo, but my favourite social was the cocktail/mocktail event. Each office set up a Zoom call to make a cocktail/mocktail and there was a competition to see which office made the best one. The event was done in a ‘shocking shirt’ theme which only added to the fun!

(Birmingham Office Cocktail/Mocktail Event- I am in the shockingly bright green shirt!)

 Advantages to participating in a virtual vacation scheme

There were actually many advantages to completing the vacation scheme virtually, but I will focus on two of them.

The first benefit is that we could experience a range of tasks. Had we been in the office, we would have only been able to complete tasks pertaining to our allocated seat. However, because we completed the scheme virtually, the tasks allowed us to dabble in multiple different areas. Going back to the due diligence task I mentioned earlier, the documents we reviewed covered many areas of law, from commercial to IP, instead of just focusing on documents relating to one practice area. As such, we gained a broad knowledge of how different areas of law inter-relate and work in practice.

The second benefit is that the online platform allowed us to connect with vacation scheme students from all the UK offices: everyone was contactable through the Networking Hub and we all joined the same webinars. This meant that we could form long-lasting relationships with people who we may not have been able to meet had we been confined to one office.

How to prepare for a virtual vacation scheme

To conclude my blog, I will share some tips on how to prepare for a virtual vacation scheme.

Keep in mind the general advice for traditional in-person vacation schemes. Although you’re not in the office, don’t forget to be yourself and ask lots of questions. This includes asking for help- your mentor and trainee buddy are there to help you and want you to do well!

When you participate in events (whether that be talks, workshops, video meetings etc), make sure you keep your camera on so that they know you are engaged. You can make a good impression by actively listening: nodding, smiling and making notes. But remember that if your camera is on, it’s very important that you dress professionally (even if that is only your top half!) and have a tidy background.

Please don’t be put off by the fact that a vacation scheme is virtual. I had an incredible time with Pinsent Masons. I experienced multiple areas of law in practice, networked with people of all levels in the firm (Trainee, Associate, Partner and even Senior Partner!), and made some friends for life.

 

“Combining my legal and technical skills” – navigating a less traditional career path into LegalTech and academia by law alumna, Amy Conroy

Blog post by recent Bristol LLB Law and MSc Computer Science graduate, Amy Conroy on LegalTech, academia and navigating a less traditional career path.

I graduated with my LLB from Bristol Law School in 2019 and ended up heading down an unconventional route shortly after. I was drawn away by Legal Tech while writing my final year research project on artificial intelligence and its compatibility with the Right to be Forgotten from the GDPR. After that I decided to get a more hands on experience with technology by enrolling in the MSc Computer Science conversion at Bristol University which I finished this September. 

Developing an Automatic Case Judgment Summarisation System 

As part of my MSc thesis I developed a system that automatically summarises case judgments – something I sure wish I had during my law degree! A year ago, I didn’t even know how to code a simple program, and now I am submitting articles to conferences based on my work using machine learning. The biggest key to my success with my thesis was my existing legal knowledge, something that isn’t common in the computer science field. I was able to identify normal clues that indicated precedents in judgments and shape my system around that.  

Combining my legal and technical skills has opened up an excellent opportunity in academia, which I continue to explore in my free time as I am still working on and improving my research. I am a firm believer that the critical thinking skills I gained during my law degree helped me to be successful completing my masters, as a lot of computer science is figuring out the best way to do something, not just using the first way that works.  

openTenancy: An Open Source Legal Aid Website 

This past July, my friend Ana Shmyglya and I decided to start openTenancy, an open source website that provides free advice on tenancy rights. On the back of my thesis, this has been the perfect way to combine my legal knowledge with my new technical skills. We decided to start openTenancy after I talked to Ana about how often my friends were approaching me to ask for advice regarding their tenancies (especially during COVID-19), and how frustrated I was that there wasn’t a simple way you can fill out a questionnaire and get a clear document explaining your tenancy rights. In the same respect, we felt that a lot of people, students especially, were missing out on enforcing their tenancy rights because of how hard it is for them to understand exactly what they are. So, the aim of openTenancy is to do just that – we’re hoping to make it simple for anyone to enforce their tenancy rights with a simple questionnaire!  

We’re currently still developing openTenancy and are looking for contributors to help us write decision trees about tenancy rights. These decision trees are essentially pathways that guide a user through the interview, with each selection opening new questions depending on their answers. This is a really exciting opportunity for you to get involved in changing the current landscape of legal aid in the UK by using automation on an open source platform. Open source is something commonly used in the technology field, which we’re hoping to bring to the legal world – this means that every aspect of openTenancy is freely available, and open for anyone to contribute to. If you’re interested in getting involved, you can get in touch with me personally via email or send an email to the openTenancy team 

Legal Tech Careers Outside of Law Firms 

Despite falling in love with coding through my conversion course, I knew that I still wanted to be involved in the legal world and put to use the amazing skills I’d gained from my law degree. For that reason I decided to look for a career beyond traditional legal firms, and I’m now working for a Legal Tech document automation company called Avvoka. Although I’ve only worked there for a few weeks, my work has been incredibly varied – covering marketing, sales, automation, contract review and more! I’ve loved the opportunity to work with leading automation technology, while also putting to use my legal skills and continuing to be involved in the legal market. I’d seriously recommend that you consider exploring work opportunities with Legal Tech startups if you are interested in Legal Technology, or even if you are just looking at alternative career paths. 

Key Advice 

I would really recommend that you try everything! The skills that you gain with your law degree can genuinely be applied to any field, and it’s important that you don’t feel forced down one specific route. Both the Law School and the Careers Service at Bristol run a variety of events on different career paths and opportunities, and I’d recommend you take full advantage of that. On top of that, one big benefit of the shift to remote working is that a lot of companies are now offering short courses and other sessions online. For example, if you’re interested in seeing what the hype surrounding document automation is all about, my company Avvoka runs academy sessions where you can get hands-on experience with an automation tool used in a lot of law firms and commercial companies. Fun fact – before I applied to Avvoka I actually went to an academy session myself, after a great experience working with their platform I decided to try my luck by applying for a role!  

I would also suggest considering setting up a Twitter account and following those that are working in the industries that you’re interested in (even if you’re not sure what you want to do, or even what field you’re interested in). Most of my opportunities have come from connecting with those in the Legal Tech world this way, including the lovely Catherine Bamford who has helped get openTenancy off the ground – her mentorship and now friendship has been so helpful navigating potential careers in Legal Tech as well.  

Remember that you are on no schedule to figure out your own career path, so take your time to find something you enjoy and don’t compare your own experience and journey with anyone else’s.

Feel free to reach out to me if you’re looking for some advice or guidance particularly in navigating less traditional career paths after your law degree, or if you have any questions at all. I can be contacted through my websiteon twitter or on LinkedIn 

Further information

If like Amy, you are considering pursuing a less traditional legal career path and would like some guidance, the Law School offers the opportunity for second year LLB and MA students to be mentored on the Law in Society mentoring scheme, aimed at matching students with legal graduates in non-corporate/commercial career paths, such as human rights, government, policy and LegalTech. Applications close on Monday 2 November – find out more online.

How can you make the most of your mentoring opportunities? Six top tips from law student, Oli Carey

Continuing our ‘Mentoring Month’ promotion this October, we caught up with one of our current law students and Freshfields Stephen Lawrence Scholar for 2019, Oli Carey. Oli outlines his six tips to ensure you get the most from your mentoring relationships.

Mentorship as an aspiring barrister or solicitor is an invaluable opportunity, but as a student it is understandably daunting at first.

The best thing you can do as a mentee and student is be as prepared as possible – after all, being a mentee is more than likely new to you. 

After being selected as 1 of 13 Freshfields Stephen Lawrence Scholars for 2019, I was lucky enough to be paired with a bench of different mentors. I’ve spent the last year learning from each of their personal experiences and strengths through their unique experience and advice. This was my first experience of professional mentorship so it’s safe to say I’ve come a long way since then. 

The following are 6 tips for students to keep in mind at all stages of mentoring. Quotes from one of my mentors, an enforcement and regulatory lawyer for the Bank of Englandare included in italics (these views are personal and do not reflect the views of the Bank).

1. Making first contact

There are many concerns that may run through your mind before contacting a mentor for the first time. What if you have nothing to say? What if they find you unimpressive? What if you don’t get along? These are all fair concerns – all of which can be avoided if planned for. 

Face-to-face meetings are always a great way to start things off, but (given the current circumstances) this is unlikely to be an option. Youre left with a phone call or an email. Lead with an email making it clear that you would like to schedule a phone call. Your goal is to get to know each other – this will be significantly easier over the phone. 

Start off with simple questions that will get the mentor talking about themselves – what their first job was, whether they always planned to work in this field, how they chose it, how they approached essays, exams etc.” 

Be prepared to talk about yourself. It is important that they understand you and your goals. Let them know what your thoughts are regarding your career and in what areas you think they might be able to help. 

2. Agree on expectations

Things are going to be made a lot easier, on both sides, if there is agreement on expectations. This can be as basic as how often and by what means you are going to communicate. A suggestion that worked well for me was to have a call every 2/3 weeks – often enough to be able to ask pressing questions but not so often as to be a nuisance. 

As far as your expectations for the relationship, don’t expect that you are going to click immediately. In fact, you might never really click with your mentor. You should be expecting something between professional and friendly. As long as you are gaining something positive then you are on the right track. 

“I still got a lot out of being mentored by a former Court of Appeal judge, even if I was terrified the whole time!” 

3. Respect their time

A professional mentor in any sector is likely to be extremely busy. The onus is going to be on you to fit mentorship around this. 

Always take the lead on scheduling calls and be as flexible as you can. Remember that saying “any time” is not helpful – give specific dates that are going to work for you and then times you can’t do on those dates, as this will help the quick matching of schedules. Be clear that you are available early in the morning and late at night (this might be the only time available for some people). 

Expect them to have a very active inbox – don’t be offended if one of your emails is missed. If you haven’t received a reply after a week, send another email to draw their attention to the first. Good advice here is to remain cheerful and acknowledge that they must be very busy. It is very unlikely that your mentor is intentionally ignoring you. If you are unsure whether to follow up with another email do speak to the mentoring scheme organisers.  

4. Ask insightful questions

Make the most of your mentor’s experience and ask questions that really matter to you. Asking great questions will require some self-reflection and preparation. What are some current issues that matter to you? Does your mentor have some experiences that you think you could learn from? How has your mentor built a skillset that you admire? The more time you put into preparing questions the more productive your conversations are going to be.  

Start off with practical questions like asking for feedback on your CV, job applications or essay topics… realise that mentors can be nervous too. They might not feel very confident about what they can offer the mentee, so focusing on something practical can help them unlock that. Imposter syndrome is a problem even for people who are very successful!” 

Another idea is to create the expectation that you will send a topic or question to your mentor some days in advance of a scheduled meeting. This both gives them time to prepare and gets you into the routine of preparing more thoroughly. 

5. Making the most of their time

Not only is your mentor likely to be busy, but they will also be more senior, knowledgeable, and experienced than you. Respect the fact that the time they take out of their day is a significant commitment. Show respect in being open to their feedback. Don’t be an energy drain for your mentor – take on feedback and show that you are implementing it where possible. 

Remember this is a two-way relationship and you should be looking to give something back to your mentor. Your mentor will appreciate your genuine interest in what they have to say. 

Dialogue can be a space for the mentor to reflect not just on their own journey, but to practise listening and really challenge themselves to learn about the experiences – positive or negative – the mentee is having.” 

6. Keep things on track

It can be easy to let things slip as a mentee. You might get really busy with uni or work and not make any time to speak with your mentor. You might not have prepared before your meetings or have been putting a lot of energy or effort in. 

The solution to any of these problems is going to be obvious but you may need some convincing when the time comes. The longer you wait to fix it the more difficult things are going to be. Be honest with yourself about where you went wrong and contact your mentor ASAP. 

In summary

Each of my mentors has given me different insights over the last year, but all of them have helped me build a strong foundation for a professional networkMy final tip would be to recognise the value that every supporter in your network bringsHaving the support of such accomplished, experienced and (most importantly) unique people has given me great confidence in my academics, future career and all other facets of life. 

Further information

Securing a mentor can help you to develop key skills that employers are looking for, such as communication and personal skills, increase your confidence and motivation and provide you with an opportunity to delve deeper into an area of law or non-law that you are considering pursuing.

Many of the mentoring schemes on offer through the Law School close for applications at the end of October 2020, so make sure you read about each scheme before applying. Find out more about our various mentoring schemes and how to apply here.

“Big law in a prestigious firm isn’t for everyone” – mentoring insights from law alumna, Sarah Brufal

As part of ‘Mentoring Month’ this October, we caught up with one of our current Professional Mentoring Scheme mentors, law alumna and Head of Legal EMEA at Siemens Digital Industries Software, Sarah Brufal. Sarah explains how she came to be a mentor on the scheme, and her tips and learnings for students considering joining a mentoring scheme.

A couple of years ago I did something I had been meaning to do for a long time … I sent an email to the Law Faculty at Bristol University and asked if they needed any support from an alumnus. I wondered if I could do anything useful and I was really interested to see how (if at all) things had changed since my day! I had so many great memories of being a student in Bristol in the early 90’s – wow that makes me sound incredibly old. It was a great introduction to Law and we had so many varied and talented Professors – all with such huge passion for the Law.

Amazingly I got an answer back straight away and was soon put in touch with Rosa and found myself with a new mentee shortly after that. I have had two mentees so far and, although Covid has limited the experience this year, I have taken a lot of positives and learnt a lot from the Scheme and my mentees:

  • My Most Significant Recollection: Remembering how little you really know about life in the Law when you are at University and what career options are open to you;
  • My Most Important Learning: That “big law” in a prestigious City law firm isn’t for everyone;
  • My Deepest Sympathy: Seeing how painstaking it is to complete all those job application forms with something interesting; and
  • My Greatest Enjoyment: Showing my first mentee what life In House in Industry is like when she came on work experience.

My top tip for anyone thinking of joining the scheme would be to reach out and speak up. Both my mentees have been very good at asking questions and in asking for support when needed. I think that is so important. Never think you are wasting anyone’s time or asking too much – as lawyers, who always have a view, they will tell you if they think you are!

More about Sarah

Sarah Brufal joined Siemens Digital Industries Software as Head of Legal EMEA in 2014. Since then she has worked as part of a fantastic team of legal professionals working to help bring customer success in the innovative worlds of Software and Digitalisation.

Having started her career in private practice at Ashursts and Shearman & Sterling, Sarah moved in-house and has held General Counsel roles at General Electric in London and Middle East.

Further information

Securing a mentor can help you to develop key skills that employers are looking for, such as communication and personal skills, increase your confidence and motivation and provide you with an opportunity to delve deeper into an area of law or non-law that you are considering pursuing.

Many of the mentoring schemes on offer through the Law School close for applications at the end of October 2020, so make sure you read about each scheme before applying. Find out more about our various mentoring schemes and how to apply here.

My Experience with the Law in Society Mentoring Scheme: Why I Did it and Why You Should Too

As part of ‘Mentoring Month’ this October, we caught up with recent law grad, Haneet Sagoo on why she chose to apply for the Law in Society mentoring scheme and how it helped shape her career aspirations. Find out how you can do more with law below.

It’s safe to say that signing up to the Law in Society Mentoring scheme was one of the best decisions I made in my final year. Here I’ll tell you how it worked and why it was such a beneficial experience.

Who Should Apply?

Anyone who is thinking about what they’d like to do after uni and wants to explore their options! The scheme is especially great for law students who are looking at careers outside the straightforward commercial law route. For example, I wanted to explore a career in international humanitarian aid and I was able to match with a mentor with years of experience in that sector.

Getting started

I applied for the scheme because I’d always had an interest in human rights focused work but I didn’t know what the steps were to get there. So, when I heard about the mentoring scheme where you could be matched with a professional in a sector you were interested in, I jumped at the chance!

The scheme is set up in a really interactive way from the off. After applying through PLN and being matched with our mentor, we were invited to the introduction evening where we got the chance to meet our fellow mentees, chat about what we all wanted to get out of the experience and set up a plan for our first official meeting. Our mentor was working abroad at the time so we had a virtual mentorship – all this meant was that our meetings were on skype rather than in-person! You also have to appoint a team leader which I highly recommend putting yourself forward for if you’re looking to practice your organisational/admin skills.

Mentor Meetings

So, these were the main focus of the mentoring scheme and BY FAR one of the most important things I did in final year. Every group is different but our setup was just to come to the meeting with a few questions for our mentor as starting points and then let the conversation flow. The advice and insight we gained was invaluable and really helped me to narrow down what areas I’d be interested working in. We were also incredibly lucky in that our mentor was so engaged and would send follow up documents with links to internships, volunteer programmes etc. to do with things we had discussed. One of the best things to come out of the scheme for me was my mentor giving me a contact who was doing the same volunteering abroad that I was interested in – you don’t get this kind of career help every day!

Tips to make the most of your meetings:

  • Build a set of questions between each meeting so you can get the most out of your time with your mentor, rather than just turning up for a chat!
  • Follow up on any tips or leads your mentor gives you before your next meeting – this gives you a chance to build a good back-and-forth and helps your conversations to progress.
  • Work as a team with your fellow mentees! Since you have similar interests they are the best people to collaborate with and talk to about your ideas for the future.

Why I Recommend the Scheme

Overall, I didn’t realise how much I needed the mentor scheme until I did it. Not only did it give me a chance to build connections and get advice directly from an industry professional, but I was also able to practice my communication and organisational skills. With graduation looming the pressure to know what you’re doing next can be intense but my advice is to get involved with schemes like this, explore your options and you’ll go forward with a much clearer idea of what you want!

Further information

Securing a mentor can help you to develop key skills that employers are looking for, such as communication and personal skills, increase your confidence and motivation and provide you with an opportunity to delve deeper into an area of law or non-law that you are considering pursuing.

The Law in Society Mentoring Scheme opens for applications on Monday 12 October. Many of the mentoring schemes on offer through the Law School close for applications at the end of October 2020, so make sure you read about each scheme before applying. Find out more about our various mentoring schemes and how to apply here.

Working in legal tech – an interview with law grad, Adam Hunter

Adam is a legal tech IGNITE Trainee Solicitor at Clifford Chance, who was recently recognised as one of the Top 10 Most Innovative Junior Lawyers in the UK by The Legal Technologist Magazine. During his training contract, Adam has worked in the Real Estate, TMT (Technology, Media and Telecoms) and Corporate Financial Institutions teams and has completed a client secondment at Amazon. Adam has also recently joined the Law School’s Professional Mentoring Scheme as a mentor for 2020-21.

Understanding Legal Tech

What is legal technology?

Legal technology or ‘legal tech’ essentially means using technology to provide legal services. It is increasingly becoming a strategic focus at  law firms, chambers and in-house legal teams, who are all looking to utilise new and emerging technologies such as chatbots, contract automation and e-discovery platforms to become more efficient and add value to their services to clients. Often this technology is built and designed by or in collaboration with legal tech start-ups.

When did you first become interested in legal tech?

I became interested in legal tech in my final year at Bristol Law School when I had an idea to modernise the traditional legal recruitment ‘milk round’ and help make it more accessible to students from under-represented backgrounds using technology. I built and launched an AI-based chatbot that provided students with free applications advice and connected them to graduate recruitment teams. In its first year, the chatbot was used by over 2000 students across several universities and I had the opportunity to partner with eight international law firms.

Why is legal technology important?

There are four key reasons why I think legal technology is important:

  • Being more client-centric – Legal tech provides us with an opportunity to challenge traditional methods of providing legal advice. Instead of sending advice to clients in lengthy Word documents and emails, we can consider whether it is more useful to communicate our advice to clients through tools such as online portals and sites.
  • Efficiency and competitive pricing  – Law firms are under pressure from clients to reduce their fees. Legal tech can help make our processes as efficient as possible, by reducing the more mundane tasks and automating or outsourcing some of these. This includes integrating tools such as document automation (e.g. CC Dr@ft), machine-learning contract review (e.g. Kira) and e-signing platforms (e.g. DocUSign). Ultimately, this allows us to offer more competitive fee arrangements to clients.
  • Diversification and new legal products– A lot of our clients come to us with global, complex issues. By designing and offering new products and solutions, we can have closer relationships with clients, where we are more integrated into their processes and better positioned to support their in-house legal teams with their most pressing legal and commercial challenges.
  • Influencing the future of the legal industry– Some of our ideas are best described as ‘blue sky thinking’. Perhaps they aren’t ready for our clients yet but as legal advisers, we want to anticipate our clients’ future needs and be a part of shaping the future of the legal industry.

Training Contract Advice

What would be your advice to students who want to learn more about legal technology?

  • Look to other industries for inspiration– My top tip would be to look at businesses in other industries and see how they have used technology to transform and grow. A lot of my inspiration comes from looking at tech strategies that other companies have adopted and considering if these ideas can be applied to legal processes at Clifford Chance.  In particular, I would recommend the Stratechery blog or Harvard Business Review’s Exponential View podcast, which are accessible ways of learning about the strategy and business side of technology.
  • Keep an eye out for developments in the legal tech market – I wouldn’t worry too much about conducting detailed research on the legal tech market (unless you are super interested!). However, it is useful to understand what technology is out there and any general trends in the market. I would recommend blog posts by Clifford Chance Applied Solutions, The Legal Technologistand The Artificial Lawyer.
  • Legal tech events and internships – Some legal tech start-ups offer short internships over the summer. There are also lots of events to meet like-minded students and individuals working in legal tech. The largest legal tech event in the UK, Legal Geek, is coming up in October 2020 and is free to sign up. I’ll be attending! The Law School has also partnered with international law firm, Osborne Clarke to create a LegalTech placement for current students. This opportunity partners law students with a computer science students to tackle real-life projects, using emerging technologies. Find out more about the scheme here.

What skills should students interested in legal tech look to develop?

  • Coding is not required– A lot of students ask me if they need to be able to code to get involved in legal tech. Coding is not always required. I rarely code as part of my legal tech training contract (only as a hobby). What I think is more important is understanding the different tools that are out there so that you can make suggestions such as “perhaps we can provide that using an app or an API”. There are quite a few online courses and short YouTube videos that can help get you up to speed on the latest tech that businesses are adopting.
  • Learn how digital products are developed–  Entrepreneurship is the process of turning ideas into actual products or services and when it occurs in large organisations this is often referred to as intrapreneurship. Being able to understand this process of how to turn an idea into reality (from idea, to prototype, to launch and beyond!) is super important. A great starting point is the book “The Lean Startup” which has a lot of principles you can apply as a legal tech lawyer.

How can I talk about legal tech in a training contract interview?

  • Remember it is a legal training contract interview first and foremost– Don’t forget that legal tech is an important topic that is likely to come up in your interview but it is unlikely to be the main or sole topic for discussion. It is important that you understand the firm you are applying to, can talk about your skills and experiences and also demonstrate your interest in law and commercial awareness.
  • Show you understand the implications of legal technology– Technology provides a lot of opportunities for law firms and their clients. However, it also has a lot of challenges and you must be able to show that you understand the implications of legal tech when discussing your ideas. A key concern is often cybersecurity!
  • If you discuss a legal tech idea, appreciate that your initial idea may not be perfect– Often our ideas are not perfect the first time around. Your interviewer may have more experience and provide a new perspective that you had not considered. Designing legal technology is a process. It involves learning, testing and validating your ideas step by step. Be prepared to ‘pivot’ or redesign your ideas as the interview progresses.

Good luck!

Further information

For more information on exploring specific career options, current law students can access tailored careers advice through our regular Employability Bulletin and a wealth of resources on our Blackboard page here. See our full Careers and Employability webpages here.

Do More with Law – why it is time to learn about Self-Sovereign Identity

A blogpost by recent Bristol law graduate, Alex Tweeddale who now works in the area of data protection and privacy law.

The ‘Route-1’ approach of firing applications to law firms and hoping one will land is almost outdated. Perhaps this was the best approach for previous generations, however, there is a now a new modern, agile way of working which simply isn’t spoken about so much in University career days. For example, going to work in a developing start-up gives you experiences you simply would not get by jumping straight into a training contract.

Moreover, if you do work in a start-up and want to transition into a city law firm, you will have built up such a strong portfolio of skills, publications and contacts, meaning you may stand out from people who have been trained rigorously to the practices of a city law firm for 2 years.

An Emerging Industry – Self-Sovereign Identity

Alex Tweeddale, a recent graduate from the University of Bristol has joined IDWorks, a London based start-up, who are creating a Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) solution for companies and individuals. Alex is attempting to spread awareness about the benefits which an SSI model can provide society and wants to encourage Bristol students to get involved in the industry.

What is SSI?

Self-Sovereign Identity (SSI) is a new, innovative, technological approach to digital identity, which puts the control and ownership of personal data into the hands of an individual, rather than multiple organisations. It also adds trust to digital interactions by using signed digital attributes called ‘Credentials’.

Currently, an individual’s digital identity and personal data is scattered across multiple companies’ centralised databases. For example, your Facebook profile is owned by Facebook, and if Facebook were to shut down, you would lose part of your digital identity. Similarly, to rely on a copy of your University diploma, you must request a physical copy from your University and it often it must be sealed and stamped. SSI is a technology which takes the concept of this sealed and stamped envelope and puts it into a digital format (Credential), using cryptography, and anchors it to an individual’s mobile device.

When the individual needs to share this digital diploma as proof of their degree or their identity, the verifying party can ascertain, through cryptographic resolution, that the diploma credential had been issued and digitally stamped by the University. This is more efficient and trustworthy because it removes the potential for fraudulent documentation.

Why is this necessary?

In short, the current state of data management is fundamentally insecure, and as such, individuals have lost their security, control and privacy on the internet. Individuals no longer know where their personal data is being used and companies are exploiting your data for commercial gain behind your back, and by using ‘clickwraps’ which skirt round the GDPR’s consent requirements.

It is time to take back control of your identity online!

Why should you consider this route?

Working in a start-up in an emerging technology allows you to be more creative and flexible than working in a traditional law firm. You can be creative in how you market, pitch and sell your product and the working hours are often flexible and allow remote work. Additionally, you are working towards something which will genuinely make a difference in how the world functions at its core. And if I haven’t convinced you already, often you will earn a higher salary per hours of work than starting in a law firm.

Sounds cool? Want to get involved? Drop Alex an email at: alex@idworks.io 

‘My journey from law student to pupillage and everything in between’ a blog by Harrison Burroughs

Harrison Burroughs studied LLB Law at the University of Bristol Law School, graduating in 2019. Here Harrison details his journey throughout his course and the steps he took along the way to bring him closer to his goal of building a career at the Bar.

I started my law degree at Bristol in 2016, fresh from finishing my A Levels. Coming to a university like Bristol to study law can feel like a daunting experience; thankfully Bristol could not have been better at supporting me during my degree and my career aspirations.

Work Experience

Key to any application in the legal sector is work experience. Experience is vital to show both interest and skill in a chosen area. Admittedly, when I began my degree, I didn’t even know where to find these experiences, let alone how to be successful in obtaining them.

My main tip to anyone looking for work experience would be to start small. One or two days shadowing or volunteering is a great place to start, allowing you to build up your CV over time and go on to attain more substantial schemes. Equally, pay attention to your student societies, such as Bar Soc or Pro Bono Society, as these can be a great place to find work opportunities.

Scholarships

What separates becoming a barrister as a career choice is not just the significant financial investment, but also the immense competition for pupillage spaces.

Scholarships and awards are vital to overcoming both of these issues, covering some of the costs of the BPTC year and looking great on your CV.

Each year the four Inns of Court offer millions of pounds of awards to prospective barristers, significantly contributing to BPTC fees and other expenses. Each Inn has a slightly different application process and marking criteria, but all generally focus on aspects important to a barrister like academic ability and public speaking skill. The written applications for these scholarships close in November, with interviews in the spring, so keep an eye out!

With the help of the Careers Service and Law School Employability team at Bristol, I was able to tailor my application to best suit my strengths – both on paper and in interview – and was lucky enough to be awarded a Lord Denning Scholarship from Lincoln’s Inn.

However, it is important to remember that there are many other scholarships out there. For example, the Guru Nanak Social Mobility Award is provided by Mukhtiar Singh each year to offer funding and mentoring for aspiring barristers from disadvantaged backgrounds. As the inaugural winner of this scholarship, I can’t stress enough how important and helpful this award has been for my career.

Pupillage

I was receiving my first invitations to pupillage interviews when Corona virus struck. This offered the slightly odd experience of taking almost half my interviews in person (pre-lockdown) and half over a combination of Skype, zoom, teams and practically every other video-conferencing software available.

Despite the oddity of delivering answers to your laptop’s webcam, the fundamentals of video interviews are ultimately the same as those in person. You have to be calm, clear and concise and deliver your answers well – albeit sometimes with the added difficulty of your neighbour conducting DIY through the wall.

After a stressful spring period, balancing interviews with exam prep, I accepted an offer of pupillage with No5 Chambers, specialising in Personal Injury and Clinical Negligence.

It’s hard to put into words the amazing feeling when you receive that phone call informing you of your success. For me, this was the culmination of years of work and studying. It made all my hard work feel worth it.

I hope this blog has helped any students considering a career at the Bar. The Bar is undoubtedly an immensely difficult career path and my own experiences show it requires a lot of hard work. However, with a great deal of perseverance, success can be within reach.

Further information

For more information on exploring specific career options, current law students can access tailored careers advice through our regular Employability Bulletin and a wealth of resources on our Blackboard page here. See our full Careers and Employability webpages here.

‘Beyond your tassled caps’ – rising to the challenge of adulthood, a law student perspective

Originally posted during Mental Health Awareness Week in May 2020, we look back on law student, Iona Holmes’ thoughts on coming to the end of university and handling the stress of ‘the real world’.

Her blogpost was originally posted on the ‘That’s What She Said’ magazine. That’s What She Said is an award-winning online and print magazine comprised of many student writers, illustrators and photographers at the University of Bristol. Find out more on their website.

Leaving the university bubble is daunting. Not only is there pressure to get an actual, real life adult job, but the days of free rein over how you spend your time suddenly disappear. Don’t get me wrong, university has its ups and downs. But studying (hopefully) engaging subjects, revolving your time around friends and finding people passionate about the same things as you, is a pretty sweet lifestyle.

As I’m approaching my final term, this is something I’m trying to keep in mind.

Speaking to friends who’ve already made the transition to working-life, I’ve realised how important it is to embrace the opportunities open to us  – whether that’s throwing yourself into campaigning, finally learning how to tango or simply enjoying the luxury of spending a Thursday hungover in bed. In our last few months, we should reflect on what we’ve learned throughout our uni years, both personally and academically. Recognising the hurdles you’ve already cleared is just as important as looking for the obstacles up ahead.

Despite my best efforts to focus on the here and now, inevitably, the dreaded question hangs over me. Whether it’s from distant family members round the Christmas dinner table, or over a pint with school friends I haven’t seen for months, the words  ‘so, what are you going to do next?’ seem to be coming at me from all angles. I know they don’t have malicious intentions, but this doesn’t stop the fear setting in as I reluctantly admit that I’m not quite sure. As much as I’m delighted for friends who have had their five-year plan in place since day one of freshers’ week, I find it terrifying how secure the next few years of their lives are, while I’m still floundering in a state of limbo.

Whenever I feel a bit lost about what to do, I turn to Maya Angelou’s ‘Letter to my Daughter.’ Part memoir, part poetry and all-round feminist guidebook, her words echo like comforting blues rhythms. With graduation looming, I’ve been flicking through the pages, searching for both comfort and inspiration around approaching the next chapter of my life.

As ever, Ms. Angelou’s words of wisdom deliver. Her advice seems intuitive but is often obscured in anxiety-inducing conversations about the future. If I were Hugh Brady, I’d have this extract etched onto the walls of every teaching space:

Look beyond your tasselled caps,
And you will see injustice.
At the end of your fingertips
You will find cruelties,
Irrational hate, bedrock sorrow
And terrifying loneliness.
There is your work.

Find what moves you. Find what makes you feel, what makes you outraged and what you want to change. Of course, this line of thinking does not directly lead you to a job. But, it’s an important starting point. Sometimes, it may even be a case of carving the space for that work by yourself. University of Bristol alumnus Liv Little channeled her frustration at the lack of diversity at university into creating the sensation that is gal-dem, to platform stories of women and non-binary people of colour.

Once you’ve worked out where your passion lies, reflect on your strengths and what you can contribute to the big picture. This could be conducting empirical research, directly supporting vulnerable individuals or developing budgets – we need to utilise our various skills and work collaboratively to make a difference.

Beyond this, consider what you want to achieve outside the workplace. Just as essays aren’t all there is to university, work isn’t the only component of ‘adulthood.’ Ponder how much time you want to spend working, where you’d like to live and the role you want to play within your community. The career path you follow will impact what you’re able to do out of the office.

It’s also important to remember that even if you think you have it all planned out, your first grown-up job may not be everything you hoped. Our expectation that things will fall into place once we land that grad job tends not to reflect reality: life is always messier than we’d like. Your 20s are your time to explore your options and allow yourself to grow. A significant part of this is being able to admit when things haven’t quite gone right and figuring out how to move forward.

To rise to the challenge of adulthood, we should continuously reflect on what we’ve achieved, where we are now and where we want to go. Nobody can tell you exactly what to do next. Nor do you need them to, because in Maya’s words: ‘’you are intelligent and creative and resourceful, and you will use your life lessons as you see fit.”

Artwork by Laura Stewart-Liberty.