Why is having a mentor important for my career development?

Kicking off Mentoring Month 2021, this month we are shining a light on the Law School mentoring schemes, offering our current law students the opportunity to gain deeper insights into working in commercial law, applying their law degree to a less corporate role, or gaining networks in their home countries. We hear from previous Professional Mentoring Scheme participants, Hannah Bellingall (mentee) and Alex Farrell-Thomas (mentor) as they outline the best bits and learnings from their experience last academic year.

What can I gain from being mentored during my law degree?

“When I first applied for the Professional Mentoring Scheme, I was still unsure which career path I wanted to take. Although I had attended several networking events, I felt there was not a space I could have a genuinely honest conversation with those who work with commercial law.

The mentoring scheme was a way I could gain way more insight into commercial law in general and have a candid conversation on topics such as work/life balance and mental health with someone within the industry.

It was also amazing to talk to someone who had been through the application process themselves, and my mentor was able to offer great feedback and tips on how to write good applications and which strategies are best to use.”

Hannah Bellingall is a final year LLB Law student, having taken part in the Professional Mentoring Scheme in 2020-21 during her second year.

How will my mentor be able to support me?

“I took part in the Professional Mentoring Scheme last year, whilst working at Osborne Clarke. I really liked the idea of giving something back – and giving advice to someone in a similar position that I was in, not so long ago, as a student myself.

I could really relate to the kind of difficulties that my mentee was having and the advice that she was after.

Being able to speak as someone who is now working at a law firm, and understand how you develop the skills to get there – I found that the scheme was a great opportunity to share some of that knowledge and be there to answer questions that my mentee had. Hopefully the experience enabled us both to develop some new skills.

As a junior lawyer, now that I start to delegate work to other juniors in my team, I think it’s important to stop and consider, if I was in their position, what do they need from me to be able to complete the task that I have asked them to help with? The mentoring scheme helped me to develop those skills because it allowed me to reflect and put myself in someone else’s position.”

Alex Farrell-Thomas is an Employment Associate at Osborne Clarke and joined the Professional Mentoring Scheme during 2020-21.


We offer three distinct mentoring schemes to allow students to explore a variety of career paths. Here we’ve set out some tips to help you decide which scheme to choose:

“I want to explore corporate/commercial routes (i.e solicitor/barrister)” we recommend choosing the Professional Mentoring Schemefind more information here.

“I want to explore wider career paths outside of corporate/commercial routes (i.e. careers in human rights, policy…)” we recommend choosing the Law in Society Mentoring Schemefind more information here.

“I’m an international student and would like to build legal networks in my home country” we recommend the International Law Mentoring Schemefind more information here.


Eligibility

The Professional Mentoring Scheme is open to second year LLB and final year MA students. The Law in Society Mentoring Scheme is open to second and final year LLB and MA students. The International Law Mentoring Scheme is open to second year, final year LLB, MA and LLM Law students.

How to apply

Please check all eligibility requirements before applying. Please note that applications for the Professional Mentoring Scheme open on Monday 4 October and close at midnight on Friday 22 October.

Applications for the Law in Society and International Law Mentoring Schemes open on Wednesday 6 October and close on Sunday 31 October.

Find out more about our mentoring schemes here.

Researching outside-the-box: how to pursue interests in specialist areas of law

University of Bristol Law School alumni, Michael Gould graduated with an LLB in 2020 and has since worked in the space industry, both in business and law with Satellite Applications Catapult and First Steps Legal respectively. Also a published author with the European Space Policy Institute, his research focuses on space debris and small satellite issues. Michael has written this blog to help students and graduates research specialist areas of law suited to their career aspirations.

Michael Gould

Researching specialist areas of law can be a minefield. There can be no-one to point you in the right direction, tell you straight that it’s not worth pursuing or even walk you through considerations you might not think about on your own. More often than not, this can accumulate into a loss of confidence in the ability any student possesses to decipher the complexities of a niche area of interest. This is unfortunate both because it can dissuade students from following any hint of genuine curiosity and means that intensive legal research becomes funnelled into only a few clearly defined avenues of thought.  

For me, Space Law provided that spark. I think it was the nascency of it as well as the opportunity to be truly impactful with my ideas that interested me in the topic, and I went on to write a piece on space law for my final-year research project. However, the research process was difficult, and looking for professional opportunities was even harder. The aim of this blog is to provide some tips about researching these niche areas confidently and effectively, both for academic work and in a professional capacity.  

Immediate Contacts 

Lecturers at the University often have an eclectic set of weird and wonderful research interests, and you might be lucky enough to find a professor with a similar interest to you. It’s worth asking around and going into their Law School Profiles to investigate this possibility and contact them if so. Researchers love to talk about their research, so more often than not they will welcome the opportunity to discuss the area with you. Make use of Bristol Connects to contact alumni that have indicated a willingness to talk to students about their careers. Chances are there are a few leads that might be exactly what you’re looking for.  

A guidance appointment with the Central Careers Service or an appointment with the Law School Employability Adviser may also help you to begin to fine tune some next steps.   

LinkedIn  

Most helpful for me in both stages was the tools that LinkedIn offers. First, you have the option to follow hashtags on particular topics and, more often than not, there is already a wealth of information about the topic included in its history. This will help you locate the most poignant legal issues in the niche, find the key industry players and organisations and locate professional opportunities within the industry. Find someone in the position you want to be in 20 years and have a look at the steps they took to get there. There may even be a research organisation dedicated to your specialist area which you can get involved with, or links to introductory academic papers which explain the central tenets of the specialism. You can find out more about how to use LinkedIn here: 

Using LinkedIn: Profiles 

Using LinkedIn: Networking 

Using Linkedin: Etiquette  

Conferences 

In the age of Zoom, it has never been easier to attend a conference or speaker event. What was once more daunting can now be achieved from the comfort of your bedroom, and there are a wealth of opportunities out there. Start by general research into the types of conferences that may be applicable; say, if you are interested in Energy Law, researching an Environment Conference and seeing if there are any lawyers present with which you could speak to. It only takes one connection to get your foot in the door or to pique an interest, so there’s little to lose!  

Persistence 

Fashion lawyers, space lawyers and energy lawyers, to name a few, all likely began with nothing more than an interest. It takes effort to repeatedly justify your non-traditional focus, but the passion you have for the topic easily develops into persistence, and this passion shouldn’t be wasted just because the topic is not the ‘norm’. Who doesn’t want to love what they do for a living? 

Further information

Browse the University of Bristol Law School employability pages for more information on ways to research your career and ways to maximise opportunities with your law degree.

Why you should try mooting as a law student

Current law students, Max Sakoschek and Mayank Tripathi recently took part in the Landmark Chambers intervarsity mooting competition, representing the University of Bristol Law School. Having reached the final round, Max has written this blog post to share his wisdom on why you should give mooting a try. 

Mooting Bristol
Photo from University of Bristol Law School/UBLC Mooting Launch Night 2018-19

Being a second-year law student, one could say that my mooting experience is far from extensive, but the knowledge and skills I have gained so far in participating in a few moots this past year has given me the tools and the foundations that I will hold with me for the rest of my professional career. 

So here are my two cents on what skills one could hope to develop by participating in mooting competitions: 

Oral skills 

To get the obvious out of the way, a career in pretty much anything, requires at least a basic capacity to express oneself well  in some professions more than others. But what is sure, is that none require more attention to detail, more regard for tone, or more care in articulation than the barrister in court. It is the art of speech and the pursuit of its perfection that has driven me to a career at the bar (hopefully someday soon). Like with any skill, perfection demands practice. There is no easier way to practice this art than in a moot, facing an unconvinced judge. I have found that mooting resembles a natural conversation with a peer far more than any other form of public speaking, compared to say, debating – making it less daunting, more accessible, and ultimately more enjoyable. It is for this reason that I have come to adore mooting. 

Teamwork 

Again, an obvious one. Mooting helps participants hone their ability to work as a team. To be honest, a lot depends on who your teammate actually is but every once in a while, you get the perfect push to your pull. This was the case between Mayank and me. By providing each other with constructive criticism and having open lines of communication, we were able to evaluate each other’s arguments, assist with research and coordinate our approach so as to formulate the very best way to deliver our submissions. 

Rigour 

I think attention to detail is any lawyer’s cup of tea, in some regard or other. Mooting is all about figuring out just where the law sits on an issue and it is about carving your way through the law to deliver a polished fool-proof argument. This can only be done by having a firm grip on the subject matter. Very often, it is the simplest argument that best resonates with the judge. So one could say that rigour, in mooting, is taught not through figuring out what to say but rather figuring out what is not worth saying. This skill can be transposed to all number of different aspects in life, in the office or in the court. 

Structure and succinctness 

Like with any good story, there needs to be a beginning, a middle, and an end. Too often have I seen (myself included) a participant lose themselves in their own argument, being overly wordy and repetitive. Mooting quite quickly teaches you to be sharp and to the point with anything that requires explanation. Succinctness is a skill most cherished not only by your firm, or the judge, but also by your clients. Quite paradoxically, at least for me, fluidity in speech seems to translate into fluidity of thought, rather than the other way round. Developing my skills in speech seems to have had an impact on my capacity to structure my thought processes.  

Attention 

While this is a little more difficult over zoom, its application is nevertheless crucial. The very best moments in mooting for me are when I am able to change the way I deliver my submissions depending on how the judge is reacting to what I am saying. An ever so slight smirk, a nod or a frown are all as valuable as gold for any mooter, because these indicate as to whether what you are saying is at all being bought by the judge. Figuring out where you stand with a person you are speaking to is as valuable as anything for a lawyer. 

Humility 

The road to the bar, as exhibited by practically every barrister out there is rife with failure, so it seems only appropriate to get used to it right out the gate. The best learning experiences you will get in mooting are when a judge completely calls you out on the logical inconsistencies of your arguments. This, I believe, will make you a better lawyer. 

Humanity 

Perhaps the most striking example for me was the degree of humanity I discovered when mooting in the finals of the Landmark Chambers Moot, in the privileged and terrifying position of submitting my arguments to none other than the former Supreme Court Justice Lord Carnwath and Mr David Elvin QC from Landmark Chambers, sitting as judges. My terror turned to content as I discovered that the judges were really rather pleasant and helped exemplify the principle that a barrister is really only there to aid the judge in discovering the truth of the matter and nothing more. 

All in all, mooting teaches you fundamental skills that will stick with you for the rest of your life. It’s a good laugh. Oh, and the prizes for winning usually are quite good as well – so there’s that. 

Image from Landmark Chambers Moot final round with Lord Carnwath

Further information

If you’d like to find out more about the practical opportunities available to students, through the Law School and student societies, take a look at our Careers and Employability pages. Considering studying law? See why studying at Bristol will allow you to do more with law than you ever imagined.

Are you keen to explore a career in Legal Tech?

The Law School, Engineering Industrial Liaison Office and law firm, Osborne Clarke have teamed up again to offer current law students an exclusive two-week paid placement in September 2021, focused on emerging technologies in the legal world.

The scheme

Award-winning multinational law firm Osborne Clarke has grown rapidly over recent years, with 25 offices around the world. The core sectors they work in all thrive on innovation; digital business, energy, financial services, life sciences, real estate, recruitment and transport.

They are looking for candidates who are passionate about legal tech to join them in September for a two-week placement. Based within their IT team, these technology-focussed placements will allow students to evaluate legal and emerging technologies and assess if they are viable and of use to Osborne Clarke. While these roles will be based in their IT team, it will be necessary for students to work with a cross-section of individuals, from associate to partner, as well as their OC Solutions and business support teams.

What can I expect?

Current law student, Ronald Lee took part in the placement during 2020 and said:

Ronald Lee

“I found the scheme to be incredibly helpful in exposing me to a different side of the law and demystifying the meaning of LegalTech. Especially with the current focus on digital transformation, innovation and making processes more efficient amidst the pandemic, witnessing these technologies at work made me more informed about the range of digital solutions available in the market and how it augments the role of lawyers. Despite the scheme being online, my mentors and project sponsor were very supportive throughout the whole process.”

 

“I would definitely recommend other students to apply for this scheme to expand their commercial awareness and gain insight into the internal support systems of a modern law firm.”

 

How to apply

To apply, please complete an online application form by 7 May 2021. 

How I prepare for success in my online assessment centres

Blog post by current LLB Law with Study Abroad student, Rosie Humphris as she explains her steps for success in preparing for online assessment centres.

Following the successful completion of an assessment centre with a top London law firm, DLA Piper, I was asked to comment on the how participating in lectures gave me the skills to successfully obtain a Summer Internship.  

Participation within lectures can sometimes seem trivial. So long as we attend and listen to what is being said, surely this is enough? With COVID-19 changing the way we work to online platforms, it can be very easy to fall into a routine of hiding behind our computer screens. We sit there with our screens off, muted, and hope for the best that the lecturer doesn’t know how to implement breakout rooms.  

Upon reflection, participation and discussion within lectures has been profoundly important to my success. Discussion in lectures enables you to build a wide range of skills which align with the skills needed to be successful in assessment centres. As a result, I thought it would be worth sharing these with you. 

Firstly, confidence is key.

Assessment centres usually involve interaction with a range of individuals from other students to partners of the law firm. As well as this, they often encompass completing tasks that you are unfamiliar with. By participating in discussions in lectures and tutorials, this will inevitably boost your confidence in talking aloud to a range of people, enable you to build ideas on topics that are new to you and think on the spot about your opinions. 

Secondly, obtaining the skills to be a good listener is crucial.

A substantial part of succeeding in an assessment centre is being able to show the assessors that you are able to work well with others, listening to them and building on what they have to say. This aligns with the central role of discussion in lectures and tutorials. Being able to take in another student’s idea, form an opinion and present that opinion to the group is exactly the opportunity that lectures offer you. 

Finally, as simple as it may sound, being able to virtually present yourself well is important.

Assessors are unlikely to be impressed by a black screen. They want to see who you are as a person and a lot can often be told by someone’s body language. Whilst it may seem daunting to turn on your cameras in lectures, this simple act will prepare you well for interviews and assessment day activities where you are no longer able to hide behind a screen and have to present yourself well. Whilst we may not all feel comfortable broadcasting how our bedrooms look to the public or our younger siblings new TikTok dance they are completing behind us, there are a lot of people in the same position and we all understand.  

Overall, discussion in lectures and tutorials goes beyond helping you succeed in your degree. With many of us starting to job-hunt, the skills built from discussions are key to our success. In an unprecedented time where it is easy to fall into the trap of hiding behind our screens, the skills that can be built from discussion must be acknowledged, encouraging the simple click of the ‘share video/audio’ button. 

Further information

Find resources to help build your skills with interviews, assessment centres and more on the Law School Careers and Employability Blackboard page.

‘A law degree can open doors’ – law graduate shares her post-LLM journey into corporate governance

My name is Grâce Bogba and I completed my LLM in Banking and Finance Law from Bristol Law School in September 2019 and have been working at Nestor advisors, a London-based advisory firm focused exclusively on corporate governance, ever since. The firm advises European and emerging market financial institutions, States and corporates as well as charities, family-owned and private-equity-backed companies.

I initially joined Nestor advisors as an intern and have been working as a junior analyst since April 2020.

What does a corporate governance analyst do?

Before getting into the specifics of my role, I would like to first define corporate governance because if you are anything like me at the time I applied for the position, you probably do not know much about corporate governance.

According to the Chartered Governance InstituteCorporate Governance refers to the way in which companies are governed and to what purpose. It identifies who has power and accountability, and who makes decisions. It is, in essence, a toolkit that enables management and the board to deal more effectively with the challenges of running a company. Corporate governance ensures that businesses have appropriate decision-making processes and controls in place so that the interests of all stakeholders (shareholders, employees, suppliers, customers and the community) are balanced.”

As a corporate governance analyst, my role includes completing basic and advanced analytical governance research, conducting benchmarking and gap analysis exercises against national and international best practices and writing client-specific reports and documentation (i.e. internal terms of reference, regulations and charters). I am also involved in the preparation of business proposals, presentations and workshops as well as interviews of clients’ key personnel. Since joining the firm in September 2019, I have worked on a variety of projects ranging from the review of the performances of boards of financial institutions to the update and development of national corporate governance codes.

What skills are required to work as a corporate governance analyst?

There is a legal aspect to corporate governance, albeit a limited one, as many of the requirements regarding the formation and activities of companies are dictated by law or regulation. In that sense, my legal knowledge as well as the analytical and problem-solving skills acquired during my studies were of great help to me both during the recruitment process and afterwards. As a matter of fact,  the team at Nestor advisors is multidisciplinary with backgrounds in law, economics, finance, management, and social sciences, and interestingly enough the founding director himself is a lawyer.

Moreover, given the diversity of the firm’s clients, most of whom are based in Africa, Europe, Latin America and the Middle East, fluency in one or more foreign languages is an asset.

More importantly, creativity, the will and the ability to learn quickly as well as a “can-do attitude” are, in my opinion, the main skills needed to evolve in this fast-paced environment. Consultancy work can be demanding at times and involves long hours so flexibility is a must.

“Since working in this field I have developed new skills and competencies – such as data collection and analysis skills – while also putting to use my legal skills.”

Getting started as a corporate governance analyst

As mentioned earlier I started working at Nestor Advisors right after completing my LLM program. At the time, I was not looking for a career beyond traditional law firms and was actually scrolling through the Careers Service website in search of a training contract opportunity when I stumbled across Nestor advisors’ 6-month internship offer.

Back then, I did not think I met the criteria since I had no knowledge of corporate governance but went ahead and booked an appointment with a careers support officer who gave me invaluable advice on how to tailor my resume and cover letter to that specific offer.

At intern level, the recruitment process itself comprised of 3 steps:

  • Review of the applicants’ resume and cover letter;
  • Short-listed applicants are sent a practical case to complete in a set timeframe; and
  • Successful applicants are invited to an interview with a senior analyst.

The whole process, especially the practical case, seemed quite daunting at the time but in retrospect, it was a good learning opportunity as conducting the necessary research allowed me to get an understanding of corporate governance as well as its implications and challenges, which obviously came in handy during the interview.

Key advice

My advice for law students researching a career is:

  • Make use of all the resources that Bristol Law School and the Careers service has to offer It is worth giving it a try whether you are looking for interview tips, help with your resume or simply would like feedback on your cover letter.
  • Don’t limit your job search. (Big) law firms are not your only options. A law degree can open doors in banking, consulting, lobbying etc so I strongly recommend keeping an open mind.
  • Be audacious. Apply to positions even when they are not exactly law-related or you don’t meet all the required qualifications.
  • Put an emphasis on transferable skills. By studying law, you acquire much more than just a degree, you develop strong analytical, problem-solving and time-management skills to name a few. Make sure to highlight them on your resume.
  • Make use of your social connections. I would suggest considering setting a LinkedIn profile. Longer than a resume and more representative of who you are, it can be a big help in finding a job.

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.

If you are interested in studying one of our postgraduate law courses, such as the LLM in Banking and Finance, you can join our next virtual open event on 4 March 2021. Sign up to the event via our virtual events webpage.

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.