What are you studying?
Kansah Asif talks about her placement experience at Aston University’s Law Clinic
I found out about the Aston Law Clinic placement towards the end of September. I learnt that the University was working hard to develop new, flexible placements which was appreciated since a lot of companies had paused recruitment due to Covid-19.
I decided to apply because I knew I would be well supported by the Law School and Law Clinic staff. The placements team helped me with the application process and they ran a really useful pre-interview advice session. I found out that some of my close course friends were also interviewing and it was a great support system to have whilst preparing for the interviews and waiting for the outcome.
What does your role at the Law Clinic entail?
At the start of the placement, the work was primarily client work. There were nine placement students, and we were split into groups of three. In our groups, we would prepare questions for clients, interview clients and prepare advice letters for our supervisor to review.
The Clinic advises SMEs on general business, intellectual property and employment law queries, and my group has handled issues relating to all three areas. Our tasks are mainly self-managed unless they have a specific deadline to be completed by such as the advice letters which typically reach clients within 10 working days.
As the placement progressed, we started focusing on tasks which aim to explain legal concepts to businesses. We were also asked to prepare a presentation on the importance of trademarks and individually create a short 90 second video on a specific legal topic such as patents, contracts and GDPR.
Could you give us an insight into the training you undertook to prepare for this role?
The training was delivered in three main forms. During the first week, we had discussion sessions with the Dean of the Law School, Jonathan Fortnam. The sessions focused on topics such as understanding what a client wants, how the legal sector has changed over time to advise a changing society and how to foster a curiosity in legal developments. This training focused on understanding the context around what makes a good lawyer, which is the foundation you use to improve skills such as client interviewing.
The second form of training focused more on the specific skills we would need in client interviews. We watched a series of Law Clinic training videos on client interviewing and notetaking, understanding unconscious bias in interviews, and using management software effectively.
The third form of training built on the first and second forms of training to help us understand how to utilise all these skills when completing legal work. We had guest speakers such as solicitor Hannah Frost, who delivered a session on commercial awareness and the importance it holds in her work as a solicitor and gave advice on how, we as students, could build on our commercial awareness.
In what way do you think that this experience will help your career?
The teamwork element of the placement has definitely been useful. Legal work requires you to dedicate time individually, but you will most likely need the assistance of other lawyers in the firm with different expertise. Drafting legal advice letters in a group helped me to develop my social skills and my critical thinking skills by having other students critique my ideas.
This placement has also helped me to learn about areas of law that I have not covered before such as Intellectual Property Law and Employment Law. I feel that I am in a much better prepared for my final year and for future applications because I have a deeper understanding of which particular legal area piques my interest. Legal work is also very broad, so it’s highly likely that I would work on areas of law that I have not learnt about before. It has, therefore, been useful in gaining insight into different practice areas using databases like Practical Law.
Law firms also value candidates who know the importance of understanding their clients’ needs and decision drivers, which is what the Clinic’s work revolves around.
What advice could you give to students who are seeking to apply for placements and tips for the application process?
My advice would be to keep going until the very end. I know students who secured their placements in December, but I didn’t secure mine until August. In addition, placement opportunities kept coming up even after I accepted my placement including a legal placement with Deliveroo. If you want a placement, keep applying because it’s never too late.
An important point that I feel is often overlooked is the importance of being open about rejection and the difficulties regarding a job search. If you’re feeling down, complain to whoever will listen, because that’s the only way you’ll plan a way forward. Covid-19 has drastically changed the job market and even people who have worked in the same industry for decades are facing rejections and job insecurity. It’s okay to admit things are horrible, but from horrible situations, often come amazing opportunities.