We talked to current student Thomas Willey, who is currently on his placement year at the Aston University Law Clinic. He tells us about his experience below.
I’ve gained a lot from my experience at the Law Clinic, my confidence and skillset have all improved since the start of the year and I believe my experiences have provided me with a strong foundation to build on upon securing a graduate role.
Congratulations on gaining the placement year at the Aston University Law Clinic, can you tell us a little about the application process?
The application process was two-fold, an application via Aston Futures and then an interview. During the first stage, applicants were required to submit a CV, covering letter, and had to separately highlight key skills and experiences applicable to the role.
After this there was a virtual interview with Laura, the Law Clinic manager and Samira, a careers consultant. We discussed my motivation in applying for the role and further explored the skills and experiences I included in the first part of the application.
What does your role at the Law Clinic entail?
As a legal assistant, I spend most of my time working directly with clients to help them with various legal and commercial queries. When clients contact the clinic, I prepare an engagement letter for them and open a file on our case management software so all the assistants working on the matter can track their hours. After this, myself and a couple of others will interview the client to greater understand their query and confirm the information they have already provided us with.
This allows us to write a post-interview letter which we send to the client to confirm the information we took from the interview and to ask for any documentation or correspondence which we need to progress the matter. The group working on the matter will then research the relevant law and other factors involved in the matter so we can we draft a letter of advice to the client setting out our advice and recommended steps.
Depending on how the matter progresses, we occasionally will have to send out additional advice to deal with any other issues that arise. Besides casework, there are various other tasks I have worked on throughout the year. I have worked in a small group to create some promotional materials for the Birmingham Law Society’s Pro Bono Network – this consisted of an infographic for their Twitter account, and a poster aimed at encouraging students to take part in pro bono work. Other examples include delivering training webinars on trademarks and the fundamentals of company law, working on a group project on dispute resolution, and creating public legal education for the clinic’s website.
Could you give us an insight into the training you undertook to prepare for this role?
All legal assistants were required to conduct various training sessions before starting any client work. These resources are all available on the law works website and involved training on areas such as client confidentiality and GDPR as well as interviewing and note taking skills.
I believe most of my training and development came through experience of the work itself, but it was still useful to have the fundamentals set out to us at the beginning of the placement.
In what way do you think that this experience will help your career?
I’ve gained a lot from my experience at the Law Clinic, my confidence and skill set have all improved since the start of the year and I believe my experiences have provided me with a strong foundation to build on upon securing a graduate role.
The most valuable experiences have been dealing with clients directly and being able to apply the theoretical knowledge gained in my first two years of study to advising real-life clients in a concise and practical manner. As a lawyer your primary role is to provide your clients with advice in a digestible and understandable format, I cannot think of many other placement positions where you are given the opportunity and responsibility to practise this.
What advice could you give to students who are seeking to apply for placements and tips for the application process?
Aside from the usual advice of giving yourself enough time to complete applications to the best of your ability, I would recommend students keep a document with all the questions they have been asked in previous applications and interviews.
This allows you to perfect your answers to the generic questions used in most applications, such as “why law?” and “describe your involvement and any positions of responsibility in any extra-curricular activities”, making it easier for you to use these answers again. Once you’ve built up enough examples and answers it makes you feel relatively confident that an interviewer will not ask you a variation of a questions you have not already prepared for.