I graduated from Essex in July 2020, having obtained the prize for the best overall performance by a law student for two consecutive years. Like many students, although I had performed well academically, I felt that I needed to get more practical experience before becoming sufficiently confident to apply for positions in the legal field. Therefore, after completing the LLB from my living room and celebrating my achievements at home with the family, I started to look for work experience opportunities.
The first steps were creating a strong LinkedIn profile and building my network. In the context of the pandemic, I found it particularly helpful to connect with students and recent graduates, as everyone was willing to share information about different opportunities. From online internships and insight days to commercial awareness workshops and practical negotiation classes, I tried to make the most out of every experience. Ultimately, this helped me to connect with people who were already working in the legal field and get noticed by potential employers.
Before I graduated, Essex Abroad had accepted my application to join Stockholm University for their Law Summer School Programme focused on international and EU law. I met ambitious students from all over the world (albeit online) and gained insight into some interesting areas, such as International Commercial Arbitration and World Trade Law. While this meant that I was busy over the summer, I also learned how to stay organised and manage my workload while studying online. In addition, I was able to add something unique to my CV, which caught the recruiters’ attention and gave me something to talk about during interviews.
Moreover, I volunteered with a charity named Work Rights Centre, where I helped EU citizens access their employment rights and tackle disputes in the workplace. At the moment, I am also volunteering with Settled to help EU citizens understand their position under the EU Settlement Scheme and with the Citizens Advice Bureau in Ipswich, where I provide information and advice covering a wide range of areas via email. These positions have allowed me to interact with clients from various backgrounds and to develop a wide range of skills. I learned how to turn my legal knowledge into practical solutions and translate legal jargon to provide high-standard services to clients.
Although managing multiple roles at the same time meant that I ended up volunteering on a full-time basis, the work paid off: one year after submitting my dissertation and receiving the “Best Case Worker” prize from the Essex Law Clinic, I formally accepted a Conveyancing Paralegal position at a law firm in Essex.
Tips from Flavia-Maria Manda
If you are currently trying to get some experience, my advice is to think outside the box and try to take advantage of every opportunity that is out there. All of the skills that you are acquiring now will help you at some point in the future, and recruiters want to see candidates who engaged in a variety of activities. As the end of the academic year approaches, give yourself a break and then start to use your time efficiently. With many of us working from home, this is your opportunity to use social media wisely, develop your commercial awareness and reflect on what your USP is!
Lastly, if you are graduating this year, try to avoid putting pressure on yourself if you have not secured a role in the legal field yet! Remember that you can use this time to develop your skills, work on gaining more experience and explore a variety of opportunities to find out what kind of lawyer you would like to be and what areas interest you. While you may feel tired after these three/four long years, this is only the beginning of your journey.