As the significance of legal vacation schemes for those from underrepresented backgrounds increases, one participant tells of her experience.
I attended the Government Legal Diversity organised by the Government Legal Profession (GLP) Scheme from 3rd to 7th July in Leeds, and I learnt more things than I could have imagined.
From the very beginning, it was a practical experience in which I felt very involved. The overall experience really opened up more options for me to potentially look into the future and to believe that as a student studying Law, your options are never limited.
On Monday, we were welcomed by a future trainee and introduced to the Government Legal Department (GLD). We had the opportunity to introduce ourselves and it was fascinating to see where everybody was at this stage of their legal studies and career.
By working together in teams, we came up with ideas on the legislative exercise that we had been asked to carry out. This centred around a Junk Food Bill, and our aims were to ensure that the Bill delivered the Department’s objectives; we also looked for possible solutions to amend the Bill. This provided a real insight into how lawyers work across GLD. We were then given an informative talk by the Treasury Solicitor, Susanna McGibbon, followed by an introduction to Competition law and the workings of the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). I learnt for example, the concept of ‘price fixing’ and its consequences as a serious breach.
After lunch, a Commercial Exercise took place, it was insightful to learn how the people around me had interpreted the exercise, which circled around the legal risks of a scenario, in which we had to consider general procurement principles. Some Legal Directors had delivered presentations on their career in Law, followed by a Careers Talk. A piece of advice that stuck with me was ‘don’t be afraid of failure’. This resonated with me, as I thought of past feelings of rejections and what may happen in my future career. The message was very much about not giving up.
Throughout Tuesday and Wednesday, the programme was delivered virtually. Tuesday begun with the different networks of GLD, and a talk delivered by an individual who is in the Office of Parliamentary Council (OPC). She reiterated the advice given by other GLD lawyers, echoing the message of not giving up and to remain open-minded. She explained the importance of prioritising, even when drafting bills, for there is not enough time to do everything, and you have to collectively make a decision and pay attention to what is most important.
After the talk, we had to identify offences in a HMRC setting and complete an exercise, figuring out whether certain documents needed to be amended. After lunch, a careers panel, that consisted of GLP trainees, paralegals, and barristers gave an insight into their career journeys and answered our many questions. The panel was diverse which was really warming to see and gave me more motivation to carry on with my law journey. An Associate Solicitor gave advice about training contracts which was very helpful and relevant to me, given my stage at university and the next steps I will be taking. She explained how to showcase our transferrable skills and the importance of applying early. Advice was also given on psychometric testing, and how you should always practice these in advance.
On Wednesday, we were welcomed back by GLD’s Race Network. During discussions with them we saw first-hand the efforts being made by the department to be an inclusive workplace. They explained how they hold regular meetings and solve race inequality issues. After that we were given an employment exercise, delivered by a member of the GLD team, which centred around unfair dismissal, age discrimination and disability discrimination. We were also told about the Disability Network in GLD, and how they assist with reasonable adjustments, again in an effort to be more inclusive. We then had a virtual meeting with a trainee and carried out an Ofgem exercise. After lunch, we had a question-and-answer session with a member of the GLD team who is working within the Commercial Law Group. She provided very valuable insight into her legal career and provided advice on how to build connections; by talking to other lawyers, connecting with others on LinkedIn and to ‘play to your expertise’. After this, we had a session delivered on the works of the SI (statutory instrument) Hub.
Thursday and Friday were practical sessions that involved visits to the Leeds office. It was very helpful to see and experience an office setting. I also had an introductory session with my buddy, who gave me an insight into his career journey. He also answered any questions I had about what I wished to do after graduating. I then took part in a task which involved commercial law, setting out three questions about the tasks you would carry out, day to day as a commercial lawyer. After discussing the results of this exercise, we are then given some insight into how law is integrated within other roles. This was delivered through a session by a project management lead. It was explained to us how lawyers often go outside their scope to give their opinions and thoughts, and that it doesn’t just stop at reading contracts. I felt comfortable being in the office and admired how the office had quiet rooms and various working models and options, to better help you work the way that suits you best.
Friday came around pretty quickly, and it began with a Legal Director, delivering a presentation on existing laws. As a team, we were asked to list the laws in order of when they came into effect, such as the Minimum Wage Act. We were also made to reflect on what we had learnt and would take away from our experience.
For me it was learning about being more open-minded about what area of law I wanted to go into, the knowledge that I gained and skills I picked up, such as working as a team and using my transferrable skills, were invaluable.
A current trainee within the department also delivered a question-and-answer session on her role in litigation, and provided some very helpful advice, such as not to compare ourselves to others, and that practice makes perfect when preparing for tests such as situational judgement tests. We were also given an insightful talk by a Business Management Officer.
Throughout my time with GLP and GLD, I was astounded to find just how many varied roles they offer.
Before completing this scheme, I would have never imagined law to be so diverse with such varied and interesting opportunities. I had always viewed law as a systematic system that consisted of contracts, yet from gaining this experience, I have been fortunate enough to see the other side of that. After hearing talks from newly qualified lawyers, there was an ‘end of day’ social gathering, where we could ask questions freely to anybody that delivered sessions throughout our time at GLD. One piece of advice that stuck with me was to keep going no matter how long it takes, and to keep being determined.
I would highly recommend the GLP summer intern scheme. You not only get the opportunity to meet those who have progressed their careers to senior level, but also those at a junior level who you can relate to. You get the chance to meet like-minded people who are in the same boat as you.
Taaibah Azad is a recent law graduate from Leeds Beckett University. She is currently interested in securing a training contract after she completes her LPC and LLM next year. Anyone able to offer Taaibah further work experience opportunities or have information to share about training contracts, please reach out to her. Taaibah can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.