How the Burges Salmon's work experience programme helped me to obtain a career in law

Francesco explains how the Bright Sparks work experience programme helped him to obtain a career in law

13 April 2021

My first experience with Burges Salmon and the legal environment was back in 2016. I was in year 10 and had been successful in applying for a place on the Bright Sparks work experience programme with Burges Salmon. At the time, I was considering a future career in law but had no idea as to what it would entail and I feel that without Bright Sparks and my experiences from that week, I may not have decided to continue pursuing this career.

When I completed Bright Sparks in 2016, the programme was offered to 24 students (this has now risen to 28) from school years 10 – 12. The intake was divided into two groups of 12 who completed the programme over two different weeks. The purpose of the week was to give an insight into what a career in law would look like and clarify the pathways into a career in law. At the time, the main route into law was the traditional university route, however, Burges Salmon had just agreed to be one of the first firms to recruit legal apprentices in that same year. The 12 students were split into two teams and were tasked with researching the differences between the two routes of a career into law. At the end of the week, each team had to deliver a presentation comparing the advantages and disadvantages of both to an audience. The presentation was widely advertised across Burges Salmon; the audience consisted of numerous solicitors and members of the HR team as well an ambassador from the University of Bristol. This was my first experience of presenting and public speaking in a professional environment and it was an invaluable experience to be able to have at such a young age.

The programme also gave us the opportunity to spend afternoons in different departments and shadow a qualified solicitor. Over the course of the week, I was able to shadow three solicitors in different departments: Real estate, corporate and banking. All of these departments are known as non-contentious departments, which relates to areas of law that involve a transaction between one or more parties. These opportunities were incredibly insightful as it allowed me to get a clear understanding of the type of work that commercial law firms do and helped me to realise that there is more to law than defending or prosecuting people accused of committing crimes.

Finally, another important aspect of Bright Sparks was the skills I gained whilst completing the programme that would be beneficial to anyone, not just someone who was keen in pursuing a career in law. Over the course of the week, there were multiple workshops on how to prepare for and improve on CV building, presenting and networking. The highlight was the networking workshop because immediately after, we attended a networking lunch with various people from across the company. I found this session to be particularly useful for when I attended law information days and apprenticeship open evenings with Burges Salmon in later years, as it taught me not to be hesitant in these situations (I was always told that people are at these networking events to talk to you so there is no need to be intimidated!)

After completing the Bright Sparks programme, I studied law at college and when I was eligible, I applied for a place on the legal apprenticeship programme with Burges Salmon. I found that, during the application process, the fact that I had completed Bright Sparks was a huge advantage to me as I had an insight into the culture of the firm and more specifically an understanding of what a commercial law firm does.

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