Bird & Bird Campus Brand Ambassador Chiamaka Uzoukwu tells us why engaging with law firms whilst at university is both important and beneficial.
The Application Process and the role of a Brand Ambassador
I got the position after completing an online application form and a video interview. The role involves everything about representing Bird & Bird; from building relationships with students and organising events, down to helping students with their applications. My favourite part is acting as an advisor to the firm which entails observing the ˈlegal atmosphereˈ on campus and reporting back with my insight and recommendations.
Engagement with the firm
I have been able to build a good relationship with the graduate recruitment team as I liaise with them several times each month. Besides hearing from a partner and other senior employees during the induction day, I have also had the opportunity to engage with trainees. Law firms are made up of people and this job allowed me to understand this.
There is no doubt that this role gives you a great head start when it comes to applications; the range of skills you develop is amazing. From speaking to students I have never met before, I have built my confidence to a whole new level. There’s the responsibility that comes with delivering satisfactory results to students who come to you for help with their applications. I was also very happy that I was given a lot of scope to generate my own ideas on how to promote the firm. All these experiences are excellent examples to use when explaining your skills during the application process.
Why is it important to engage with law firms early on?
It is incredibly important because it encourages you to start preparing for your career early on. In my case, Bird & Bird is a global law firm with nearly 20 practice areas. It is also a sector-focused firm. Therefore, it was my duty to have an in-depth understanding of the firm’s offering, so I could confidently convey this information to students. As such, when it came to researching law firms for vacation scheme applications, understanding how a law firm operates was the easiest concept to grasp. That said, even if you don’t become a campus ambassador, you can still engage with firms by going on open days, completing first year schemes, as well as ad hoc work experience.
Why is it important to think about gaining experience for your CV while you’re still at university?
The graduate market is very competitive and so students need more than good grades to land a job. Seize every opportunity you get to increase your employability – join the committee of a society, get a part-time job, take up volunteering. Don’t try to do too much though, quality over quantity. It boils down to effectively selling yourself to recruiters.
My advice to other (aspiring) brand ambassadors
First, if you are still considering this role, go for it! You have so much to learn from the experience. I am certainly not the same person I was a few months ago when I was travelling to London for the induction day.
Second, as an ambassador, don’t be afraid to be assertive. When you are instructed to complete a task and you feel you can achieve the result with a different strategy, speak with confidence and politely explain your stance. There’s nothing more satisfactory than seeing your suggestions come to life.
Finally, you must be up for the challenge. I initially thought my role would mostly involve promoting Bird & Bird whilst seated behind my laptop – this was not the case, there is so much that goes on behind the scenes, you need to have good organisational skills to succeed.
My advice to prospective vac scheme/training contract applicants
Have the confidence to be yourself. I often see a lot of advice about this; however, it can be difficult when you tend to have a reserved personality. I would advise you to use this to your advantage – you can still leave a lasting impression by being gentle and charming.
Don’t be discouraged by the competition. There might be only 18 training contract places, but 18 people will get those spots. There is no reason why you cannot be one of them.