First, Second and Final Years

Featured firms

The right words at the right time can highlight your wit, zeal and personality, so take the interview stage as an opportunity to make a great final impression with a firm. Be yourself, try not to panic, and take a look over our experts’ advice on how to stand out for the best reasons during your interview.

What are your top tips for first-year students, or people who have taken a gap year?

Starting university, whether you have had some time off to travel, work or have come directly from college, can be an overwhelming experience. Not only are you familiarising yourself with your new surroundings, meeting new people, and grasping how to organise your academic and extra-curricular commitments, but you are also faced with the task of trying to determine what career is best for you. And, although you may know the legal profession is your preferred choice, the sheer number of law firms and opportunities can lead many ambitious students to ask themselves, “Where do I start?”.

But this is the beauty of your first year at university. Use this time wisely. Attend events and network with individuals from different legal practices. Attend skills sessions provided by your Careers Service to build up your repertoire of transferrable skills. And, ask plenty of questions. In your second year, you will begin to narrow down which firms you believe are right for you. So, in your first year, take the opportunity to get to know them all. That way you will be making an informed decision about your legal career.

Norton Rose Fulbright

For first-year students weighing up their options and considering a career in law, it is crucial to make the most of all opportunities you come across at university. Join the law society (even if you are studying a non-law degree) and make sure that you meet law firm representatives when they are on campus in force during the Autumn term. Ask questions, take notes and keep in touch with contacts you make.

The first year is a good time to develop the skills of balancing academic work with part-time jobs, extra-curricular activities and your social life. It is important to enjoy your first year of university, and part of this will be the social side, but remember that recruiters will look at your first year results and so it is crucial that your studies don’t slip.

If you have taken, or are currently on, a gap year, really do make the most of this time out of studying. Travel often comes into peoples’ plans, as well as full-time jobs and work experience. Recruiters will be keen to hear about what you did during this chunk of time and how it helped you to develop your skill set.”


What do you suggest should be on the checklists of second-year students?

The ultimate goal for aspiring solicitors is to finish the year with at least a 2:1 and a vacation scheme in hand. Whilst your lectures and tutorials will help you with the former, the following checklist aims to make the latter more obtainable!


  • Campus events – attend as many as possible and look out for any trends common to your preferred firms. Make the most of the opportunity to talk to trainees as you will get a feel for the qualities they look for.


  • Law Fairs! – Research in advance, prepare relevant questions and show enthusiasm.
  • Open Days – find out when these are being held and apply. These are excellent opportunities to gain valuable insight for answering the classic ‘Why X’ on applications and work out whether the culture appeals to you.


  • Vacation Scheme Applications – Amongst coursework deadlines and social gatherings, try to draft some answers in advance of the deadline so you can make amendments. Find out which firms recruit on a rolling basis and apply for these before others.

February onwards

  • Join newsletters and google alerts- These can do your research for you while you await interview invites.
  • Mock interviews.
  • Work on that 2:1!

Taylor Wessing Trainee

What do you think belongs on the checklists of final-year students?

Going into your final year can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. Your future awaits, but it can also be quite overwhelming when you realise you’ll finally leave behind the comfort of full-time education for employment.

It’s important to balance your time in final year to ensure that you don’t let your academic performance slip, but you also manage to start putting some plans in place post-graduation. If you weren’t one of the very lucky few to secure a training contract in your second year, application forms, vacation schemes and assessment days will likely be your top priority.

Hopefully you will have already attended your university’s law fair in your second year (and maybe even your first!) but we’d recommend attending again and making a bee line for the firms who really piqued your interest. Most firms will also offer other events, either on campus or in their offices, and you should go along to as many as you can, not only to become a familiar face, but also to deepen your knowledge and understanding of the firm.

It’s also incredibly important to enjoy your final year as a student. Get involved in as much as you can and take full advantage of university life. Being a fully rounded person is as important as academic strength and there is nowhere like university for joining societies and clubs, trying new sports and hobbies, or increasing your social network. Make sure you appreciate it!”


Finishing your degree and obtaining the very best possible result should surely be on every finalists’ checklist. This is also the time to turn your attention again to your employability and getting yourself in the best possible position for Training Contract applications (and the full recruitment process). At Shearman & Sterling we do not close our doors after second year but also welcome applications from final year law students, though applicants should be prepared to discuss at interview why they are a little late to the game.

So this is the time to re-draft your CV adding in your latest work experience and think through what you enjoyed (and perhaps didn’t enjoy). This will help you decide what type of firm you are looking for and you should be starting to scale down your options. Clarify what you want by attending any open days and workshops you can – there really is no substitute for meeting people. Finally, visit your Careers Service! They are a wealth of information and will be able to help you and prep you for the upcoming process.”

US firm