Polly Jackson: Why should you take a placement year?

Polly Jackson is a first class LLB Law with Business Graduate of 2016 and now a Paralegal at Fox Williams LLB. She kindly agreed to share with us her advice and experiences of taking a placement year while studying law at Brighton Business School.

“The first, best and most brutal lesson I learned was how to bounce back after a rejection. Any aspiring lawyer is bound to face numerous set backs, whether they are applying for training contracts (or any other job for that matter) and applying for placements is a fantastic opportunity to start refining your application techniques, to learn how to research a company before you apply and to, undoubtedly, learn to handle the knock backs and take them on the chin.

Legal placements are not the only, or always the best choice. While many law firms prefer some legal experience prior to offering a training contract, many will actually value you more if you have a proven skill in another field. If you perform strongly in sales, the firm will know you can pitch for work later down the line – after all law firms are businesses. If you end up in marketing, you will learn the importance of maintaining company image or if you are in finance, they will be able to trust you with invoicing and bookkeeping. Off the back of my sales placement, I managed to bag four London-based vacation schemes in one summer as well as an in-house legal internship at a company turning over $19 billion. Never turn your nose up at a job just because it isn’t law – use it as a stepping stone.

You will learn how to deal with “office politics” in an environment where it is acceptable to make mistakes. A placement year is an opportunity not just to build a relationship with your employer, but to learn about how a company functions as a well oiled machine (or not!). You will be frequently reviewed and will have a chance to make mistakes and learn how to rectify them and, more importantly, you will gain experience in working with others, dealing with diverse personalities and ages groups on a daily basis. This is an invaluable skill and a trait many interviewers will question you about prior to offering training contracts.

You are statistically more likely to get a First and can complete a full module before you start your final year. This was invaluable for me – I was able to manage my time better in final year, had a first under my belt before the year had even started and was able to put more effort into my remaining modules.

Your entire attitude will change. I was told this would happen before I took my placement year but never really believed it until I came back for final year. I guarantee that if you take a placement year, you will come back with a whole new attitude. You will be more determined, more collaborative with others and will naturally attend more of your lectures and seminars and will keep up with the workload better. It is the best possible preparation you could ask for.

You will make a lot of friends and have a lot of fun. Working full time is hard graft but if you apply to the right places, you will have a fantastic time. You may even have a job lined up for you after you leave Uni and there can be no better pressure relief than that.”

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