Currently a third year student studying LLB Law with English Law, Maria recently took part in CMS' First Steps programme. Here she answers our questions about her experience and gives us some advice for students looking to gain some experience whilst at university.
Please briefly describe the company you undertook this programme with.
CMS is one of today’s global leaders in the sphere of law. With offices in over 72 countries and more than 3500 lawyers across the world, it is also among the top five largest firms. My First Steps experience was at the Aberdeen office, which I found to be more than welcoming and friendly. I was part of the ICE Dispute Team, which certainly broadened my understanding of that area of the law and even sparked an interest in it!
How did you find out about this opportunity?
In the very beginning before coming to the United Kingdom, I was interested in learning about the top law firms and how they go about recruiting potential candidates. Besides having read about CMS online on their site and a couple of other student-oriented pages, I got the chance to meet with representatives of the firm in person at the Law Fair organised by the Careers and Employability Service. Throughout the years CMS also hosted (and still hosts) several events such as skill sessions and employer’s nights, which are a brilliant place to find out more about the firm and ask relevant questions.
Please can you describe your main duties, tasks and responsibilities.
During my time at the Aberdeen office, I was expected to attend several presentations and meetings which saw a lot of discussion on recent developments in the law. As for my tasks, I was given some research to carry out and several documents to check. My buddy, a trainee that was appointed to ‘look after’ me and provide help, also entrusted me with several cases to summarise for the monthly newsletter of the firm.
Is there one part of this experience that really stood out for you? Why?
Apart from the work atmosphere, I would say I was pleasantly surprised by the friendliness of the Aberdeen office! During the week, I was invited to one of the training sessions of the women’s football team. While this may sound out of the blue, it certainly is not for CMS – the firm organises a global football tournament for all offices! It is truly a unique experience that certainly brings people together and lets them unwind and get to know each other. I felt even more welcome and managed to learn a lot about the people around me, but it also made me realise just how much the firm cares about it's members and their wellbeing.
What advice would you give to other students who are thinking about taking part in a similar programme?
My number one tip to anyone wishing to pursue a career in law is to think way ahead of time. Knowing what steps you need to take, researching your options beforehand – these all come in handy when you are applying to a certain firm. What is more, expressing an interest in your future from as early as first year shows that you are an ambitious person willing to experience the way law works in the real world.
I would also like to encourage everyone to use the Careers and Employability Service – it is the first place to look for help if you are unsure whether you are on the right path! From things such as a simple chat to reassure yourself to checking your CV and conducting practice interviews, it is certainly a great way to boost your chances of getting a placement or internship!
Is there anything you wish you had known about before taking part in the programme?
The one thing I could go back and tell myself is to be more confident! Although CMS is a world class leader, at no point did I feel as if they did not want me there. I was given full feedback on my work throughout the week – the partners and associates were satisfied by my work, but felt I needed to be less critical of myself. This was something that resonated with me as I had quite a lot of doubts as to whether I could produce excellent work.
Any additional comments?
I would like to encourage my fellow students to start thinking about their future as early as possible. Picking a few firms and researching them in your early days at law school will reassure you for the future and give you a better perspective on what is expected of you down the road. Look at your own interests both in and out of the world of law and decide what suits you best. Attend as many sessions organised by your firms of choice and be eager to learn. It may seem scary not knowing where to start, but you have plenty of people in the university that are professionals and are here to help you develop during your time in Aberdeen!