The law is not something we have to go actively looking for – it governs our daily lives. Thus, those interested in the subject can use a variety of tactics to become more familiar with it.
Courts are publicly accessible and there is a gallery from which to observe proceedings. This will open eyes to the culture of a courtroom and perhaps develop an awareness that television dramas don’t quite convey the full picture.
The behaviour of the key figures (judges, defence, and prosecution) ought to be of insight. How they interact, their body language, their manner of oral communication and professional performance may well provide exemplars to aspire to.
As visits become more frequent there is always the opportunity to speak to the Clerk – arguably the pivotal individual in the whole set up – who will often be willing to share some insights with someone eager to learn.
Gain work experience
There is nothing better than first-hand exposure to gain a real appreciation for what is involved in law. It won’t always be easy to secure an opportunity, but if you don’t ask you won’t get, so you must show your enthusiasm for the subject if you think a legal career is what you’d like to pursue. Be open to shadowing or working a few hours in the office; don’t insist on a more substantial period. If you prove to be an asset, further opportunities will arise and from a modest starting point can come internships, vacation schemes and other meaningful work experiences.
Look around you
A part-time job in a ‘non-relevant’ role need not preclude an opportunity to gain legal insight. Most jobs will have legal relevance, such as an employment contract, minimum wage requirements, and health and safety considerations.
In an educational environment or within one’s personal life there are often opportunities to represent others – class representative, role in a club or society – and thus you may understand a range of responsibilities and the procedures by which you must abide. Many of these aspects will be transferable when it comes to considering a legal career.
Social media has its own range of legal challenges – use of personal data, slanderous or unlawful comments to name but two. It is a potential minefield for all users.
Consider professional social media in a similar but more positive guise. Sites such as LinkedIn open up the possibility of building connections that will extend your professional network and give you access to more knowledge and a greater range of people. If you have the ambition to reach a particular goal, you can look at the career journey of others and gain insights on what they have done to reach their desired position. You might even be able to contact them to understand first-hand how they achieved it and what advice they would give to others pursuing a similar path.
Keep up-to-date with the world around you
Aside from ensuring that you are up-to-date on topical issues and thus developing commercial awareness, follow mainstream news as it will provide daily insights into the legal world.
It won’t always be as explicit as a Supreme Court ruling, but rarely does news have no legal consequences. Sometimes it might be a perspective on the jurisdictions in other countries, influenced by the nature of power, culture and history; other times it will be successes or failures of corporate bodies or the actions of individuals with the resulting consequences for others.
Pay attention to the news and you’ll see how law affects everything.