Student Experience Uncategorized

Spill the Afternoon Tea – making the most of opportunities to network at Law School

Law student, Manisha Kumar, discusses her experience of ‘Spill the Afternoon Tea Sessions,’ part of the the ‘Raising the Bar’ Scheme at Coventry Law School. Manisha also gives her top 5 tips on how to get the most out of a STAT session.

If you study law, you may aim to work within the legal sector; however, it is often difficult to know who to talk to gain insight into the sector and have your questions answered. Spill the Afternoon Tea (STAT) aims to provide these answers. On Zoom, the host, law lecturer Sharan Dhadda, and a special guest speaker from the legal industry have an informal conversation about a specific topic. After, participants have a chance to ask the speaker a variety of questions. Sharan has a range of exciting speakers, such as graduate recruiters from award-winning leading law firms, ex-CEOs, and barristers. But it is not only their professions that vary. The speakers have ranged in gender, ethnicity, and have been part of the LGBTQIA+ community, making STAT diverse, inclusive, and honest. 

Why should you attend?

STAT is a PERFECT way to network. Networking is a key skill to develop during law school. When in legal practice, it is necessary to create connections and rapport quickly. Developing a strong network during law school also acts as an external support system you can use throughout your legal journey. Networking can also improve your confidence and communication skills – two skills that are vital in the legal industry. 

Having commercial awareness is also essential to gaining a career within the legal sector. Commercial awareness is understanding how economic and political changes can impact an industry, such as the challenges or opportunities created due to these changes. STAT sessions are a way to gain this knowledge from industry experts that you can use to stand out during job applications (as discussed by Early Ambition Advisor Hannah Wright at Shakespeare Martineau LLP in a STAT session.) 

So, what’s discussed within these sessions?

A range of relevant and trending topics are discussed during STAT sessions. 

During her STAT session, Sandrea Maynard discussed the difference between diversity and inclusion, and the need for inclusivity within the legal profession. To quote Sandrea, “Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusivity is feeling like you belong to the party.” Therefore, while the diversity of firms may increase, it is crucial to consider whether it is inclusive. Even though there have been some improvements in recent years, it is not enough. There are fundamental changes that must be created within the legal sector by people in the top positions. 

Ex-CEO of a law firm Shaun Jardine provided an insight into the importance of building strong client relationships. Shaune emphasised the importance of building a strong personal brand and elevator pitch to stand out in an oversaturated and competitive sector.

Justin Bates from Landmark Chambers discussed life as a barrister. Importantly, he discussed how he practices self-care due to the strenuous nature of the job, such as by creating professional distance between self-worth and the job. These tips are transferrable to law students – to prevent equating self-worth to a grade received in an exam or coursework.  

How to make the most of STAT sessions: 

The STAT sessions at 1 hour long, provide a balance between the conversation and the Q+A. Here are my top tips on how to make the most of the sessions. 

  1. Be on time: It seems so self-explanatory and simple, but if you are not 5 mins early to a meeting, you are already late! Being early (but not too early) is a great habit to get into for the future when you have interviews for example. 
  2. Cameras on: Facetime is everything. I’m not sure you heard me… FACETIME IS EVERYTHING! It helps you to be recognised when you connect with the speaker after the event on LinkedIn as they can easily put a face to the name. 
  3. Ask questions: If you have the time, research the person speaking beforehand – what’s their career progression? What has been the most challenging aspect of their legal journey? Research the firm or chambers they work at. Who are their key clients? What are their key sectors? 
  4. Take notes: I like to have a word document open or a notepad next to me to write anything key the speaker says as it may be useful for applications or networking in the future, or to further research on points they have discussed. 
  5. The Follow-Up: There is a reason it is called netWORKING and not netSITTING! I could write endlessly about the importance of networking throughout law school. (Not only networking with graduate recruiters, solicitors, and barristers – other Coventry Law students are equally as valuable to have within your network). Connect with speakers on LinkedIn after the STAT session and send them a personalised connection request, explaining where you met and why you want to connect with them.

Now you know what STAT is, why they are important for your legal journey, and what you can do to stand out in a STAT session to become more employable. I hope to catch you at the next one!

Written by Manisha Kumar, LLB Law student

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