For prospective law students there can be a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the reality of studying and working within law. Fortunately for me, I was able to spend a week doing work experience with Olliers Solicitors, shadowing and observing different lawyers in different hearings. This was an informative and thoroughly fascinating experience, and gave me an insight into different aspects of the law.
1. Collaborative working
One of the first things I noticed during my week with Olliers is that the body of people one meets in this profession is much larger than I expected. Prior to this experience, I had imagined all lawyers to be relatively lonely creatures, working mostly with clients and judges. To my surprise, this was not the case at all, and I discovered a community both in the magistrates’ and crown court. Additionally, due to the gradual closing of regional magistrates’ courts such as Trafford, Oldham and Bury there are new faces within the magistrates’ court which will hopefully provide a welcome diversity of solicitors in court, whilst potentially increasing the amount of cases at the magistrates’ court each day.
2. Making a real difference to clients
Something found in the law profession that may be harder to seek elsewhere is the ever-changing nature of the work. Especially within criminal law, each day of work has a direct impact on clients, and this personal interaction is what makes working within the law even more paramount. The idea of building a case, or advising someone then and there seems far more interesting than a career in which results are minimal and slow to show.
3. Diverse issues
This abundance of new and unseen issues cropping up is what makes law so appealing to me. Each case is independent and has individual circumstances, and often means having to think in different and versatile ways. For example on a jury trial I observed a case which illustrated the role of particulars in the justice system – the jury had to deliberate and decide whether a firearm could be considered ‘disguised’ or not. Whether or not something is ‘disguised’ can not be distinguished by a set list of conditions and so it was intriguing to watch as the two sides of the case were argued. This side of law seems to dabble in the hypothetical and even philosophical, as it can appear to boil down to what makes a certain item recognisable as just that. This therefore encroaches on issues like what an individual is accustomed to and their upbringing in a contextual background. I also found it interesting that a verdict could be given at all when there is such uncertainty and ambiguity around the subject.
The legal system is also evolving in regards to technology. During my time at Olliers, the firm was preparing to go “paper free”. I observed prosecutors and defence lawyers swiftly email documents to one another or even judges during hearings which I can imagine is much simpler than having to create physical copies of documents. This new way of storing and sharing information also enhances a lawyer’s ability to find notes in a document (dependent on how technologically savvy they may be) and perhaps in years to come the documentation of cases and process of hearings in court may have shifted substantially towards the virtual realm. Technology within law also appears to create a more accessible platform for lawyers to do what lawyers do most; read. Olliers did not fail to impress with the amount of notes and documents for each case, and although at no point was I swamped with masses of files to read, I did learn that one must be able to scan and absorb a substantial amount of of information in a short space of time.
5. Law is the way forward
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, my week with Olliers assured me that a law degree and career in law is the path I’d like to take. Although I cannot yet be certain that criminal law is the right fit for me, the direct and significant impact of a lawyer’s day to day work has on the community and people around them seems remarkable and enthuses me for my own future. It seems rare to find a profession that constantly throws new challenges big or small your way. I thoroughly enjoyed my week of experience and would like to thank everyone at Olliers for making it so engaging and useful.
Olliers Solicitors – Specialist Criminal Defence
Written by Meredith Davis a sixth form student at Altrincham Grammar School for Girls following a week’s work experience at Olliers. Meredith is currently studying A-levels in physics, maths, english literature and art and considering a career in law.