Work Experience News

The importance of obtaining work experience in today’s difficult graduate jobs market can’t be overestimated. Just take a look at the achievements of Swansea GDL students...

Study on the GDL and end up in Jail!

2011 GDL alumnus Anthony O’Connell tells us how he has been spending his time recently...

I spent some time in prison this summer… and loved every minute. Now, before the SRA start looking to kick me off my course, let me explain. The prison visit was just one of the highlights of two summer work placements that followed the completion of the GDL at Swansea Law School. One of the placements was arranged through the school’s criminal placement scheme and the other was a return visit to a firm I worked closely with when, before I opted for a career change, I was a newspaper court reporter. Compared to first degree students there is a huge advantage to work placements for GDL students – because you are a little older the firms realise you are serious about law as a career and you don’t spend the week making coffee and doing photocopying. That’s not to say I didn’t become acquainted with the copier, but I was never asked to remember who took milk and needed sugar.

Instead I spent my time in the magistrates’ courts, Crown Court and police stations. I got to sit in the police interview room as clients were questioned by officers, I went to Parc Prison in Bridgend to sit in on a client visit, I met barristers and made contacts with other firms, I read client files for some pretty serious offences and I generally got to understand how a solicitors’ firm runs.

Not every placement will be the same – and I suspect that my age (43!!!) helped me get some of the experiences that I did – but my placements were invaluable and, rather than putting me off what can be a difficult career to get into, they have made me more determined. I still have one more placement lined up this summer... and I can’t wait.

Diplomacy in Action!

Congratulations also to GDL alumnus Hannah Cholewka who has been accepted on to an internship with the Institute of Cultural Diplomacy in Berlin, starting in September for three months. Her work will involve organising conferences and seminars, where topics such as human rights will be debated. The involvement of young people is strongly encouraged by the Institute as a means of strengthening future relations between European countries. It’s understood that Hannah is very much looking forward to the experience of living and working in Berlin.

Hannah is no stranger to government and politics however, as she has already completed a graduate internship with the National Assembly of Wales. Her role in the WAG related largely to communications and involved attendance at press conferences, compiling news summaries and drafting press releases. Hannah was also given her own projects, including development of a local media strategy on the utilisation of local newspapers and social networking as a means of communicating with constituents. Hannah feels that working in such a busy and energetic environment enhanced her ability to use her initiative and to ‘think on her feet’. She also accompanied her local AM to constituency surgeries, where she was able to use skills gained while studying  on the GDL,  particularly when assisting  the Case-Work Manager in the  drafting of correspondence to MPs, council members etc.

More on placements and enhanced work experience...

This year saw a GDL student take part in the ‘Summer Programme USA’ for the first time, which took place in Oklahoma. The 4 week programme involved a 4-day-a-week internship, with focus placed on counter-terrorism and criminal justice.  Participants gained experience observing court-room trials, visiting correctional facilities, OSBI and forensic facilities and working at MIPT.  The programme was not ‘all work and no play’ as it also included a variety of cultural and fun activities with a south-western US flavour, including visits to a Native American Pow Wow, nature reserves, baseball game and rodeo!

Work Experience in the Land of Pizza and Peroni

GDL graduate Sarah Bell, who originally studied International Development at Swansea, recently enjoyed a summer of work experience with the UN in Italy after successfully applying for a legal internship at their Rome Headquarters. Sarah explains “the legal department there consists of maritime, contract, employment and administrative law.  My internship was primarily in the employment and administrative branch, although I assisted in contract related issues dealing with disputes which affected UN missions.   Although it was daunting at first, it was definitely one of the greatest and most inspirational experiences of my life, often working alongside ex-partners and solicitors from City and international commercial firms.  The first legal drafting documents I submitted were returned to me covered in red pen and it often took a number of attempts before they were accepted.  If there is one lesson I learned it is to accept criticism, learn from your mistakes and strive to improve!”

Sarah doesn’t, however, pretend that it was all work, work, work. As she says, “I made some great friends from all over the world, went to some of the best parties I have ever been to and spent my weekends on the beach.”

As wonderful as Rome was, all too soon it was time to return home and join the LPC, again  at Swansea University, which she says was a lot of work but very enjoyable.  Sarah will now move on to a training contract with Oxford firm Darbys in September 2011, which gives her time for a trip back to Rome and remind herself of her summer of Pizza and Peroni!

English Graduate finds a Novel way of Gaining Employment:

Following a successful placement with Geldards LLP law firm in Cardiff, Joanne Thompson was offered a training contract with the firm, where she will focus on employment law.  Read more about her story below.