COVID-19 and Work Experience
It is no secret that professional life is different for everyone in our current, post-covid, UK. Some companies are fully back in office, some still entirely remote. Integrated or flexible working has made life-balance much easier for those within the professional working world. However, it does leave prospective under-graduates, post-graduates and professional job seekers in an increased state of unease.
Not only do we face an unprecedented youth unemployment crisis, with job vacancies at almost one-third down from pre-pandemic levels. But also, if successful in finding jobs, placements or work experience, we find ourselves going in completely blind. Because each company differs so much in what work life actually looks like.
Therefore, you can only imagine the anxiety faced by students, such as myself, who are looking for placements.
Work Experience at OTB Legal
I initially reached out to OTB Legal in March for a placement of work experience due to noting their specialisation in immigration law - which I would be studying in the final year of my degree. As the UK finally began to find its feet in the ‘new normal’, my placement here began in mid-September. My ‘Law in Practice’ module, which required us to undertake work experience, only prescribed a minimum of 35 hours. However, after just my first day, I was eager to stay on for more.
OTB Legal is a relatively young firm, having only been founded in 2019. Though they are a fairly small office, they do not fall short of success. They have been featured on The Legal 500, Chambers & Partners, and The Times’ Best 200 Law Firms. Their consistent 5-star ratings from clients have awarded them the LPM Client Strategy and Engagement Award in 2020. Thus, it has been a great place to truly learn what is integral to building a successful firm.
Due to the office’s small size, I have been able to soak up learning opportunities from each department. During my time here I have shadowed Tom, the Trainee Operations Manager, who deals with everything from HR to Admin – basically, the ‘behind the scenes’ of the business. I have also shadowed Rachel, the Immigration Advisor, who has given me research tasks for clients and taught me so much about how to put forward different types of immigration claims for individuals. Additionally, how to liaise with clients to receive all the necessary information for the claim.
Moreover, I have done practical tasks for both the business team and personal team. Which is a very different style of work despite being within the same specialisation. The benefit of being able to dip my toe in various areas of the practice is something which I would have just not received in a larger firm. It has been so insightful for me to realise where my passions lie within law.
A Less Intimidating Experience
Because the team in the office is small, even more so with flexible working from home arrangements, it has also been a less intimidating experience for me. Starting a placement in a professional environment is daunting for most young people as it is a completely new experience.
However, a small number of friendly faces who are approachable and social is a much more palatable first experience than a boardroom full of people whose names you couldn’t possibly try to remember. Due to this, it has also meant that I have received much closer guidance than I could imagine would be available within a big firm.
I have been able to shadow and complete tasks for different members of staff. Allowed to sit in on internal and client meetings, and also had any question answered. I have been able to tailor this experience for myself, not only due to the small team, but also as I am the first work experience placement at OTB.
Therefore, if I have enjoyed a certain part of the work, I have the flexibility to focus more on that rather than areas which aren’t so interesting to me. It has been a really enjoyable climate to work in and learn from. Thus my attitude towards this placement has been nothing but positive.
From the work experience, I have gained...
From my time here, I have gained a new perspective on professional life. I have only ever worked retail alongside my studies, and thus have never had an ‘office job’. Therefore, I was (unsurprisingly) apprehensive of what this would be like.
I worked 1 day a week to fit alongside my part time job, my studies and social life. I am someone who thrives from being busy and under pressure so this balance, although hard at times, has been something that gives structure to my week and helps me to stay disciplined with deadlines across my various commitments.
It has also been interesting for me to experience professional working life in a more general sense. I have been driving during rush hour every week, which I have never experienced in my retail jobs. Also, the more social side, where you get to know those on the desks near you, catch up every week, and spend lunch and tea breaks together. Being able to work whilst not being micromanaged by a line manager has been a freedom that I have really come to appreciate here at OTB. It's something that I am excited to come back to when I finish my studies.
Balancing Work Experience with Studies
As I have simultaneously been studying immigration law whilst working at OTB, I feel I have benefitted from a level of context that you only receive from working directly with clients. This has aided me greatly in my understanding of such complicated and ever-evolving law. It sparked an increased interest in immigration law for myself (when I was originally leaning more towards Human Rights Law). I have been able to experience professional life within different branches of this practice, and thus, had a more well-rounded experience than I would expect in somewhere larger.
Overall, I have greatly enjoyed the content and diversity of the work I have shadowed and the tasks that I have completed for the associates of OTB Legal. The success of this firm is of no surprise to me from seeing the work ethics of the individuals employed here. I hope to find somewhere just as brilliant to work for when I have completed my degree next year.
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