Unpaid legal work experience – a good or bad thing?

The Law Society’s Junior Lawyer Division says it has received various reports of junior lawyers being asked to work for free.  It recently conducted a poll asking whether people thought it was fair to ask job candidates to work a trial period for free.

The majority of people thought it was unfair although there were 17% of people who thought it fair.  There was also some interesting discussion about this subject between those who were polled.

Click here to see the results of the JLD poll and the subsequent discussion.

This is certainly a sensitive area and one which is far from black and white.  My opinion is that unpaid work has its place and will very much depend on a variety of factors such as: the stage the person is at in their legal career/studies, how long the period of work is to be, what type of work is to be undertaken.

At one end of the spectrum, if the work is to be for several months and the person has legal skills that are to be utilised solely for fee earning work then alarm bells may start to ring.

However, if the work placement is for a shorter period and involves basic legal research and administrative support together with a chance to work shadow qualified solicitors then I would encourage this as a way to increase experience and improve the CV.  Obviously, if payment can be arranged (even just for expenses) then this would be preferable.

As with many of these things, it depends on the individual circumstances and each person should make their own judgment about the situation.

If you find yourself in this situation and are unsure about it you can always put a call into the Junior Lawyers Division helpline to discuss things.

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