The Linklaters Pathfinder Scheme: Getting your foot in the door as a First Year Law Student

Matthew Berrick recently spoke with Nat Swartland who decided to write this guest piece. The aim of this article is to share his experience of securing a spot on the Linklaters  Pathfinder Scheme.

Feel free to contact Matthew Berrick or Nat Swartland on LinkedIn if you have any further questions regarding this article.

Over to Nat for his insight!

Being a first-year law student can be very daunting, you just start university within a few weeks you are learning about what steps you need to take for whichever area of law you wish to practice. On top of this, a lot of first year students are unsure about which area they wish to go into or how to gain early experience. I hope that the following information sheds some light on ways you can kickstart your journey of becoming the lawyer you want to be. 

It should be noted that I will be focusing on the commercial sector, as that is what I want to go into and therefore what I tailored my experience to from the outset, however, for any legal industry there are very similar opportunities.

‘What’s available to me as a first year?’

Before anything, make sure you have an up to date and professional CV ready for nearly every application.

Open and insight days are a great way of finding your feet. They offer you the chance to gain a snapshot as to life as a commercial solicitor, and through that you should be able to make a rough judgement as to whether you see yourself working in that area of law. I attended a Linklaters open day and through that we had talks from various associates and trainees about the different sectors and tasks they undertake. It should be mentioned that there were a lot of non-law students present there too, so if you are thinking about converting to a law degree, don’t feel discouraged from applying to these firm events. 

1st year schemes such as Clifford Chance SPARK Scheme, or Linklaters’ Pathfinder are another great way to gain experience and build up your CV. These are harder to get onto and come with a longer application process, but only because of the benefits that come from a successful application. These are a great way of building an initial relationship with the firm and their graduate recruitment team, as well as providing fantastic networking opportunities. 

Anybody from low-income families, a BAME background, LGBTQ+ or with a disability should also have a look at services such as Bright Network, SEO London, and Rare Recruitment as they are partnered with leading law firms and financial services and help open doors to careers that may have otherwise seemed closed.

‘My experience with Pathfinder’

It was a hard but great experience applying, because they had replaced the traditional application methods of answering standard questions, with an interactive and practical based process.Without going into specifics, it is based on placing you in different situations that would normally occur at a commercial firm and how you deal with and respond to those. The application, as most do, ends with a Watson Glaser Critical Thinking test. I would highly recommended practicing these online before taking a real one, I failed or performed quite badly on a lot of the initial practice ones I took.

The actual scheme was somewhat disrupted by Covid-19, however, the team at Linklaters did a fantastic job of putting on a virtual Pathfinder programme, providing us with all the same insight, apart from the in-firm opportunities.

Not a lot of firms have changed their application process so be ready whether it’s for first-year schemes or later opportunities to have the lengthy question-based process. However, this doesn’t mean that you can stand out from the crowd. Diversify your university experience, join societies, engage in pro bono work, look for opportunities to put yourself out there. 

‘The Impact of Covid-19’

As you can imagine Covid had a major impact on the legal industry and what they could provide. However, many companies have quickly adapted to try and maintain that high quality experience. I have been a part of some great virtual internships webinars that have continued to help students gain valuable lessons as to what commercial law entails and what it takes to get there.

I would suggest researching firms you are interested in their events, as well as companies such as Bright Network or Legal Cheek as they have provided great virtual insight events.

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