Category Archives: Law

My placement year at Shoosmiths

Aadil Qureshi is currently a final year student studying LL.B. Law. He completed his placement year at Shoosmiths last year as an Administration Assistant. Aadil shares his placement experience below. 

Sum up your placement experience in 3 words:

Insightful, fun, life-changing.

How did you secure your placement?

I managed to secure my placement by making sure, before everything, that I had a CV worth a second look. In the current market it’s imperative to have so much more than just academic achievements on your CV and my advice to those in years below me has always been to get stuck in with every opportunity that comes your way: you never know which may be the one that helps you stand out. In terms of this placement specifically, I had to complete a short phone interview and then a face-to-face interview which lasted about an hour.

What was your typical day?

My typical day would involve getting into work for 9am, and then commencing work on my to-do list for the day. As a case handler, my usual duties involved contacting customers of our clients who were in debt to the client and request payment of that debt. Should a customer refuse to pay or was unable to pay, it was my job to issue legal proceedings against them. This could involve anything from requesting a County Court Judgment against them to placing a Charging Order on their house or requesting a bailiff visit. Other than this, I also liaised with Courts and Counsel. As the Complaint Specialist, I also dealt with complaints made against us pursuant to FCA regulations.

What skills did you develop during your placement?

I developed various skills during my placement, predominantly case and time management. Effective case and time management was an integral part of my role and this has allowed me to obtain and develop skills which will, in turn, assist me in a career in a fast-paced environment. I also developed an advanced level of communication skills because I would be communicating with people of different levels of intelligence on a daily basis. This means I had to adapt how I communicated depending on whom I was speaking to.

What was your favourite placement moment?

I think my favourite placement moment was the Christmas Party at Shoosmiths. This was full-fledged, no-expense-spared extravaganza. It had the whole Great Gatsby grand party vibes about it. The party took place at the Northampton county cricket stadium and had a guest list of approx. 500 employees. The theme of the night was Bollywood and it was amazing to see everyone have such a great time, even certain managing partners who you see on a daily basis in a professional environment just forget everything and have a good time. The party went on into the early hours of the morning!

What would you say to students considering a placement?

I’d say do it! Whether you love it or not you will not regret it. The placement will either show you if the career you have picked for yourself or the type of work you will be doing is exactly right for you in which case, great. Or, it will show you that you don’t actually want that career or type of job in which case great too, because it is better to know before you have invested years and money into it just to find it isn’t for you. And apart from this, the generic skills you will obtain and develop will help you in all walks of life.

How has your placement affected your final year and future career plans?

It has definitely helped me have a more mature mindset in my final year. This in turn I think has helped me significantly with my modules and just in general understanding of the content. I think the maturity I have gained is also evident to my lecturers and I hope this will also be apparent to any prospective employers. With regards to career plans, for me, my placement showed me a legal career is exactly what I want and has motivated me to push further and ensure I reach the professional milestones I have set for myself.

Career in Policy and Public Affairs

Sometimes I find it hard to describe what I do for a living. ‘Policy and public affairs’ isn’t a career path that everyone has heard of, or knows much about. But I think it’s probably one of the most interesting and rewarding careers going.

I loved ancient history and literature at school, and went on to study at the University of Birmingham. After graduating, I was sure that I wanted to work in the public sector, and to do something that used my skills – reading and absorbing information, seeing patterns and analysing situations, and setting out my arguments in writing. After a while tempting for the NHS in an admin role in London, I managed to get onto Birmingham City Council’s graduate programme.

During my time on the graduate programme I worked in several different roles which enabled me to get a sense of what I did – and definitely didn’t want to do in future. It was during a placement in a waste and recycling depot on the outskirts of Birmingham city centre, where I was researching and designing different ways to encourage Brummies to recycle more and throw away less, that I discovered my interest in public policy.

I made a sideways move from working directly in local government to working in higher education policy in London. I wasn’t working for the government department responsible for universities, but for a policy organisation that represents universities – so it was my job to try to influence policy from the outside. I started as a Policy Researcher, and within three and a half years worked my way up to become a Policy Analyst and then a Senior Policy Analyst, eventually managing my own Policy Researcher.

I’m now Aston University’s Policy Advisor. It’s my job to know what is going on in the political world outside, and work out how it might impact on Aston. It’s also my job to find ways of letting policymakers know about all of the excellent work that goes on in Aston. Life as a Policy Advisor is often varied and always interesting. One day I might be watching a parliamentary debate live online to see what the government Minister is saying about universities, the next I’ll be responding to a consultation on what Brexit will mean for the UK’s higher education sector, and another day I’ll be drafting letters to send to MPs about an exciting development at Aston University, or organising a roundtable discussion event.

One of the great things about policy as a career path is that you realise policy roles are all around you, and your skills are really transferrable. As well as the option of working within government or with a particular politician, pretty much any organisation that interacts with government in some way, whether in the public, private or charity sector, will need people to run their policy and public affairs operation.

If you have developed the right skills and experience – like being able to read and digest lengthy and complex reports, analyse what a government announcement will mean for a sector in practice, think how a politician might think, or write a persuasive letter – in a way it doesn’t matter what context you are working in. You can learn that detail of the job as you go along.

 

My advice for anyone thinking about a career in policy is:

  • When it comes to job hunting or looking for work experience, think outside the box – it’s not just government that has policy roles. Universities, charities of all kinds, political parties, think tanks and representative bodies do too. And it doesn’t have to be in London if that’s not your scene.
  • Your career can be incredibly varied, so don’t pigeon hole yourself into one area of policy. I moved straight from environmental policy to higher education policy so I know it can be done.
  • Do your research and keep up to date with current affairs. If you’re applying for a policy role, have a look at the organisation’s recent news releases or blogs, find out which government departments they interact with and which politicians are in charge, and read one of their recent speeches. This will impress recruiters and show that you have already thought about their policy challenges.

Lizzy Woodfield

Policy Advisor, Aston University

If students would like to talk to someone to gain some advice on how to break into a career in policy, or to discuss any other aspects of their career planning, do book an appointment with a careers consultant via Aston Futures (www.aston.ac.uk/careers