Student experience: international internships and networking during lockdown

International student and aspiring commercial solicitor Maryam Faisal Khan, has just completed the second year of her Law LLB degree at Kent. In this blog post, Maryam shares her experiences of law student life during lockdown and details the international internships and networking opportunities she has been getting involved with. Amongst other things, Maryam has been awarded a Virtual Internship Inclusion Scholarship with CRCC Asia (a leading provider of internships in Asia) and has launched a mentoring scheme for Pakistani students pursuing a career in law.

Leaving my life in Canterbury and hurrying back home with the threat of borders closing was not the ideal way to end my second year at Kent. However, once I was back home, my only focus was completing my coursework and preparing for exams. I found it very odd to be working on my assignments at home, in bed, with my younger brothers running around the house instead of sitting in the silent study area in the Templeman Library with a variety of snacks from Co-op to look to for emotional support. I had secured a job as a Summer Camp Activity Leader and was planning to stay in the UK throughout the summer. However, the summer camp was cancelled, and I had to look for alternative opportunities.

Since I had been working as a Campus Ambassador for Legal Cheek this year, I decided to use this time to promote networking opportunities and webinars with law firms virtually. While advertising these events on social media, I also attended them.  A webinar I thoroughly enjoyed was, ‘Understanding how a global law firm works with White & Case LLP.’ The event was incredibly insightful because I learned about the challenges global law firms might be facing due to their multi-jurisdictional structure, especially during a pandemic.

Furthermore, I attended Legal Cheek’s Legal Education Conference as a delegate. This event included a variety of workshops on Diversity & Inclusion, Reimagining Online Learning and the introduction of the SQE especially at a time of upheaval hosted by representatives from Clifford Chance, Mayer Brown, Norton Rose Fulbright, University of Law, BARBRI International and BPP Law School to name a few. My favourite part of the online conference was the speed-networking session with all the delegates and speakers. Everyone would get paired with another delegate/speaker randomly who would then network for a couple of minutes on a video call. I ended up getting paired with the recruitment manager from a firm that I plan to apply to for a training contract.

I believe the best way to get an insight into a firm’s practice and develop the practical skills needed to work in a law firm is by completing a Virtual Internship through Inside Sherpa. I completed a virtual internship with Pinsent Masons and completed tasks within their key practice groups; Transnational Services, Finance & Projects and Construction, Advisory and Disputes teams. I learned how to draft witness statements, memo-drafting and built on my client communication. I also managed to secure a spot on the Legal Cheek Virtual Vacation Scheme. While this isn’t like a traditional vacation scheme, it features a series of short talks, workshops, Q&A sessions with lawyers from leading firms and a writing session by the University of Law. Unfortunately, the spaces for this event filled, but if you sign up, you will be added to the waiting list. You can also still sign up for the Legal Cheek Virtual Law Fairs!

Another exciting opportunity I look forward to is an international remote legal internship through CRCC Asia. The placement is for two months and will start in August, but the exact details are still to be decided (I have shortlisted UK, China and Japan). CRCC Asia specialises in connecting students to the global community through international internship programs across Asia and the UK. Following the pandemic, they partnered with Virtual Internships and offered six Virtual Internship Inclusion Scholarships. This scholarship allows me to participate in a program that I would otherwise have had to pay for. The scholarship includes a guaranteed virtual internship, access to their career development platform CareerBridge, a dedicated internship coach and three months of online language lessons depending on the country of choice.

I recently launched a mentorship program for Pakistani students studying law that pairs recent graduates and professionals with students from similar backgrounds. The program focuses on A-level students interested in pursuing law, international students studying law in the UK as well as in Pakistan. I used my network of final year students, recent graduates and professionals on LinkedIn to gather mentors. Throughout my preparation for training contract applications, I had prepared resources for myself regarding application advice, creating an effective CV, and writing a good cover letter. I decided to share these resources with students added to the mailing list along with pairing them with mentors to help them throughout the year. I am currently working on organising a webinar with an international student from Pakistan who secured a training contract with a magic circle firm. I have received a great response from students as well as lawyers who would like to get involved. Many students and alumni from Kent have reached out to help with the program and its future events as well.

Furthermore, with the current network of international students I have built and the interest that has been expressed by them, I plan on expanding this program to include international students in general. I initially decided to limit the program to Pakistani students because I felt that there is a significant number of Pakistani students pursuing a legal education abroad, especially at the University of Kent. However, the problems that are faced by international students exist regardless of country of origin, and I plan on further developing this program and broaden its reach with time.

A key piece of advice I would like to give to law students is not to underestimate the importance of networking and using LinkedIn. I would have never been aware of the opportunities I participated in if it was not for being active on LinkedIn. Do not be afraid to or be shy about reaching out to people and ask them about their experiences or ask for advice. You will be surprised at the warmth and encouragement you will receive. I have been in contact with a few trainee solicitors whom I asked for help regarding training contract applications, and one was kind enough to offer to review my application.

On the other hand, I do understand that building a presence on LinkedIn is daunting and seeing other people’s achievements can be overwhelming. I always felt that I wasn’t doing enough and kept comparing myself to others. However, I realised that I should not be using this platform to measure and compare success but should be using it to learn from other people and motivate myself. Do not feel discouraged if your plans have been cancelled and think of this as a time to pursue other interests, do all the things you never had the time for and most importantly, stay safe.

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