One of the biggest differences between law students qualifying now, and those seeking a career 20 years ago, is the prevalence of the internet in the former groups’ lives. New research shows that this generation of aspiring lawyers see websites as their preferred careers influencer. Becky Kells, Editor at AllAboutLaw, explores what this means.
It’s no secret that the students of today are very much geared towards the internet – they shop, socialise and forge relationships online – but the internet has now extended to become career-defining. This does not exclude law students, as shown by AllAboutLaw.co.uk’s latest research. When asked whether they preferred to get their careers advice from websites or from print sources, an overwhelming 81% of students sided with the internet. This significant majority suggests that using the internet as a careers adviser is not just a trend – it’s a habit.
Students not only preferred websites, but also considered them to be more valuable than print. 94.21% gave websites a rating of 5 or higher, compared to the 75.39% who gave print publications a rating of 5 or higher. “There’s a huge benefit to the internet when it comes to keeping information relevant”, said Jack Denton, Co-founder of AllAboutLaw.co.uk. “This is especially true in an industry such as law, where things change frequently.” From this perspective, the internet is a resource that can evolve with law firms and students alike, serving as a flexible bridge between the two.
The internet has not always played such a fundamental role in law careers. Qualified lawyers can harken back to the day when they sent off their training contract applications and speculative work experience requests by hand, and pored over print-based careers guides. But the rise of an online counterpart to the legal sector, in the form of the network of careers websites available, means that information is more readily available – and so law careers are more accessible to everyone.
There are, of course, benefits and drawbacks to this hypothetical online careers adviser. Information is easier than ever to accumulate, and a query that, in the past, could only be solved by a parent or mentor who worked in law, can now be answered rapidly and accurately. This also gives students themselves more choice.
However, this has its issues. Not all information available is regulated, and not all those writing about law are well-versed in the sector. The existence of forums, while useful, can spread panic among students who may get exaggerated or incorrect answers to their questions from ill-informed sources. While the internet is useful and expansive, it can be difficult to weed out the rumour mills and extrapolate the relevant information. For this reason – and also because it is clear that students are prioritising the internet, and trusting the websites they consume – it is more important than ever for websites and forums to regulate their content.
Another important factor to note is that many law firms accept applications for training contracts and vacation schemes purely online now, so the entire process of making a first impression is digital. For the applicants who face these online forms and internet-based exams, websites are a natural place to start. Law firms want to see a range of commercial awareness, professionalism and experience in their candidates, alongside academic ability. An aspiring lawyer can tailor their online research to the ethos of firm they’re applying to.
The rise in websites providing careers advice is undoubtedly a good thing for law. It means that information on how to pursue this very competitive career path is readily available to a wide variety of people, rather than an exclusive pathway of just a small cross-section of society. But it also means that students and websites alike need to be more responsible – students in sifting the quality online advice from the myths, and websites in making sure that their content is relevant, accurate and up to date.