Studying Abroad - Critical for Employment or Unnecessary Expense?

Law students within the UK confront extreme hardship in finding suitable employment upon graduation. With employers raising standards of what they consider to be 'the perfect applicant', undergraduates and postgraduates alike are seeking new methods to stand out from the crowd. Upon reading a recent news article, it was startling to learn that a staggering 45% of students interviewed in a local survey have taken a ‘stop-gap’ job due to the difficulties in finding a graduate role. National Statistics reiterate this arduous nature of finding suitable employment, with 60,000+ students entering jobs that do not require a degree and 1 in 12 graduates remaining unemployed. This justifies a need for more than just a good University degree to substantiate a claim for a graduate legal position.

An increasing number of students are seeking to better their chances in arriving at their desired occupation and there has been ever-growing popularity for the prospect of studying abroad at a range of global institutions. Whilst this adds an academic term or an entire year onto initial degree lengths, it furnishes students with an opportunity to supplement their studies of a chosen degree, but also to develop language skills and an understanding of cultural, social and political issues.

From a Law graduate’s perspective, studying abroad can heighten vital skills that Law Firms seek in applications and interviews. During my second year of university, an employability workshop outlined skills that were the most common and most unlikely to appear in a conventional graduate job application. For Law students, 67% of applicants failed to show 'commercial awareness' – a crucial skill that is make-or-break for obtaining training contracts and valuable work experience. This highlights an urgency to maturate a greater understanding of how legal businesses operate and where they envisage being commercially.

Many Law Firms are pursuing an expansion of their global reach to widen the scope for possible clientele. Firms inclusive of Allen & Overy, Slaughter and May and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer have amassed a plethora of offices located in various continents around the world, which allows them to maintain their position at the forefront of legal business developments. For a student to say that they accomplished 4-12 months in a new country, furthering their legal knowledge of another jurisdiction, perhaps even learning a new language, is a great way to authenticate skills that are becoming fundamental in employment. Having been fortunate enough to spend 12 months in Chongqing, China, the experience opened my eyes to understand not only the operation of legal businesses as a whole, but also how Law operates on an international scale. I've been fortunate to learn Mandarin, meet useful contacts and explore parts of Asia.

However great the deterrence may be in adding expense to what already is a costly degree, the opportunity to study abroad is not only once in a lifetime, but will also elevate any job application and spark greater discussion in interview situations.

Joshua Day – Legal Writer

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