We understand that first year at a university can be quite daunting: it’s completely different to your school days. You’re the one who is totally in charge of organising yourself from attending classes, to meeting new people and basically forging ahead on your life as a ‘grown-up’. You might even be wondering where your university adventure will take you next.

Perhaps you are already pretty sure that a career in commercial law is for you, or maybe you are still considering your options? Either way, we hope our tips will help you make the most of the busy year ahead and prepare you for whatever comes next.

Your grades from first year DO matter. It is a popular myth that graduate recruiters do not take into consideration your grades from first year. Whilst we understand that you might have a ‘dip’ as you grow accustomed to your new surroundings, your academic attainment is widely regarded as an indicator of how you deal with change and absorb new information. Strong, steady performance throughout university is important to a successful vacation placement or training contract application.

Join a society. It is one of the best ways to meet new people, settle in at the university and build on your soft skills. Whether it is a politics society, football team or photography club – get involved and take on a role with responsibility where you can. Joining a law, mooting or commercial society will increase your knowledge of current affairs and the legal profession in general, which will become invaluable when preparing for interviews and in setting the direction your career takes.

Research. Law firms accept applications from students in their penultimate year onwards (that is because we tend to recruit two years in advance) so it is good to have an idea of what their requirements are before you apply. Go to the law fair, attend insight evenings or a networking event. Meeting with solicitors face-to-face and asking direct questions is the best way to get a feel for the profession in general and the firms you might want to apply to.

Build your work experience. Whether it is a part-time position in a customer service role, shadowing work experience or a full-time summer job, it is important to challenge yourself and show that you are keen to learn. Excellent communication and time management skills, a keen eye for detail and interest in how businesses work, are key traits of a solicitor. Don’t be fooled into thinking that only legal work experience is important to future employers. It is a great way to demonstrate your interest in a career in law but often building your client service skills as a waiter or waitress is just as, if not more valuable.Perhaps having a job or completing work experience whilst at university is not possible for you given your personal circumstances? Don’t let that stop you! Pinsent Masons has recently launched a brand new Virtual Work Experience Programme which you can complete from home or university. In the programme, you will assist a hypothetical Pinsent Masons client. You will gain practical skills to add to your CV whilst getting a flavour of what working at Pinsent Masons is like. The programme is available to all and those students who made a genuine attempt at completing all the tasks will receive an online certificate to confirm they’ve completed the placement. Visit our website for more information!

Find a mentor. Mentoring programmes offer students a unique opportunity to be matched with an experienced professional from whom they will receive careers advice and guidance. Your university careers service may have details of any university-run programmes or those offered by other organisations. Make sure to specify that you are interested in a career in commercial law and your careers adviser will do their best to find you a mentor with the right background to ensure you get the support you need.

Most importantly, don’t forget to have fun and enjoy your time at university!