Each year the UCD Careers Network organises a week-long study visit to top commercial law firms in London to allow students the opportunity to network within key influencers, develop their industry knowledge, as well as a range of employability skills specific to the legal sector.
What do students do in this activity?
During the study trip, students visit 7 – 8 top law firms and engage in a range of activities including:
- Interactive skill development workshops on topics such as ‘Timeline of a corporate deal’ to enhance commercial awareness, ‘A corporate case study’ to develop negotiation skills, and ‘Graduate Recruitment’ to gain insight into effective applications and interview techniques.
- Presentation on themes such as ‘Life of a Partner’, Pro-Bono work, and ‘Climate change and the Law’.
- Panel Q&A sessions.
- Networking lunches with UCD alumni, trainees, associates and partners and speed networking activities with professionals from different practice areas.
- Office tours to bring the working environment to life.
By spending half a day at each firm, students’ gain an immersive experience in which they can learn about the culture of the firms, the work they do, and the people who make it happen.
Students reflect both in action and on action. Students engage in self-reflection during their visits to the different firms. They take notes during their visits of insights gained and key learning. They can refer to the Information Booklet that is based on the group research task completed prior to the trip to identify unique aspects of each firm and to facilitate research informed questions and engagement.
Following each visit, the group come together to verbally reflect on the experience gained and share insights, key learnings and personal impressions.
Once the study visit is complete, and students have returned to Dublin, they complete an individual written reflection of 1000 words in which they share insights gained from the trip, skills they have developed and how the experience has shaped their career thinking and professional development.
These written reflections are reviewed by tutors within the Careers Network who participated in the trip. Students ability to communicate how the experiences gained on the trip have challenged and contributed to reassessment of their initial ideas and assumptions is assessed. The impact that these transformative ideas have upon students career ideas and plans is examined.
Preparing students for the reflective component
In advance of the study visit, students participate in two 2 hour induction workshops to facilitate team building, prepare students for their group research projects into an allocated firm, and build awareness of presenting a professional image. Students also engage in networking skills training, reflect on their goals for the programme and identify questions that they would like to ask during the trip. These sessions prepare students to reflect on their experiences throughout the study visit by ensuring that students have a clear focus in terms of what they are hoping to find out from the trip and my engaging in research in advance of their experience, this provides a framework for which they can assess their experience against in terms of how their expectations match with their real lived experience.
Linking these reflections to the students’ overall employability development
By engaging in reflective practice, students are provided with an excellent grounding for independently managing their professional development throughout their careers. Students have developed a strong appreciation of the value of networking and engaging with professionals working within careers of interest, and have been able to actively consider how their pre-existing ideas correspond to their real lived experiences.
Many students have cited that they feel more confident in their ability to embark on a career within Corporate and Commercial Law in a top firm and they have demonstrated greater self-efficacy. Students are also better able to effectively articulate their skills and recognise the skills and learning gained form professional development activities and beyond.
The individual reflections combined with participation in the preparatory workshops and active engagement during the study visit, make students eligible to receive a Certificate in Work Related Learning which is include in their Diploma Supplement. Students are also able to use this experience to contribute towards the achievement of Co-Curricular Skills Awards such as the UCD Advantage Award.
Impact of using self-reflection
Engaging in critical reflection is an essential aspect of this activity so that students have the opportunity to step back and take stock of their learning. By engaging in both written self reflection and reflective group discussion this facilitates learning and enhances the value of these experiences. Reflecting-on-action after students have returned home rom the study visit allows students time and space to consider the personal impact and transformation that the learning experience has had on them and their career thinking.
The use of self reflection has supported pivotal learning within participants career thinking and professional development. The experiences that they reflected have been so rich and varied that it is clear that engaging in the various reflective aspects of the trip has been of significant value to the participants.
For many students, they have found this study visit to be the number one extra curricular activity that they have engaged with through their time at university. Critically reflecting on this Study Visit allows enables students to join the dots and make linkages between the learning gained and skills developed, and how the experience influences their career decision making and professional pathways.
Furthermore, the opportunity for students to meet with UCD alumni to had also participated within the Corporate and Commercial Law London Study Visit and are now working within these firms, has shown the impact that this trip has had upon building student motivation, self-efficacy and confidence in being able to build a career within a top Law firm in London.