Speeding ahead with your law society

Law societies are a great way to further your legal career and have fun too. Finbarr Bermingham finds out more

What is a law society?

University law societies provide a community for those interested in pursuing a career in the legal sector. They give students the chance to meet like-minded individuals, access to potential employers and great social opportunities - many have their own sports teams and almost all of them organise regular social events, both formal and informal. The majority of members are usually law students, but many societies admit non-law students, often for a discounted fee, but sometimes with access to fewer benefits.

How do you become a member?

Law societies - like most other university societies - have a presence at freshers' fairs, careers fairs and other university events. Alternatively, you can usually sign up online, via your university student union's website. There are usually a number of different types of membership. The University of Nottingham's 700-strong �LawSoc", for instance, offers degree-length membership (which costs �40) or one-year membership (�20). Non-law students can sign up to the society for just �5, but their membership is limited to receiving careers advice and weekly newsletter updates.

What are the benefits of joining a law society?

Law societies are frequently among the largest and most lauded at their universities, and the benefits of joining are manifold.

Law is known to be one of the most laborious of undergraduate courses, so an established network of peers can be very helpful academically as a forum to air your course-related queries. And if sport is your thing, your law society may be a good place to look for a game - Nottingham's LawSoc has football, netball, tennis, hockey, basketball and rugby teams, all of which are open to members.

Most significant, however, are the benefits that joining a law society will bring to your career prospects. Law societies often have strong links with law firms - Nottingham LawSoc, for instance, has relationships with some of the biggest names in the industry, including Allen & Overy and Taylor Wessing. Some firms pay to have their logos on the kits worn by the society's sports teams, while others will provide funding for social events. In addition, law firms will sponsor and help organise careers events. Sam Pinner, president of Nottingham's LawSoc, outlines how his society does things: �Our careers rep arranges for up to four law firms per week to come and speak to our members over the course of the term. These talks can take place on campus or at an informal venue in town, sometimes in bars, for example."

What are the benefits of a more hands-on role?

If you want to get even more out of your university law society, consider taking your involvement a step further. Every law society has a committee, usually comprised of up to a dozen roles and taking on one of them looks great on your CV, though will require dedication and commitment.

Some of the busiest people on the committee are those involved in organising society careers events. These students will typically liaise with legal employers to arrange these events, advertise them, and ensure they go according to plan. �While it's one of our more challenging positions, it's also one of the most rewarding," says Sam, since it allows those who take it on to forge relationships with the graduate recruitment departments of law firms, and can be a great foot in the door with them.

If you're a fresher, you could become your law society's first year representative. �Our first year representative ensures that freshers have a voice on our committee and are particularly important when it comes to careers advice," says Sam. These students, among other duties, help to provide first year members with information about open days and events at law firms specifically for their year group. It's a great way to get some contacts and experience that could give you an early head start on a legal career.

Law society social secretaries are responsible for arranging activities that are more focused around fun than furthering your career, but this position is still a excellent one to have on your CV. These students will organise events ranging from get-togethers in bars to formal balls and deal with everything from finances to fairground rides, acquiring a wealth of application-enriching experiences. �At our last spring ball we had 380 attendees," says Sam �- an event of that scale takes a lot of organisation!" Law society social events are often sponsored by law firms, so in this role too you'll have extensive opportunities to liaise with graduate recruitment representatives.

By acting as the gateway between you and potential employers and by allowing you to develop the soft skills recruiters at law firms look for in abundance, law societies are an essential careers resource. You'd be a fool not to get involved.