Au fait law placements: an emerged reality or a popular trend in contemporary education?

Nicola J. Tully, Alex Avramenko

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
123 Downloads (Pure)


Enhancing student employability and bridging the gap between theory and practice in law education requires a more multifaceted approach than the traditional mix of lectures, tutorials and simulations. Law placements also provide an opportunity to reinforce the importance of the professional practice standards and requirements laid down by the Law Society of Scotland. The design and implementation of law placements is analysed from the point of initiation to becoming a regular practice. The emphasis is on placements embedded in the programme of study offered to Stage 3 students to facilitate their career choices prior to specialisation in the final year.

This study utilises a longitudinal multi-method approach, allowing the analysis of various aspects the development and practical implementation of law related placements. The views of students, academic staff and representatives of local employers are gathered by in-depth interviews. A reflective workbook method is also used to analyse the ‘integration’ of learning and to support the ‘demonstration’ and assessment of personal and professional capabilities which are difficult to assess by other means.

The paper presents the challenge faced by a higher education institution in organising meaningful placements and looks at the other avenues explored, particularly in the Third Sector. There are differences in the expectations of law placement providers (law firms and Third Sector organisations) in respect of students’ skill and knowledge base. The students were explicit about the need to demystify the profession and are appreciative of experience with atypical law placement providers which expands their perceptions of the choices within a law career. Students have also indicated a positive alteration in their attitude to the role of reflective practice, which stimulated changes in their behaviour with respect to professional development.

Practical implications
The outcomes of the initial stage of this study have implications for law departments in higher education in the context of organising law placements, evaluating their effectiveness and their impact on student employability.

Teaching law has its specifics and already employs a number of methods: simulations, negotiation exercises, moots and debates. This paper explores ways of providing a more meaningful practical experience for undergraduate students by placing an emphasis on such elements of professional practice as drafting legal documents and preparing professional opinions, while introducing the complexity of the law profession. Solutions to the challenges faced by the institution in organising those placements are analysed. The study provides an analytical view on the effectiveness of law placements in relation to other widely used approaches to bridging the gap between the theory and practice of law.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-167
Number of pages16
JournalHigher Education, Skills and Work-based Learning
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Law students
  • Law education
  • Employability
  • Law placements


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