There is often an assumption amongst students that they should avoid taking a gap year because it could affect their university offers. Having met a number of admissions tutors over the years, they always tell us quite the opposite! Universities have no objection with students taking a gap year, providing they do something valuable and productive (and no, getting your personal best on ProEvo doesn’t count!). There are plenty of exciting options for any of you considering a gap year:

  1. Employment
  2. Gap year programme
  3. Travelling
  4. Bit of working followed by some travelling

If you intend on taking a gap year, start researching your options now. Many jobs and structured gap year programmes start recruiting student as early as October the year before, so get online and read up on what’s out there. Travelling can be costly, but our gap year partners Lattitude have some great tips on how to plan and fundraise.

Gap year programmes are becoming an increasingly popular route for many students who want to spend their year out doing something which will benefit their career. Sam Unsworth is a student who secured a place on the highly sought-after gap year programme at Pinsent Masons. Here are his experiences…

Since finishing my nine months on the Gap Year Programme at Pinsent Masons, I have had time to reflect on my experience and the many memories I have acquired from my year out.

I was one of three ‘Gap Students’ who were based at the London Head Office of Pinsent Masons and I spent my nine month placement working in the Construction Advisory and Disputes department. Although I had no prior knowledge on anything construction related I soon found out that this was one of the largest and most respected departments at the firm which only increased my excitement to start. The work involved in the department was incredibly varied and I was given the opportunity to work on plenty of different cases which was very stimulating, especially given the sums of money that were at stake – it varied from £2million all the way up to £200million in one particular arbitration.

As a Gap Student I was treated just like another trainee at the firm, we were all mixed in with them during the induction and training weeks and we received all the emails that were directed to the trainee cohort. The work I was given to do was the same as that which was given to the other trainees – a lot of research, attending meetings, drafting letters and documents, interacting with counsel and working alongside Associates and Partners on various projects. The level of responsibility given to me within each project increased as time went on. Certainly, the highlight was being given the task of taking half of the executive management team from a huge international client on a tour of the Rolls Building courts to see some cross examination in action. The learning curve was steep, but once I got to know everyone I felt at home in the office and had plenty of people to go to regarding any questions I had which was very comforting.

Aside from the work there were endless opportunities to get involved in many other activities which are often overlooked but enriched my entire experience. Having played as a goalkeeper at a fairly serious level since an early age I found myself befriended by the firm’s football team almost immediately. This resulted in me playing for ‘Pinsent Masons FC’ weekly and in some tournaments which was a great laugh. I also participated in a variety of corporate responsibility initiatives which included fortnightly maths mentoring at a school in Hackney, Prefect interviews at another school and giving CV advice to Year 11 students. Another brilliant experience was being able to get involved with many graduate recruitment events, especially prior to going through the whole process. Being able to give a presentation one evening followed by attending Exeter University’s annual law fair was fantastic, although slightly surreal given I was advising people who were often in their third or fourth year. Having that extra knowledge of how a law firm’s recruitment process works from the recruiter’s point of view is invaluable and something that not many graduates will have experienced, again it puts you ahead of the game.

The whole experience was unforgettable and the buzz of walking through the hustle and bustle of the City of London in the morning is one I’ve come to love. Being submersed amongst experts in their field was certainly a shock, but I found myself mature and develop professionally more quickly than I otherwise would have. I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to develop such sought after skills that many university students simply won’t have. You naturally become interested in commercial news developments, evaluating their impact and how these will affect on-going projects. Be prepared to get involved and to be confident while talking with senior people and you will reap the benefits. I had an amazing nine months working at Pinsent Masons and the travelling around Asia which followed has meant my gap year has been an experience I will always treasure.