May 2014, panic time. It’s end of year one at the Grande Ecole du Droit. The results are just in. I remember getting the email announcing we could collect our grades, I remember queuing (or getting in the line, as the Americans would say) to get mine. It turned out, at my great relief, that I was good enough to stay. That was a relief: the last thing I wanted to do was to re-sit any of the exams. Why? Obviously I wanted to be on holiday, but I also wanted to get a job.
Emma (second from the right) with other second year Grande Ecole du Droit students at the integration day – September 2014
I have to admit I had gone to a few Parisians shop with my CV late-winter, however I was turned down by all because I was too early and/or only wanted to work for a month (most employers need students available for two whole months). I had summer plans, so working for two months was not an option. This brings us back to the difficulty of receiving my exam results: no re-sits for me, but also no job (it had do be one or the other). Panic: I had put research for a job aside while working for the finals. As a student, let’s be honest, money is an issue. Of course, if a lawyer had offered me a work placement, I would have accepted with great delight, even without being paid! However, this was not the case. I needed a summer job, and paid by preference. As any desperate person would do in a similar situation, I started contacting family members …
I have to thank my aunt, who works for Bouygues Construction, for putting a good word in for me at the ‘direction juridique’ (the legal department). After a quick interview with my future boss, I signed my work contract: the head of the legal’s secretary was going on holiday, and I could be of help. For a month, I would be at the office from 8h30 to 19h: days were long, but far from boring. I worked within a team of about ten people, all legal professionals, most of whom had a five-year university background, sometimes topped with a year abroad. With only a year of law school, my legal capacities were clearly limited, so most of my legal work consisted in research for the different members of the team. However, my greatest talent is my organisation. I tend to be a perfectionist and it turned out the legal department had just moved office, and needed to rearrange all of their files. Need not say I was very glad to take care of this task: colour coding and sorting by date is my speciality. On my last week at work, I was asked to be part of the team of four legal-experts in charge of the Marseille stadium case: GFC Construction and Exprimm, two of Bouygues Construction’s subsidiaries, had been selected by the City Council of Marseille, as part of the renovation program for the 2016 European football championships, for the reconfiguration of the Velodrome stadium and its surroundings, a public-private partnership project involving a budget of 300 million euros. My task was to get a hardcopy and a digital version of every single legal document necessary to the proper conduct of the case (about a hundred): this implied phone calls, going from desk to desk, from office to office to get the documents … Need not say, high heels were banned during my last week of work.
I’d like to conclude by saying that I doubt I would have gotten the job as a classic first year law student if I hadn’t been a part of the Grande Ecole du Droit. My boss was very interested in the different courses I had taken throughout the year and by the professors who had taught me. My advice to any students, or future students, of the GED is to aim high: employers and lawyers, although your legal background is subtle, can offer you a job or a work placement. You might only have to make concessions on your salary, if you’re lucky enough to get one.
By Emma Laudinat