If you’re interested in a potential future career as a lawyer, but don’t know where to start, The Beginner’s Guide to a Career in Law is for you.
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THE BEGINNER’S GUIDE TO A CAREER IN
If you decide that a career as a lawyer is for you, there are a few things you should be doing even before you start university. Here’s a brief checklist to get you started: Your ‘first steps’ checklist:
Talk to your careers adviser at school to go through your options.
Research the different paths into law – university, chartered legal executive, paralegal, apprenticeship (read The Law Apprenticeships Guide ) – and decide which is right for you. Get some practical work experience at a law firm, barristers’ chambers or legal advice centre; it will help you to decide what suits you best and will also improve any applications you make later.
Work hard at your academic studies. Good grades are important.
Think about the kinds of extracurricular activities you can do, or have done, to make yourself into a well-rounded candidate. Think sport, volunteering, drama, music… Sign up to LCN Weekly on LawCareers.Net. Our free weekly email newsletter delivers news and information about the profession, plus advice and calendar reminders, straight to your inbox.
Read the business pages of newspapers to improve your commercial awareness and get you starting to ‘think business’.
If you’re interested in a potential future career as a lawyer, but don’t know where to start, The Beginner’s Guide to a Career in Law is for you. In this guide you’ll find information about what a job in law involves, the differences between the three main types of lawyer (solicitors, barristers and chartered legal executives), and the courses and training you need to complete to qualify. There are also some key questions to consider and information about the next steps for those who want to find out more. The Beginner’s Guide is brought to you by LawCareers.Net (LCN), the number one resource for those interested in joining the legal profession. On our website you’ll find information on employers; interviews with law firm recruiters, trainees, associates and partners; blogs and videos from people at different stages of their legal careers; information on law courses (undergraduate and postgraduate); and a searchable database of training contract, vacation scheme and pupillage vacancies.
Welcome to the first stage of your legal career!
What lawyers do Lawyers perform an important role, as law covers every aspect of society – from the age you can take your driving test to the speed you can drive when you qualify; from the minimum wage you can earn in a job to the cleanness of the water you drink.
central or local government, in companies’ legal departments or in alternative business structures (ABS) – a type of business that provides the same services as a law firm, but is controlled by non- lawyers (eg, the Co-operative Group). Solicitors’ jobs are very different depending on what area of law they work in (eg, crime or family) and whether their work is advisory (eg, helping one company buy another) or involves legal disputes (eg, one company suing another). All solicitors’ jobs involve some or all of the following: • meeting clients, finding out their needs and establishing how to help; • researching relevant areas of law and advising clients of their options; • drafting letters, contracts and other legal documents; and • acting on behalf of clients in negotiations and representing them at tribunals or in court. Being a solicitor is a demanding but rewarding job. Many solicitors in law firms work their way up from trainee to associate to partner.
The first thing to know is that traditionally, the legal profession is divided into two main branches – solicitors and barristers. However, these are not the only types of lawyer. There are also chartered legal executives, paralegals, apprentices and more – find out more in ‘Apprenticeships’ on page 6 and ‘Paralegals’ on page 7 and in the companion to this booklet, The Law Apprenticeships Guide , which is available free at schools and online at www.lawcareers.net. For now, here’s an introduction to what solicitors and barristers do. Solicitors Solicitors provide advice and guide clients through legal issues. They’re the first point of contact for people and organisations seeking legal advice and representation. Most solicitors work together in law firms, while others work in
Practice area snapshot Below is just a small selection of the vast array of practice areas out there:
Corporate/ commercial Commercial and corporate solicitors advise on complex transactions and act for businesses of all sizes, from international corporations to small start- ups. General company law might involve advising on company directors’ rights and responsibilities, board meetings and shareholders’ rights. Corporate work often concerns mergers and acquisitions (M&A), demergers, joint ventures and share issues.
Criminal lawyers advise and represent their clients in court on criminal charges that can range from minor motoring offences to more serious crimes, including murder. Barristers may be called on to act for either the defence or the prosecution.
As a solicitor, you’ll work on disputes that end up in employment tribunals or in the High Court, helping to draft employment contracts or advising on working hours. Your client could be the employer or employee. As a barrister, you’ll appear on behalf of your client in either a tribunal or court, often in different parts of the country.
Family lawyers deal with all legal matters relating to marriage, separation, divorce, cohabitation and legal issues relating to children. Family law also encompasses financial negotiations, inheritance issues and prenuptial contracts.
Barristers Barristers represent clients in court and advise on specialist legal issues. They receive their cases through solicitors and are self-employed. When not in court, they work in chambers (offices shared by groups of barristers) where they prepare their arguments and advice. Again, barristers work in many different areas of law. Key elements of the job include: • advising clients on the law and the strength of their case; • writing advice letters and legal opinions for clients; • representing clients in court, including presenting the case and cross-examining witnesses; and • negotiating settlements (when a legal dispute is resolved privately outside of court). Once they qualify, a barrister is known formally as a ‘junior’. They remain a junior until they’re made a Queen’s Counsel (QC) – this is also known as ‘taking silk’. A QC is a senior barrister with extensive experience who is seen as having outstanding ability. Most barristers never become QCs.
Areas of law There are hundreds of different types of law. At the simplest level, you can divide lawyers between those doing commercial work (ie, work for companies) and those involved with individual people. You could be a banking lawyer checking over a major loan by a bank to a corporation, or a personal injury lawyer advising someone who was injured at work. Day-to-day working life varies hugely between practice areas – an immigration lawyer’s job will differ greatly from an intellectual property (IP) solicitor’s. See the ‘Practice area snapshot’ below for more detail.
Further reading Solicitors www.lawcareers.net/solicitors Barristers www.lawcareers.net/barristers
Chartered legal executives and paralegals are also lawyers who work in law firms, but the route to these jobs doesn’t always require a university degree. Find out more about paralegals, legal executives and apprenticeships later in this guide.
This practice area is incredibly wide- ranging and includes immigration and asylum cases, privacy cases affecting celebrities and international law issues. Clients may range from low-income refugees and prisoners through to large news organisations and government departments.
This involves protecting intellectual ideas (eg, new inventions, brands and music) from exploitation, usually through copyright, trademarks and patents. The work of IP lawyers includes commercial exploitation cases, infringement disputes, and agreements covering IP rights, either exclusively or as part of larger commercial deals.
Private client lawyers advise on all aspects of an individual client’s
Public law concerns relationships between people and government. This might mean challenging the level of care provided to a disabled person by a local authority, or on a larger scale, advising the government on national infrastructure
financial affairs, including capital
gains tax, inheritance tax planning, setting up lifetime trusts and preparing wills. Private client lawyers also handle a wide range of charity work.
development, such as a new energy or transport project.
Branches of the profession
self-employed and a solicitor/legal executive may be in a law firm of thousands of people, the reality is more complicated. Barristers often work with each other and with solicitors, and some solicitors/legal executives spend many hours on their own drafting documents. Deciding which career path would suit you best could be a challenge – factors to bear in mind include school grades, your key interests and financial circumstances. Over the page is a brief guide with some key facts that may help you to decide.
One of the key questions to ask yourself is what type of lawyer you want to be. For many, that will mean deciding between becoming a solicitor or a barrister. For others, the option to ‘earn while you learn’ as a chartered legal executive will appeal. Simply put, a barrister appears in court, while a solicitor or chartered legal executive works in a law firm. All three are ‘lawyers’. However, there are key differences. The stereotype is that barristers are individualists while solicitors and legal executives are team players. But while it’s true that a barrister is almost always
Further reading Solicitors www.lawcareers.net/solicitors Barristers www.lawcareers.net/barristers
The ‘CILEX’ section on www.lawcareers.net
Chartered legal executives As of March 2022, there were around 20,000 trainee and practising chartered legal executives.
Solicitors As of June 2022 , there were 156,518 practising solicitors.
In 2021, there were 17,263 practising barristers. Of those, 13,622 were self-employed.
Women make up 52% of all solicitors and partners in law firms. But there are many more men than women at partner level, with women making up 35% of partners.
Women make up around 38% of all practising barristers (ie, 6,624 women compared to 10,437 men).
Women make up around 76% of all CILEX members.
People from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds make up 17% of all solicitors, as well as 16% at partner level.
People from ethnic minority backgrounds make up 14% of all practising barristers (ie, 2,506).
People from ethnic minority backgrounds make up around 16% of all CILEX members.
Mostly employed in private law firms, so receive regular monthly salary.
Mostly self-employed, so receive irregular (but often substantial) fees. The early years can be hard.
Mostly employed in private law firms or in-house, so receive regular monthly salary.
Work mainly with individuals, companies and barristers.
Work mainly with solicitors and other barristers.
Work mainly with solicitors and individuals.
Office-based, although have some rights of audience (ie, can appear in court like barristers). Engage more in ongoing advisory and one- to-one client work. Many firms have introduced ‘hybrid’ working policies. Aspire to become partner – that is, part-ownership of firm and entitlement to a percentage of its profits. Trainee salaries vary widely. A small firm could pay first-year trainees £22,000. Trainees at regional firms earn around £27,000 while City firms pay from £35,000 to much, much more.
Chambers and court-based. Engage more in one-off advocacy (ie, court cases).
Office-based, although they have some of the same rights of audience as solicitors. Engage more in ongoing advisory and one-to-one client work.
Aspire to become QC – a top barrister, normally instructed in very serious and complex cases. As of 1 January 2022, all pupil barristers must be paid a minimum of £17,152 (outside London) or £19,144 (in London). Many earn much more – upwards of £50,000 in some cases.
Should they choose to do so, legal executives can go on to become coroners, judges or partners. Starting salaries are usually between £15,000 and £28,000 per year while qualifying, while qualified chartered legal executives can expect to earn between £35,000 and £55,000, and can earn much higher.
You don’t have to go to university for a career in the legal profession – a legal apprenticeship enables you to gain qualifications while in paid work, through on-the-job training at a law firm or other employer. Legal apprentices can eventually become solicitors, chartered legal executives or paralegals without the tuition fees and accommodation costs involved with going to university. Some types of apprenticeship take 18 months to complete, but the more advanced levels provide training over five or six years – around the same amount of time as it would take to qualify through the university route. You don’t have to start paying a student loan back until you’re in a job paying at least £27,295 a year, so high fees shouldn’t necessarily put you off higher education. But there are many reasons why you might decide that going to university isn’t right for you and a legal apprenticeship is a genuine – and free – alternative. This section is a basic introduction to legal apprenticeships. To learn more, read the companion to this guide, The Law Apprenticeships Guide , for everything you need to know about the different types of apprenticeship. Pick up a free copy from your school or read it online at LawCareers.Net. Am I eligible? To become a legal apprentice, you must be 16 or over, not in full-time education and a UK citizen/someone who has right of residency in the UK. Most legal apprenticeships require five GCSEs (or equivalent) graded 9 to 4 (A* to C), including maths and English. The paralegal apprenticeship requires at least two A levels, while the solicitor apprenticeship requires three A levels, with grade requirements varying between employers from CCC to AAB. Earn and learn The minimum wage for an apprentice under the age of 19 is £4.81 an hour (as of 1 April 2022), as well as for people aged over 19 who are in the first year of their apprenticeship. All apprentices over the age of 19 are paid at least the National Minimum Wage for their age group. There are four levels of legal apprenticeship.
Intermediate, legal administration or business administration apprenticeship Intermediate apprenticeships are aimed at school leavers who don’t have A levels. Apprentices develop the skills to manage legal cases on an administrative level. Paralegal apprenticeship The paralegal apprenticeship trains apprentices in the skills needed to work in a certain area of law (eg, personal injury). Paralegals support solicitors on legal matters and do many of the same tasks. Find out more about paralegals on the next page.
Chartered legal executive apprenticeship
This programme trains apprentices to qualify as chartered legal executives, a type of lawyer that’s similar to a solicitor. Candidates don’t usually start this apprenticeship straight after leaving school – it’s recommended to complete another qualification first, such as a paralegal apprenticeship. Solicitor apprenticeship This apprenticeship is a six-year programme that integrates studying for a law degree with on-the-job training at a law firm or other organisation, ending in qualification as a solicitor via the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE).
Other ways of qualifying as a lawyer via apprenticeships include the graduate solicitor apprenticeship and in-house apprenticeships. Those qualifying via these routes will also complete the SQE as part of their apprenticeship.
The Law Apprenticeships Guide
Paralegals work in law firms but aren’t qualified as solicitors or chartered legal executives. Although paralegals used to be seen purely as support staff, the role of a paralegal has moved beyond just assisting solicitors. Paralegals are a distinct group of legal professionals in their own right, although this kind of role is often still used as a stepping stone to becoming a solicitor or chartered legal executive. Some paralegals’ roles are very similar to those of solicitors. This means that you can apply to qualify as a solicitor while working as a paralegal, provided you can satisfy the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) that you’ve gained the same knowledge and skills in your role as you would have through a training contract. This was previously called the ‘equivalent means’ route to qualifying. The first paralegals qualified as solicitors this way in 2015, but this route could become much more common following the introduction of the SQE and its qualifying work experience (QWE) requirement. Candidates can now build up two years’ QWE and qualify via the SQE whether they’ve taken the traditional route, an apprenticeship or the paralegal route. Find out more about the SQE and the different routes to becoming a lawyer on page 8.
Another common reason why many graduates work as paralegals is that this is a good way to gain the crucial legal work experience needed to get a training contract. Some paralegals gain experience and then apply for a training contract at the same firm, while others move on from firms where this isn’t an option and go on to apply successfully elsewhere. However, a note of caution: paralegals perform many of the same tasks as solicitors, but are generally not paid as much and there isn’t the same clear career progression that solicitors can pursue. Be careful and stay mindful of your prospects for career progression. Further reading The ‘Paralegal’ section on www.lawcareers.net – find it in the hover menu under the Solicitors tab.
What do I need to know about the SQE?
The SQE came into force in September 2021 and will eventually replace the Legal Practice Course (LPC) as the route to qualifying as a solicitor. To qualify via the SQE, you must: • have a university degree or equivalent in any subject (law or non-law) (eg, an apprenticeship);
• pass the SRA’s character and suitability assessment; • pass SQE1 and SQE2; and • have two years’ QWE. You can visit LawCareers.Net’s SQE hub, sponsored by The University of Law, to find out more about the SQE and to stay up to date with how law firms are adopting this new route.
Law conversion (optional for SQE cohort)
Various CILEX routes
LPC or SQE
Chartered legal executive
The following describes the various stages along the path to formal legal qualifications:
you must take to qualify as a solicitor. To qualify through the SQE you must have a university degree (law or non-law), pass SQE1 and SQE2 exams, pass the SRA’s character and suitability assessment and have two years’ QWE. For more information, see LawCareers.Net’s SQE hub. SQE preparation courses It isn’t mandatory to complete an SQE preparation course before taking the SQE, but it is advised. There are a range of available SQE preparation courses for law and non-law graduates, differing in length, price and content. You can search SQE preparation courses via LCN’s course search tool. Pupillage Pupillage is a compulsory, year-long period of on-the-job training before qualification as a barrister. QWE QWE (which may take place in the form of a two-year training contract) is a period of paid training before qualification as a solicitor. The work experience requirements of the SQE are more flexible and can be completed in up to four separate placements taking place before, during and after SQE study. However, many law firms will prefer to train their future lawyers themselves. Barrister Barristers offer advice on specific legal issues and represent clients in court. Solicitor Solicitors give advice and assistance on matters of law; they’re the first point of contact for those seeking legal advice and representation.
CILEX chartered legal executive A chartered legal executive is a qualified lawyer (though not a solicitor) who is trained to specialise as an expert in a particular area of law. The CILEX Professional Qualification provides three outcomes: CILEX Paralegal, CILEX Advanced Paralegal and CILEX Lawyer. Intermediate legal and paralegal apprenticeships A legal apprentice starts their career straight from school. You receive paid, on-the-job training in legal skills, commercial skills and professional conduct. For more on the different types of apprenticeship, see page 6 and read The Law Apprenticeships Guide . Solicitor apprenticeship The solicitor apprenticeship is a six-year programme of paid training, integrating a law degree, which ends in qualification as a solicitor. The entry requirements are usually five GCSEs graded 9 to 4 and three A levels (grade requirements vary), or equivalent work experience. Solicitor apprentices will take the SQE in order to qualify. Paralegals Paralegals have traditionally worked as support staff, but in practice many experienced paralegals do the same work as solicitors. Paralegal roles provide a good route into the profession for students and graduates, either as valuable work experience before applying for a training contract or as a way to fulfil QWE before taking the SQE and qualifying as a solicitor.
GCSE The foundation of your career and the essential first step. A level Universities and employers will likely look at your A-level grades. Some universities favour traditional, academically rigorous subjects such as history but A-level law isn’t a requirement to becoming a lawyer. Non-law degree Lawyers don’t have to study law at university! A non-law degree can be followed by a law conversion course or non- law-specific SQE preparation. Law degree The qualifying law degree, or LLB, covers seven compulsory subjects: public, criminal, contract, tort, property, equity and trusts, and EU law. Law conversion A law conversion course packs the key learning of a law degree into one year (if studying full time). Following the introduction of the SQE, a law conversion isn’t required to become a solicitor. Bar course The mandatory stage of training to become a barrister that follows your law degree or law conversion course. There are a range of options at different law schools, serving different learning styles and budgets. LPC The LPC is being replaced by the SQE. SQE The SQE was introduced in September 2021 as the exam
Below are some of the most commonly asked questions about a career in the law.
What is commercial awareness?
Why should I choose law over other professions? Don’t pursue a legal career for the sake of it or because you’ve heard
Law firms want their lawyers to be ‘commercially aware’,
but what does this mean? In essence, lawyers deal with more than just the law. They must understand their clients’ business/personal circumstances and the market/environment in which they operate. Commercially aware lawyers are proactive in spotting and suggesting solutions to potential problems for the client. As a student, you’re not expected to be an expert – commercial awareness at this level isn’t the same as for an experienced lawyer. What firms are looking for is a combination of basic knowledge, common sense, interest and enthusiasm for commercial matters, and, most importantly, the ability and willingness to ‘think business’.
that it pays well; you must have a passion to be a lawyer in order to succeed. Do you find law interesting? Is there a particular area of law that has already caught your attention? Are you the kind of person who would thrive in a legal environment? The only way to really find out whether law is for you is by doing some work experience, both legal and non-legal.
What skills and strengths do you need to be a good lawyer? Several core skills are needed to
be a good lawyer – many of them you can hone through your academic studies and work experience. The strengths that legal recruiters look for include: • intellectual ability;
How important are grades at A level and university? Law is an intellectually rigorous career, which is why some firms
• motivation; • resilience; • accuracy/attention to detail;
and chambers require excellent academics. It’s therefore important that you get the best grades you possibly can. That said, many firms are adopting contextual recruitment to look beyond grades to assess academic potential and identify candidates they may otherwise miss.
• teamwork; • leadership; • commercial awareness; and • communication skills. If you have the majority of these, law could be a good choice for you!
Should I go to university or try one of the new routes, such as an apprenticeship? Some lawyers begin their
Why are vacation schemes so important? Getting work experience at law firms is often an essential aspect
careers immediately after leaving school by taking the apprenticeship route, which enables an aspiring lawyer to learn ‘on the job’ in a paid role, with some time each week allocated for study. Solicitor apprenticeships also allow those with A levels to qualify as a solicitor without going to university, while there are various other kinds of apprenticeship for candidates at different stages, including paralegal and chartered legal executive apprenticeships. See the ‘Apprenticeships’ section on page 6 for more detail and The Law Apprenticeships Guide .
of securing a training contract. Work placements/vacation schemes (usually run during university holidays) provide an opportunity for you to find out about not only the law, but also individual firms. Firms increasingly rely on vacation schemes to figure out which candidates they want to take on as trainees, so getting on a scheme is a great chance to impress and earn the offer of a training contract.
Do law firms prefer candidates to have a law degree? Most firms are looking to recruit a
balance of law and non-law graduates – in fact, roughly half of all solicitors are from non-law backgrounds. Studying another subject at university may also help to make you a more well-rounded individual. So if you have a burning desire to study English literature, but think you might want a career as a lawyer, it’s fine to do English at university and complete a law conversion. The postgraduate course squeezes the essential elements of a qualifying law degree into one year. While a law conversion is no longer a requirement via the SQE, it is still recommended. There are several new non-law-specific courses for those taking the SQE. You can then complete SQE preparation before sitting SQE1 and SQE2. For aspiring barristers, after taking the law conversion, you’ll join the law graduates on the Bar course, followed by a pupillage in a set of chambers. But note: traditional academic subjects (eg, history or sciences) are favoured over more modern options (eg, media studies or drama).
How do I go about getting legal work experience? As above, vacation schemes are a great way to learn more about
the profession, with many firms now also running schemes specifically for first years. You can see a comprehensive list of firm schemes on LawCareers.Net’s vacation scheme deadlines page. But you’re not restricted to these structured programmes – you could get a day or two shadowing a trainee or lawyer simply by writing speculatively to firms/chambers you’re interested in or which are local to you. You should also get involved with university pro bono schemes or legal advice centres. All these experiences provide a valuable introduction to the types of work and client relationships that lawyers are involved with every day.
What do I need to know about the postgraduate law courses? In brief, this is the compulsory vocational stage that must be completed before you do either the training contract/QWE (solicitor) or pupillage (barrister). The LPC and Bar course are usually one-year courses, but each can be done two years part time, or by distance learning. Many providers around the country offer the courses. Several providers have revealed details about their new non-law specific SQE preparation courses, designed to get candidates ready to take and pass the SQE1 and SQE2 assessments. These vary depending on the provider. Find out more about the SQE below. Alternatively, CILEX offers a Graduate Fast Track Diploma.
How much longer will it take to qualify if I choose a non- law undergraduate degree? It only takes one year longer to
qualify if you choose a degree other than law (if studying full time). After graduating, you’ll need to complete a law conversion that covers the key parts of a law degree, before progressing onto the SQE or Bar course.
Are postgraduate law courses expensive? Do I have to pay for them myself?
The total cost of qualifying as a solicitor or barrister shouldn’t be underestimated. Over and above the £9,250 per year that you’re likely to pay for your undergraduate degree, you’ll have to pay up to £17,950, £11,300 or £18,500 (plus living costs) for, respectively, the LPC, SQE and Bar course in 2022-23. And unlike undergraduate and master’s degrees, postgraduate loans are unavailable for the LPC, SQE and Bar course (unless they include a master’s on top of the core qualification). SQE prep courses with an LLM can cost around £16,950. If you’re not doing an LLM, it’s best to have a training contract or pupillage before embarking on any of the courses – many large firms/chambers offer sponsorship (usually covering course fees and maintenance grant) to their future trainees/pupils. Bank loans are usually the preferred option for those who self-fund. In addition, the cost of taking the SQE can be broken down into two parts, with SQE1 costing £1,558 and SQE2 costing £2,422. For more detailed funding advice, look at the ‘Finances’ section on LawCareers.Net.
What is the SQE? The SRA introduced the SQE in 2021 to replace the LPC as the assessments that all solicitors
must pass in order to qualify. The SQE is designed to ensure that all qualified solicitors are of the same high standard, regardless of the route (eg, university or apprenticeship) they take to get there. Unlike the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and LPC, the SQE is not a course but a series of exams that are divided into two stages. As above, universities and law schools have released details about their new courses to prepare students for the SQE. Anyone who started a law degree, GDL or LPC before September 2021 can continue to qualify through the old system. Check LawCareers.Net’s dedicated SQE hub, sponsored by The University of Law, for the latest information.
Have all lawyers been to private school and Oxford or Cambridge? No. Most firms and chambers fully understand the benefits of a representative
Is the role of lawyers essentially the same in all law firms and chambers? No. Take solicitors’ firms –
the work and lifestyle that you would experience in a large City firm and a small high-street practice are completely different. And it’s the same with a London- based commercial barristers’ chambers and a small regional crime chambers. It’s therefore important that you find out which type and size of practice would suit you by doing work experience and speaking to people in the profession. Only by getting first-hand experience and speaking to those in the know can you really get a feel for the kind of work you think would appeal and you’d be good at.
workforce, which means recruiting the best candidates regardless of
background. These days, most go further by establishing their own diversity policies to ensure that they provide a welcoming and supportive environment for people whatever their gender, ethnicity, sexuality, age, disability, socioeconomic background and so on. That said, different firms and chambers do have different personalities and it’s important to find one that suits you – a compelling reason to attend law fairs, open days and get work experience.
How can my careers service help me? Your school or university careers service is a key resource. Some
How can I find out more? Pick up a copy of this year’s The LawCareers.Net Handbook or our companion publication, The Law
advisers specialise in the legal sector and can help you to check through work placement and training contract/pupillage applications (or speculative CVs and letters, if you’re trying to secure informal work experience). Some also have contacts at local law firms and chambers, so might be able to help you set up some work shadowing.
Apprenticeships Guide, from your careers service or read it online via LawCareers.Net. Attend both virtual and in-person law fairs. These are a great place to speak to recruiters and current trainees/pupils. In addition, check out LawCareers.Net for news, advice, features and interviews.
Further reading See The Oracle on LawCareers.Net for answers to a huge range of questions from students about careers in law (www.lawcareers.net/explore/oracle).
There are a few things worth mentioning as a reminder that starting a legal career is competitive and expensive. So, without wanting to detract from the exciting and challenging career on offer, here follows some food for thought…
Finances With up to £9,250 per year undergrad fees, plus postgrad study in 2022-2023 costing up
Academics There’s real competition for training contracts and pupillages. You must get strong grades
to £17,950 for the LPC, around £18,500 for the Bar course, and the new SQE assessments costing £3,980 (excluding the fees for preparation courses) the road to qualification isn’t cheap. In addition, some firms at the smaller end of the market may pay trainees no more than the national minimum wage. Your ability to afford the courses and a potentially low starting wage must be a factor in deciding whether to pursue law as a career. That said, there are options to complete the new SQE for around £10,000 in total, depending on the SQE preparation course provider. However, prices for the SQE1 and SQE2 preparation courses vary, with the more extensive SQE preparation courses closer to the cost of the LPC.
from your first year of university onwards. Your A-level grades are also important, even though some firms have recently dropped A-level requirements for training contract applications. Many firms are adopting contextual recruitment to look beyond A-level grades to assess academic potential and identify candidates they may otherwise miss.
Online Make sure you set up a LinkedIn profile to connect with employers and other contacts, and start to build
up the ‘professional’ side of your social media presence. Legal Twitter is a great place to learn about the profession and begin building your knowledge and you can even gain legal careers information through Instagram and TikTok!
Time You must spend time researching firms/chambers you like; planning how
Experience You need a combination of work experience (this can include legal and non- legal experiences) and
to get work experience; and filling out, refining, checking (and having someone else check) your application forms. In every case, start early, have a schedule and be strict with yourself. Last-minute, rushed efforts are almost worse than no effort at all.
extracurricular activities to become the all-rounder that firms/chambers want to hire. One without the other isn’t enough; having both strings to your bow will help you to demonstrate that you have the skills the employer is looking for.
Diversity In recent years, great strides are being made by diversity and social mobility initiatives to
Competition The numbers are stacked against you – there are many fewer training contract and pupillage places than
level the playing field and improve equal representation at all levels of the legal profession. Organisations such as upReach and RARE work for free with students to provide advice on CVs, application forms and interview practice, while also working with employers to provide work experience opportunities and improve openness. Increasing diversity in the legal profession is also one of the main aims of the SQE (see page 12 for more). However, there’s no getting away from the fact that the legal profession was historically overwhelmingly white, male and privately educated, and more needs to be done to address the imbalance. Head to LawCareers.Net’s Diversity hub, sponsored by Gowling WLG (UK) LLP, for information and updates on what’s going on in the industry.
there are people with the necessary qualifications. You must find a way to stand out among thousands angling for the same job, so make sure you shine through by being resourceful, authentic, determined and committed to the profession and a career in law.
Commerciality The legal world is part of the business world. If you have ambitions to work for a commercial
law firm, it’s essential to develop a good understanding of the issues and events affecting businesses. Read the Financial Times and The Economist from time to time, and try to appreciate the appropriate legal issues thrown up by your studies from a commercial perspective.
The law is an incredibly competitive profession and it’s never too early to start trying to boost your chances of success. One of the best ways to do that is to visit LawCareers.Net (LCN) to begin your online research. It’s your one-stop shop for all things law-related.
On LawCareers.Net you’ll find:
A directory of over 1,000 law firms, barristers’ chambers and legal educators
A range of videos and podcast episodes
Features providing information and advice about pursuing a legal career
Blog posts from law students
Personalised careers advice via The Oracle
Profiles of lawyers and recruiters
The latest legal news
Tips and articles to boost your commercial awareness
Make sure to sign up to MyLCN on LawCareers.Net to manage your legal career. You’ll also receive the LCN Weekly email newsletter, which is packed full of useful information and insights.
Scan this QR code to register for a free LawCareers.Net account
Find us on:
The LawCareers.Net Podcast
If you would like more copies of The Beginner’s Guide to a Career in Law 2023 or its companion publication, The Law Apprenticeships Guide 2023 , please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Keep up with the business sections on newspapers’ websites to improve your commercial awareness, but also read the more specific legal press – a couple of the more reputable broadsheet newspapers also have great law sections. Work with your university careers adviser on your application and interview technique, and start to think about where you might like to apply for a vacation scheme/mini-pupillage next year. Sign up to LCN Weekly on LawCareers.Net. Our free weekly email newsletter delivers news and information about the profession, plus advice and reminders throughout the legal recruitment calendar, straight to your inbox. Get some practical work experience at a law firm, barristers’ chambers or legal advice centre – this could count towards your QWE. Explore the range of diversity organisations that help future lawyers. Go to law fairs, firm presentations and open days to meet people face to face. Think about how to stand out by asking good questions (eg, about a recent deal, case or merger). Your first-year university checklist: You’re at university (law or non-law) and want to know what you should be doing. Here’s a brief checklist to get you started:
Continue to work hard at your academic studies. Recruiters want to see exemplary grades and yes, your first-year grades count!
Join your university’s student law society. They will support you with events, presentations, information sessions and more. Plus, you can meet other students in the same position as you.
Engage with some of the extracurricular options at university (eg, sport, debating, mooting or music) to make yourself into a well-rounded candidate.
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