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’ll 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, podcasts and videos from people at different stages of their legal careers; information on law courses (undergraduate and postgraduate); and a searchable database of law courses, training contract, vacation scheme and pupillage vacancies.
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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 pass; from the minimum wage you can earn in a job to the quality of the water you drink.
work together in law firms, while others work in central or local government, in companies’ legal departments (in-house) or in alternative business structures – 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 differ depending on the 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 aren’t 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
Practice area snapshot Below is just a small selection of the vast array of practice areas out there:
Criminal lawyers advise and represent 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.
Employment solicitors can work on disputes that end up in employment tribunals or in the High Court, helping to draft employment contracts, advising on working hours,
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 M&A, demergers, joint ventures and share issues.
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 pre and post-nuptial/civil partnership agreements.
handling discrimination, staff restructuring and
whistleblowing issues. 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.
Barristers Barristers represent clients in court and advise on specialist legal issues. They receive cases through solicitors and are self-employed. When not in court, they work in chambers (offices shared by groups of barristers) where they prepare 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 qualified, a barrister is known formally as a ‘junior’. They remain a junior until they’re made a King’s Counsel (KC) – this is also known as ‘taking silk’. A KC is a senior barrister with extensive experience who’s seen as having outstanding ability. Most barristers never become KCs.
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.
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 development, such as a new energy or transport project.
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
Private client lawyers advise on all aspects of an individual client’s financial affairs, including capital gains tax, inheritance tax planning, setting up lifetime trusts and preparing wills. Private
client lawyers also handle a range of charity work.
or as part of larger commercial deals.
Branches of the profession
One of the key questions to ask yourself is what type of lawyer you want to be. For many, that’ll mean deciding between becoming a solicitor (private practice or in-house) 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 self-employed and a solicitor/legal executive
may be in a law firm or business 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 your school grades, key interests and career aspirations. Over the page is a brief guide with some key facts that may help you to decide which branch is best suited to you, including the number of practising lawyers and an overview of some of the profession’s diversity stats and salaries.
For more information on diversity in the legal profession, visit LawCareers.Net’s Diversity hub, sponsored by Gowling WLG (UK) LLP.
Further reading Solicitors www.lawcareers.net/solicitors Barristers www.lawcareers.net/barristers
The ‘CILEX’ section on www.lawcareers.net
Chartered legal executives
Solicitors As of June 2023, there were 161,623 practising solicitors.
In 2022, there were 17,538 practising barristers. Of those, 13,926 were self-employed.
As of December 2022, there were around 18,000 trainees and practising chartered legal executives. CILEX reports that 73% of its members attended non- selective state-run or state- funded schools.
Just over 60% of solicitors attended a state school with 20% attending selective state schools.
In 2022, 33.5% of barristers attended an independent (private) school in the UK, compared to just 7% of the wider British population.
People from ethnic minority backgrounds make up 16.3% of all practising barristers (ie, 2,641).
People from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds make up 18% of all solicitors, and 17% at partner level.
People from ethnic minority backgrounds make up around 16% of all CILEX members.
Mostly self-employed, so receive irregular (but often substantial) fees.
Mostly employed in private law firms or in-house, so receive a regular monthly salary.
Mostly employed in private law firms or in-house, so receive a regular monthly salary.
Work mainly with solicitors and other barristers.
Work mainly with individuals, companies and 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.
Chambers and court-based. Engage more in one-off advocacy (ie, court cases).
Office-based, although have some of the same rights of audience as solicitors. Engage more in ongoing advisory and one-to-one client work.
Some solicitors 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 around £22,000. Trainees at regional firms earn around £27,000 while City firms pay from £35,000 to as much as £65,000 for second- year trainees.
Aspire to become KC – a top barrister, normally instructed in serious and complex 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.
As of 1 January 2023, all pupil barristers must be
paid a minimum of £18,884 (outside London) or £20,703 (in London). Many earn much more – upwards of £50,000 in some cases.
You don’t have to go to university for a career in the legal profession – legal apprenticeships enable you to gain qualifications while in paid work, through on-the-job training at a law firm or other employer. Legal apprentices can become solicitors, chartered legal executives or paralegals without the tuition fees and accommodation costs associated with university. Some apprenticeships take 18 months to complete, but the more advanced levels provide training across five or six years – around the same time it’d take to qualify via the university route. You’ll start paying a student loan back when you’re earning at least £25,000 (depending on when you started university), so although high fees are a factor to consider, they shouldn’t necessarily put you off university. However, university isn’t for everyone and a legal apprenticeship is a genuine – and free – alternative. This section is a basic introduction to legal apprenticeships. To learn more, read The Law Apprenticeships Guide for everything you need to know about the different legal apprenticeships. 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. The graduate solicitor apprenticeship, a new route to qualifying, is aimed at candidates with a qualifying law degree (or equivalent) and non-law graduates who’ve completed a law conversion course. Earn and learn The minimum wage for apprentices under the age of 19 is £5.28 an hour (as of 1 April 2023), as well as for people aged over 19 in their first year of an 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 (open to graduates) and in-house apprenticeships. Those
qualifying via these routes will 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, although this kind of role is often used as a steppingstone to becoming a solicitor or chartered legal executive. Some paralegal roles are similar to those of solicitors. This means 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’ve through a training contract. This is called the ‘equivalent means’ route to qualifying – a route that’ll remain valid until 2032 for those who started their law degree or the Legal Practice Course (LPC) before September 2021. The first paralegals qualified as solicitors this way in 2015, but this route will eventually be replaced by the SQE. Candidates can now build up two years’ qualifying work experience (QWE) and qualify via the SQE whether they’ve taken the traditional or paralegal route or completed an apprenticeship. Find out more about the SQE and the different routes to becoming a lawyer on page 8.
Another common reason many graduates work as paralegals is because it’s a good way to gain the crucial legal work experience needed to secure a training contract. Some paralegals get the 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. Stay mindful of your future prospects if this is something that’s important to you. 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 replace the LPC as the route to qualifying as a solicitor. To qualify via the SQE, you must: • have a university degree (law or non-law) or equivalent (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 the SQE.
A level (or equivalent)
Solicitor apprenticeship (incl. SQE)
Various CILEX routes
Graduate apprenticeship (incl. SQE)
QWE (eg,training contract)
Chartered legal executive
The following describes the various stages along the path to formal legal qualifications:
Intermediate legal and paralegal apprenticeships
SQE preparation courses It isn’t mandatory to complete an SQE preparation course before taking the SQE, but it’s advised. There are a range of 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 can take place in the form of a two-year training contract or an apprenticeship) is a period of paid training before qualification as a solicitor. QWE can be completed in up to four separate placements taking place before, during and after SQE study. That said, many law firms prefer to train their future lawyers themselves. Barrister
GCSE The foundation of your career and the essential first step. A level Universities and employers will likely look at your A-level grades. 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 is the assessment you must pass to qualify as a solicitor. To qualify through the SQE, you’ll need a university degree (law or non-law), to pass SQE1 and SQE2 exams, pass the SRA’s character and suitability assessment and have completed two years’ QWE.
A legal apprentice starts their career straight from school. You receive paid on-the-job training in legal and 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 must pass the SQE to qualify. Graduate solicitor apprenticeship The graduate solicitor apprenticeship is a new addition to the growing ways to qualify as a solicitor. It’s designed for candidates with a qualifying law degree (or equivalent qualification) and non-law graduates who’ve completed a conversion course, and can take between two to three years to complete. It works in a similar way to the traditional training contract and involves on-the- job training and preparation for the SQE assessments. 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 gain QWE as part of the SQE.
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 (although not a solicitor) who’s 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.
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about a career in the law.
What’s 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
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. Firms are looking for a combination of basic knowledge, common sense, interest and enthusiasm for commercial matters, and, most importantly, the ability and willingness to ‘think business’.
heard that it pays well; you must have a passion to be a lawyer to succeed. Do you find law interesting? Is there a particular area of law that’s already caught your attention? Are you the kind of person who’d thrive in a legal environment? The best way to really find out whether law is for you is by doing some work experience.
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; • problem solving; • 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 careers immediately after leaving
Why are vacation schemes so important? Getting work experience at law firms is often an essential aspect
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. Many firms 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 secure a place on a firm’s training contract.
school by taking the apprenticeship route, which enables an aspiring lawyer to learn ‘on the job’ in a paid role, with 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 other kinds of apprenticeships for candidates at different stages, including paralegal, chartered legal executive and graduate solicitor apprenticeships. See the ‘Apprenticeships’ section on page 6 for more detail and The Law Apprenticeships Guide .
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 isn’t a requirement for non-law graduates taking the SQE, it’s still recommended and most firms will continue to require their non-law future trainees to take one prior to starting SQE prep and a training contract. There are several new non-law specific SQE preparation courses that’ve been developed. You can then complete further 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 running schemes specifically for first years. You can see a comprehensive list of opportunities 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. Plus, with the introduction of the SQE, if the experience meets the QWE requirements it can count towards the two years’ experience needed to qualify.
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 start either the training contract/QWE (solicitor) or pupillage (barrister). The LPC and Bar course are usually one-year courses, but each can be done over two years, part time or by distance learning. Many providers around the country offer the courses. Several providers have revealed details about their SQE preparation courses, designed to get candidates ready to take and pass the SQE1 and SQE2 assessments. These vary depending on the provider.
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 you’re likely to pay for your undergraduate degree, you’ll have to pay up to £19,500, £11,550 or £18,350 (plus living costs) for, respectively, the LPC, SQE and Bar course in 2023/24. 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 lined up 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 £1,798 and SQE2 costing £2,766 from September 2023. For more detailed funding advice, look at the ‘Finances’ section on LawCareers.Net.
What’s the SQE? The SRA introduced the SQE in 2021 to replace the LPC as the assessments that all solicitors
must pass to qualify. It’s 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 isn’t a course but a series of exams 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’d 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 to 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 and socioeconomic background, for example. That said, different firms and chambers 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 I find out more? Visit LawCareers.Net for news, advice, features and interviews with those on the ground, and
How can my careers service help me? Your school or university careers service is a key resource. Some
pick up a copy of this year’s The Law Apprenticeships Guide from your careers service for more information on the apprenticeship route. You can also read the guide 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.
advisers specialise in the legal sector and can help you to check through vacation scheme 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. 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) and use LawCareers.Net’s hub pages to boost your understanding of the profession and chances of success in applications. Here’s a list of our hub pages: • Application hub • Apprenticeships hub, sponsored by Mayer Brown International LLP
• Barristers hub • Beginner’s hub, sponsored by The University of Law • Commercial awareness hub, sponsored by Mayer Brown • Diversity hub, sponsored by Gowling WLG (UK) LLP • First-year hub • Non-law hub, sponsored by Shoosmiths • Solicitors hub • SQE hub, sponsored by The University of Law
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 2023/2024 costing up
Academics There’s real competition for training contracts and pupillages. You must get strong grades
to £19,500 for the LPC, up to £18,350 for the Bar course, and the new SQE assessments costing £4,564 from September 2023 (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
Experience You need a combination of work experience (this can include legal and non- legal experiences) and
how to get work experience; and filling out, refining, checking (and having someone else check) your applications. 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 employers 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 Great strides are being made by diversity and social mobility initiatives to level the playing field
Competition The numbers are stacked against you – there are fewer training contract and pupillage places than
and improve equal representation at all levels of the legal profession. Organisations such as upReach and the InterLaw Diversity Forum 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 is 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.
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 our weekly commercial news round-up, as well as 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.
LawCareers.Net 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 to begin your research. It’s your one-stop shop for all things law-related.
On LawCareers.Net you’ll find:
A range of videos and podcast episodes
A directory of over 1,000 law firms, barristers’ chambers and legal educators
Insights into firms’ vacation schemes
Features providing information and advice about pursuing a legal career
Blog posts from law students
Profiles of lawyers and recruiters
Personalised careers advice via The Oracle
The latest legal news
Tips to boost your commercial awareness
Individual Practice Area Profiles, featuring solicitors and barristers
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 into the profession.
Scan this QR code to register for a free LawCareers.Net account
Find us on:
The LawCareers.Net Podcast
If you’d like more copies of The Beginner’s Guide to a Career in Law 2024 or its companion publication, The Law Apprenticeships Guide 2024 , please contact email@example.com.
Keep up with the business sections on newspapers’ websites and LawCareers.Net’s weekly commercial news round-up 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 if you want to qualify as a solicitor. 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 – yes, your first-year grades count in law firm applications.
Join your university’s student law society. They’ll 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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