Guest Blog: A Student's Guide to Working in Law | ProjectSet
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Guest Blog: A Student's Guide to Working in Law

Guest Blog: A Student's Guide to Working in Law
Author: Rachel Brandrith Posted Date: 14 October 2020

Rachel is a final-year law student who commutes to her University. She was a awarded a First in both her first and second year and hopes to continue this into her third year. Alongside studying, she runs a legal blog, ‘Just a girl in the legal world’ and works a weekend job. She aspires to be a Commercial City lawyer.

Hi everyone,

If you are reading this I assume you are interested in a career in law, good choice! (although I may be biased). Being a lawyer is about much more than signing documents and reading laws; it is about advocating someone’s needs or wishes, developing strong inter-personal relationships and fighting for your client. For me, law provides me with the opportunity to connect with a variety of people, be intellectually challenged and be involved in a little bit of drama!

The Different Routes into Law

I wish I could sit here and tell you exactly what you need to do to become a successful lawyer, but it doesn’t work like that. There are many different routes into law, which I think is one of the most beautiful things about law: there is something for everyone.

The route options available are:

  1. ‘The traditional solicitor one’: Law degree; followed by the Legal Practice Course; followed by a 2-year training contract.
  2. ‘The traditional barrister one’: Law degree; followed by a 2-year pupillage.
  3. ‘The new solicitor one’: Any degree; followed by completing the Solicitors Qualifying Exam and Qualifying work experience. (This new route will become compulsory in the future – currently predicted to be 2026)
  4. ‘The apprenticeship one’: An in-house experience where you both work and study at the same time. (If this is something you are interested in check out @thatlawblog on Instagram)
  5. ‘The Legal Executive one’: Through CILEx where there is both an academic stage and vocational stage.

Don’t worry if you haven’t done a law degree but still want to become a lawyer, if you complete a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) in between your degree and LPC you will still be able to qualify.

The Application Process

Applying to University is made fairly simple by a lovely service called UCAS; unfortunately there is no similar service once you reach University. I don’t want to lie to you and say that the application process for law is easy, because it’s not. It can be repetitive, overwhelming and disappointing. That being said, I think it is important to understand that once you know how to apply and what they are looking for it becomes much easier, and that’s what I am here for!

Firstly, you need to know what to apply for:

  1. Work experience
  2. Vacation Scheme (essentially a fancy work experience)
  3. LPC/GDL
  4. Training Contract/ Pupillage

Secondly, you need to know when to apply:

  1. Work experience – Whenever, and how often, suits you.
  2. Vacation Schemes – You can begin applying in your penultimate year of University.
  3. LPC/GDL – Can be applied for any time in your final year. Each provider will have different deadlines but they are usually fairly close to the course start date.
  4. Training Contracts – You can begin applying in your penultimate year of University.
  5. Pupillage – Apply at least a year before you want to start your Pupillage.

Thirdly, how to apply:

  1. Work experience – Some firms will require you to complete a formal application process, others just an email asking if they can accommodate you will be sufficient!
  2. LPC/GDL – Similar to applying to an Undergraduate degree in regards to them assessing your grades and a personal statement.
  3. Pupillage – Mainly through a centralised site, the Pupillage Gateway.
  4. Vacation Schemes/Training Contracts – The process for these are fairly long-winded. They normally consist of an online application where you enter your grades, your achievements and answer a few questions. Then followed by a critical thinking test, known as the Watson Glaser test. If you are successful in this then they will review your application and invite you to interview if they like you.

(Note. You can be offered a training contract through a vacation scheme and some firms only recruit through vacation schemes)

Finding What is Right for You

The only way you are going to find the route/area of law that suits you best is through research and hands-on experience. It can be difficult deciding what is right for you, and you may not find your area until later on in your career but it is good to have a general understanding of where you see yourself working.

You can gain this type of understanding from:

  1. Law Fairs
  2. Internships
  3. Work Experience
  4. Speaking to professionals
  5. Careers websites

My tips for success

I am by no means an expert in the legal industry, and I actually created my blog in response to me feeling I had let myself down. I was naïve and I didn’t understand the application process for vacation schemes and training contracts, which meant I missed many deadlines for firms I was interested in. I had applied for vacation schemes, and had gotten into the final stage of a few, before COVID struck and they were all cancelled. This left me feeling as though I hadn’t achieved what I was supposed to in my second year.

After a bit of self-pity and a few tears, I realised that there is no ‘correct’ route into law. I realised my career wasn’t over just because I didn’t get a training contract in my second year like you are ‘supposed’ to. Therefore, I made it my mission to make my summer as productive as possible. I took part in a number of virtual internships, commercial awareness workshops and competitions, signed up for extra responsibilities on campus and created my blog. This blog is a way for me to not only enhance my CV but also to share my tips in the hope that I can help other aspiring lawyers.

So, my top tips for you guys are:

  1. Don’t be scared to reach out – To your lecturers, your friends and strangers on LinkedIn and Instagram. They will always be more than willing to provide you with advice and support no matter what it is about.
  2. Enhance your CV – Join societies at University, volunteer, get work experience, get a part-time job (part-time jobs, provide you with a number of transferrable skills).
  3. Work hard – Law is not an easy option, you have to work hard and be organised.
  4. Don’t worry if you don’t get it right first time. As I said before, there is no ‘correct’ route. It will take you time to find a firm you like, to find a sector you like and to perfect the application process; but I trust you will get there in the end.
  5. And finally, enjoy it! I have met some of the most amazing people along my journey so far and have learnt so much about the legal world, and myself.

I hope you guys have found this useful, and I wish you the best of luck in whatever you choose to do.

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