Questions about the career path
I’m interested in doing law, but I’m not from a law background. Have I got a chance of getting a training contract?
The short answer is yes. A lot of people come into law later, after doing a different career in a different sector for a long time. It can actually be a strength to have experienced a different sector or degree discipline, as you'll be able to bring your skillset to the table.
When it comes to application forms, you can draw upon a lot of your non-law experiences and actually use them to demonstrate your interest in law. This includes any part-time jobs or internships you've done: they show your awareness of the commercial business world, with which law is closely entwined. You should also read as many law, business and finance publications as possible, to boost your commercial awareness.
Rather than trying to "force" law experiences, look at the competencies you've gained from your academic and work experience background, and make it clear how those competencies would be transferable into law.
I want to be a criminal lawyer/human rights lawyer/corporate lawyer/family lawyer: what do I need to do to get there?
No matter what area you eventually want to specialise in, you’ll need to do a training contract first. If you’ve got your sights set on being a top human rights lawyer, or are already imagining all the family law cases you’ll be handling, now is a good time to broaden your expectations: you’ll need to move through a series of seats and experience contentious and non-contentious law first, as part of a training contract. Once you’ve completed your training contract, you will qualify into one area of practice. It’s at this point that you’ll focus singularly on your specialty.
What are the main options for LLB graduates?
You have a few options. You could either train to be a solicitor, taking the Legal Practice Course followed by a training contract. Or, you could train to become a Barrister, doing the BPTC followed by a pupillage. There are also a number of other careers that suit LLB graduates within law and outside of it. You could pursue a more academic or teaching-focused path, go into legal writing and journalism, become a paralegal, or take on a role in finance or business. The great thing about the LLB is that it gives you the specific credentials to progress directly into the legal sphere, but also the transferable skills to do something completely different, if you so wish.
Questions about vacation schemes and training contracts
I missed the vacation scheme deadline but would like to get some work experience. How should I go about this?
I would recommend reaching out to local law firms in your area, with your CV and a cover letter, speculatively asking if there are any work-experience placements or internships available at their firm. Follow up with a phone call. Often, the smaller firms don't advertise placements or work experience, but they are often more flexible and therefore more able to provide work experience and placements to those who enquire.
Keep in mind that you will also be able to apply for winter and spring schemes in late summer, so keep an eye on firm websites and on AllAboutLaw.co.uk for those. Finally, it's a good idea to get involved with your university law society, which might run its own pro bono projects—a great alternative to firm placements or work experience.
Who is eligible to apply for a training contract?
Training contracts are open to both law and non-law university students, as well as graduates. However, large law firms tend to recruit their trainees two years in advance. If you want to start your training contract as soon as you finish your studies, you’ll need to bear in mind exactly when you’ll be graduating, as well as when you’ll have finished the necessary postgraduate courses.
For LLB law students, you will need to do the one-year LPC after graduating, so you should apply in the penultimate year of your undergraduate degree (year 2 if you’re on a 3-year course, and year 3 if you’re on a 4-year course). That way, you’ll have two years to complete your final year of university, and your LPC.
For non-LLB law students, you’ll need to apply in your final year of your undergraduate degree. You’ll need to do the GDL, a one-year law-conversion course, before you do the LPC.
However, if you’ve already graduated or completed the GDL/LPC, don’t worry. You can still apply for training contracts: just bear in mind that they will likely start in two years, rather than immediately, so you’ll need to fill your time somehow.
I am about to graduate from the LPC, but I don’t yet have a training contract. What are my options?
There are a number of routes that you might want to consider. Firstly, you could seek out a role as a paralegal or legal secretary, and continue to apply for training contracts. Two years of working within a law firm will, at the very least, give you an edge against other applicants who don't have any full-time legal work experience. If you're working for a firm that offers training contracts, you might even be able to secure a training contract internally.
The other option is to look into smaller, high-street and regional firms. These firms often don't recruit two years in advance for training contracts, unlike the big firms, so you might be able to start sooner. However, they also won't have such extensive recruitment campaigns as the big firms, so you might need to contact them directly to see what they have to offer.
What elements of my application should I put the most emphasis on?
There are many elements to your applications that should be given careful consideration, but I'll share the most important three. First things first: commercial awareness. If you can demonstrate it in your application, rather than just saying that you have it, then your application will be much stronger. Second thing: firm research. Graduate recruiters will be able to tell if you have used an identical, non-tailored application for their firm. Go the extra mile and see what that firm specialises in and is up to. Finally—grammar. The biggest cause for rejection (other than poor academics) is poor grammar and spelling. Ensure that your applications are mistake-proof.
Questions about courses
Can I do the GDL/LPC part-time/as a distance course/while working?
Yes! While not all providers offer all of these options, there is a healthy number across the country that will allow you to study part-time or via distance learning.
It’s also technically possible to work while doing one or both of these courses, but you should bear in mind that both are intense and demanding. Do your research and speak to those who have already done it before you commit to a heavy workload.
How can I fund the GDL/LPC?
The GDL and LPC are not eligible for a postgraduate student loan—something that can take a few students by surprise. Luckily, there are a few ways to find funding.
The best way to get your LPC and GDL funding covered is to apply for your training contract two years in advance, as often your firm will fund the courses for you if they offer you a place.
But if that’s not an option for you, you could look at doing an LLM with an integrated LPC: as a master’s degree, it’s eligible for the postgraduate loan and it will provide you with the LPC as part of your studies.
There are also numerous scholarships and bursaries available to GDL and LPC students, so it’s worth doing some research into those!
What’s the difference between a BA and LLB law?
The LLB law is a qualifying law degree, in which you will study the key modules needed to qualify as a solicitor or a barrister. People with an LLB degree can progress straight on to the LPC (to become a solicitor) or BPTC (to become a barrister).
The BA law degree may have some of the qualifying modules, but it does not have all of them: it may be a dual honours degree, such as law and criminology, for example. While it gives you an overview of some elements of law, it isn’t a qualifying law degree. If you want to become a solicitor or barrister, you will need to complete the GDL first.
Law opportunities—the key deadlines
Laura also gets asked a lot of questions about law deadlines. The golden rule with these is to always check the firm: while there are certain patterns and seasons where deadlines are concentrated, some law firms go completely against the grain, so check directly with the firm so you don’t miss out! However, this is roughly when you can expect application deadlines to fall. Be aware that all are approximate: some firms will have deadlines earlier or later than these ranges.
Training contracts: applications tend to open in March/April and close in July.
Winter/spring vacation schemes: applications tend to open in August and close in October.
Summer vacation schemes: Applications tend to open in October and close in January.
First-year schemes: applications tend to open in January/February and close in March/April.