Hopefully, you will have attended a few law fairs or open days in first and second year and found some law firms you’re interested in already. If not, you should start doing your research as soon as possible—it’s not too late to speak to recruiters, network and attend open days. Try to settle on five to ten firms to concentrate your efforts on, and then do as much research on them as you can.
It can be quite time-consuming to apply for training contracts alongside your studies, but you can make things easier for yourself by applying during the summer. Given that law firms hire two years in advance, you might choose to apply after your second-year exams and before the deadlines (mostly in July) to be able to get a training contract immediately. Of course, you’ll have to complete your final year and legal practice course (LPC) before you even start as a trainee.
However, it may be worth waiting until you have your second-year results before applying for a training contract. They're very competitive programmes, and if you don’t quite get the required grades—2:1 or above—it’s even more difficult.
If you’ve performed well, apply away. If you’re on the border, it may be worth holding off. Also, you may want to take a graduate gap year—your course has been intense, and the LPC and two years of a training contract will be even more hard work.
As you may well be aware, you cannot start a training contract until you’ve completed the legal practice course (LPC). If you have a training contract secured, your firm may recommend an LPC provider (and could even cover the costs).
If you haven’t been successful in your training-contract hunt, but know you definitely want to be a solicitor, then applying solely for the LPC is the next stage for you.
Be warned though, the cost of an LPC can be over £16,000 at some of the central London law schools; a heavy expenditure if you’re not assured a training contract.
The £16,000 fee is more expensive than others out there, with other courses costing as low as £9,000, and you may be able to pay in instalments. Whichever method of payment you prefer, it’s still necessary if you wish to be a solicitor. You can keep applying for training contracts throughout your third year and also throughout the course of your LPC.
The BPTC and pupillage applications
If you’re considering becoming a barrister, third year will be an important year for applications as well. You’ll have to complete the year-long BPTC course before you move on to the pupillage stage. Applications for the BPTC generally close in January of the year the course starts, so make sure you start working on applications during your first term.
You’ll need a good plan for when you’re going to apply for what, because the applications you’ll be sending out might start to pile up. For pupillages, most chambers recruit a year to 18 months in advance, so you’ll also be applying for these in your third year. It will be a challenge to manage the workload, but try to keep the end goal in sight!
There are many things you can do with your law degree; you’re definitely not limited to becoming a solicitor or a barrister. Some other common legal career options include becoming a paralegal, a barrister’s clerk or a patent attorney—but that’s not the end of it either.
Because many finance, banking and accountancy roles require an understanding of law—and because they’re often some of the best paid jobs in the country—many law graduates choose to go down this path. The options are almost endless: you could become a financial adviser, an investment banker, a chartered certified accountant… and more!
Many business roles also require a grasp of legal concepts, and your degree can be extremely useful in public sector and politics careers as well (for instance, you could become a public affairs consultant or a politician’s assistant). So keep your mind open and do some more research—you might really enjoy some of these careers!
Keep up with law-society involvement
You should make the most of your time at university to make your CV as strong as possible, and involvement with law society activities definitely won’t hurt you. Given that you’re a final year now, you may have a position of responsibility, such as president or treasurer.
Regardless, the law society can be a great way to network and meet new people, as well as to prove to employers that you have what it takes to work in the real world. Getting involved in mooting can be an easy way to gain experience if you want to become a barrister, while other activities such as career events can further your employability.
Don’t forget the reason you’re at university! It’s important that you do as well as possible in your degree, and this shouldn’t be sacrificed in place of training contract or pupillage applications. Remember, if your grades aren’t deemed "good enough”, you’ll find it more difficult to move on to the next stages of your career.
If you’re finding it hard to strike a balance between studying and submitting applications, concentrate on your studies. You can always apply next year!
Stay motivated and try to remember what got you interested in law in the first place. It’s easy to forget why you’re studying law when you’re stressed and the work starts to build up, but it’s just as easy to get that fire burning again.
Don’t forget to have fun! The undergraduate years are meant to be enjoyed and you’ll never experience anything like it again. Strike a good work-play balance and enjoy yourself.