Becoming a barrister
One of the two types of practising lawyers in England and Wales, barristers specialise in courtroom advocacy and litigation. They typically spend their days arguing cases in superior courts and tribunals; drafting legal documents; researching legal precedent; giving oral and written legal advice, and representing clients before the courts. Barristers have full rights to appear in all courts, so they have to be comfortable with public speaking and engaging in advocacy practice. To build these skills, many aspiring barristers will undertake a mini-pupillage or obtain mooting experience.
A mini-pupillage is a work placement lasting about two weeks. During a mini-pupillage, participants will typically shadow a barrister to learn about the work they do, gain familiarity with the court and chambers, and begin to build up a network of contacts.
Although not essential, mooting is another excellent way for a prospective barrister to demonstrate their commitment to the legal profession and gain the public-speaking experience needed to advocate for clients. While an applicant isn’t likely to be rejected solely because they have no mooting experience, the skills obtained from mooting are highly valued by the chambers.
Becoming a solicitor
Solicitors—the other type of practising lawyers in England and Wales—traditionally advocate for clients in the lower courts, such as the magistrates’, county courts and tribunals. However, solicitors with appropriate advocacy experience (solicitor-advocates) are sometimes entitled to appear in the superior courts.
The second year of a law degree is the time when students on their way to becoming solicitors can apply for vacation schemes, which are internships with a law firm during the university break. Vacation schemes allow future solicitors to get an idea of what it’s like to practice law, and they give firms a chance to decide which candidates might be eligible for a training-contract offer.
Alternatives to law
Completing a law degree will prepare you for a number of different career paths—if you’re considering alternatives to a legal career, you can find many kinds of experience that will boost your CV and help you to decide on a future path.
A law degree is extremely helpful for many careers, including property development, banking and finance, and human resources (HR). It’s possible to secure work experience in these fields, in addition to—or in place of—vacation schemes and mini-pupillages.
You might also decide to do a year abroad at this stage of your education. While undertaking a law degree and spending a year studying at a foreign university is definitely a challenge, the rewards can be worth the extra effort in terms of broadening your perspective, experiencing different cultures and seeing new places.