May 24, 2024

Written By Vibha Venkatesh

Breaking into Corporate Law as a Non-Law Graduate

May 24, 2024

Written By Vibha Venkatesh

The ‘conventional’ route into corporate law is a thing of the past. Today, firms value a diverse range of academic backgrounds. This growing demand for non-law graduates presents a unique chance for aspiring legal professionals to showcase their talents and multidisciplinary knowledge. Let’s take a deeper look at how you can break into corporate law as a non-law graduate.

Understanding Corporate Law

‘Corporate law’ can seem like a daunting concept, particularly without any legal background, so let’s break it down. Simply put, corporate law is the legal practice relating to how companies operate. Corporate law has various branches, including: corporate governance (rules and practices for companies), mergers and acquisitions (combining different businesses), compliance (ensuring corporations adhere to legislations), and more. 

Corporate lawyers are crucial to ensure smooth business operations. Their duties and responsibilities are varied, ranging from drafting contracts to providing advice on transactions. Likewise, their client base is equally varied, ranging from multinational corporations to startups with little prior business experience.

The best way to understand more about what corporate lawyers do day-to-day is to improve your commercial awareness, so be sure to engage with digestible articles, podcasts and webinars.

Exploring Educational Pathways

Let’s now look at the routes into corporate law for non-law graduates. 

It is important to understand that the route to becoming a qualifying solicitor as a non-law graduate has recently changed. Now, all graduates - no matter what subject they studied at university - must pass the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) and complete two years of Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) in order to qualify. QWE encompasses a variety of work, including formal paid placements and pro-bono law.

To prepare for the SQE, most non-law trainees will complete a law conversion course, such as the Postgraduate Diploma in Law. This is a flexible option which can be completed at different universities across the country, or online.

To facilitate this process, many law firms offer training contracts, combining the conversion courses with the two-year QWE. Many of these offer fully-funded course fees, making this highly desirable.

In addition to the training contract route, working as a graduate paralegal or a law apprentice are also great entry points into law.

Developing Relevant Skills and Knowledge

It is essential to gain relevant work experience in order to develop fundamental legal skills and enrich your applications.

One of the most important skills for budding corporate lawyers is commercial awareness. Firms will inevitably test your commercial awareness at assessment centres, so be sure to stay up-to-date with the latest industry knowledge. 

As well as staying abreast of market dynamics, understanding what cases law firms are currently working on is essential. An easy way to gain commercial awareness is by going on a firm’s website and clicking on a practice area that you are interested in, in order to to find information about recent cases. 

As well as gaining technical knowledge, non-law graduates should also work towards strengthening their set of more general skills which they will have established at university. This includes analytical thinking, negotiation, written/drafting proficiencies, and more. The best ways to strengthen these transferable skills are through work experience, involvement with extracurricular activities and volunteering.

Gaining Practical Experience

As previously mentioned, QWE is an essential component to qualifying as a solicitor. Whilst a robust academic record will bolster your application, gaining hands-on experience is key to enhancing your employability, especially as a non-law graduate.

Law firms provide many opportunities for non-law gradutes, so it is important to keep checking firm pages to see what openings there are. Insight schemes, open days and vacation schemes are all great ways of securing future opportunities at firms. Contacting local high-street firms for shadowing opportunities is another good way to add legal experience to your CV as a non-law graduate.

Aside from this, there are many pro-bono and community roles that are good forms of practical experience. For example, a role in your university’s law society will immerse you in the legal landscape, while volunteering for legal organisations can give you experience of working in a legal environment.


Tailoring Applications for Corporate Law Roles

When it comes to applying for corporate law roles, be sure to tailor your application materials. Candidates will commonly copy and paste their application, but each firm and each role is different, and your materials should reflect this. 

It’s easy to think that applying to more firms will fast-track you to success, however it is much better to have fewer, high-quality applications that are customised to a specific role’s requirements. Think quality not quantity when it comes to your corporate law applications!

When writing your CV and cover letter, make sure you only include key information that showcases the required skills for the role. Read the job posting and highlight key words to include in your application, so you stand out as a clear fit for the role. Most importantly, make sure that your genuine interest and enthusiasm shines through!

Overcoming Challenges and Building Resilience

There’s no denying that breaking into corporate law is challenging, particularly for non-law graduates. Competing with law students, who have studied legal concepts for 3 years, can be tough.

However, there are a wealth of resources available for non-law graduates, such as free online courses offered by law firms designed to simulate legal practice. By making the most of these, you can showcase both your legal knowledge and adaptability, which will ultimately mark you out amongst prospective employers. Your difference is your strength!


In summary, gaining practical experience, developing key skills and tailoring your applications are the best ways that non-law graduates can break into corporate law. Don’t be put off from this area of law just because you don’t have a law degree - you can actually turn this into your strength by displaying the value and interdisciplinary knowledge that your non-law degree has given you!

So remind employers of why your non-law background makes you a unique candidate, and you will soon be making your mark in this exciting area of law!


Non-Law Students