Second year: acquainting yourself with law
You may be in your second year at university, thoroughly enjoying your degree, but at the back of your mind, you are adamant that you want to do law. If this is the case, there’s no reason to fret. If anything, having studied a non-law degree during your Bachelor’s may work in your favour, as it gives you more time to develop the necessary skills and to build an exemplary portfolio.
If you would like to study law after graduating with a non-law degree, the first point of call is to undertake a conversion course. In the UK, you will have to do a graduate law degree (GDL) before being able to move onto the next stage of your legal career. In the meantime, there are plenty of activities and research you can do to maximise your chances of acquiring a training contract (if you want to be a solicitor) or a pupillage (if becoming a barrister is your calling). It is important to note there are plenty of other career options available to a law graduate within law and outside of it.
Vacation schemes are an excellent opportunity to prove your passion for law to prospective employers, as well as being a great addition to your CV. On a vacation scheme, you will develop a legal skillset and network with partners, associates, solicitors and trainees—all while being paid a competitive salary.
Vacation schemes are organised by law firms across the country, and usually last anywhere between one week and one month. During your time with the firm, you will learn more about the structure of work and training, the culture of the firm, and the cases and transactions the firm engages with.
Vacation schemes can run during the winter, spring and summer, therefore it is wise to pay attention to the application opening and closing dates that vary for each firm. For instance, winter vacation schemes and winter workshop days take place in December, and most of the deadlines will be the end of October or early November. Due to the sheer volume of firms offering vacation schemes, it might be worth following their graduate social-media platforms so you can be the first in the know about the application dates. To secure your place, make sure you tailor your application to the firm by conducting comprehensive research on the firm.
Training contract and pupillage applications
In order to qualify as a solicitor, you will need to secure a training contract. A training contract is a two-year placement that usually follows the Legal Practice Course (LPC). If you want to qualify as a barrister, you will need to complete the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) before taking on a pupillage.
Applying for training contracts can be a lengthy process, especially due to the vast amount of law firms in the country. So before starting to apply, you should discern which areas of law you are interested in and which firms you are attracted to. This filtering process will ensure you are able to devote enough time and effort to each application.
It is essential that you tailor each application to the specific firm, thinking about their culture, ethos and their professional capacity. Be prepared to receive a number of rejections, but if you have a strong academic background, an excellent CV and a personalised application form, you are bound to receive at least one positive reply. Firms will follow through by organising an additional stage, comprising a telephone interview, an assessment centre and/or a face-to-face interview. This will be the final hurdle to an exciting new career as a lawyer.
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Particularly as a non-law student, the more you can do to demonstrate engagement with the legal sector ahead of applications for training contracts, the stronger your profile and applications will be. On top of attending open days, workshops and vacation schemes, you can use your second year to pick up other bits of legal experience.
Great examples of legal work experience include working for the Citizens Advice Bureau and getting involved in police schemes. You can also inquire at your university law society and careers service to see if there are any pro bono initiatives you could get involved with.
Identifying essential competencies
If you are serious about a law career, it is highly recommended to read the solicitor’s competence statement. This document provides a comprehensive list of the skills you will need to become a solicitor. Make a note of the competencies you feel you still need to develop, and aim to work specifically on these skills through extra-curricular activities.
Showing to recruiters your willingness to improve on certain essential skills with concrete evidence is an excellent way to boost your application. For instance, if you wish to work on your ability to present “a reasoned argument in a clear, logical, succinct and persuasive way”, it may be beneficial to start writing a few articles related to law for your university student newspaper.
Next article: Final year: committing to law