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Choosing a profession to suit you

Whatever career you choose, you need to be clear about:

  • why you wish to pursue your chosen role
  • what interests you in the work
  • what interests you about the organisation you have applied to
  • why you have the right skills, motivation and qualifications

The majority of law students, and a good number of non-law students want to pursue a career as a solicitor or a barrister.

It is important that you understand the differences (and similarities) before applying for either role.

Both professions will consider law and non-law graduates, and as a consequence you will apply for opportunities (work placements, open day, mini-pupillages, training contracts, pupillage) at different stages in your academic career.

Thinking of converting to law?

Read our Converting to a career in law leaflet PDF format

 

Working in this sector is not just about solicitors or barristers – in fact there are many careers that are available for you to consider. 

Other options for a career in law could be:

 

 

Choosing your career path into law

Think about the area you wish to practice

According to Chambers and Partners, there are approximately 73 broad practice areas to choose from, not counting all of the specialisms.

For example, if you are interested in family law, you can be involved in anything from pre-nuptial agreements to international child abduction depending on the firm.

If you want to be a media lawyer, you may specialise in film, TV, gaming, social media, interactive content, music, publishing or theatre.

How to choose a firm, chamber or organisation

Once you have decided what area(s) of law interest you, you need to research who specialises in that area and decide whether you wish to apply for their opportunities.

You are trying to narrow down your selection so that you can make informed and focused applications.

Does the firm fit with you?

Firms and chambers have personalities and cultures, and as such are not all the same.

Depending on your interests, you might be considering local firms rather than international firms, London chambers rather than regional chambers, or in-house opportunites and the Government Legal Service rather than a firm of solicitors or barristers chambers.

Deciding on the route to qualification

You need to decide whether you want to become a solicitor, meaning you'll need to take the LPC, or to become a barrister, which means you'll take the BPTC.

If you want to undertake the BPTC, you will have to have already taken and passed the Bar Aptitude Test.

Funding

Many of the leading commercial and corporate law firms will fund LPC or GDL places for those who have successfully applied for training contracts. Scholarships are available from the Inns of Court for the GDL and the BPTC. 

Student loans may also be available.

Your lifestyle needs

The lifestyle of a lawyer is something you have to consider, and depending on your chosen area of work, your lifestyle can vary hugely.

This is not to put you off, but for you to be realistic about what will be expected of you in a professional environment.

You can find out more from websites such as RollOnFriday (solicitors) and barristerblogger (barristers).

You can find other legal blogs on Delia Venables' excellent legal resource website.

What are the hot topics in law?

Whatever area of law you are interested in, then that becomes your hot topic.

If you are interested in the media, then you need to understand more than the celebrity gossip. You need to follow the legal and business stories of the media, in the media. Have a look at Hold the Front Page for examples.

What you also need to know is that law firms/barristers chambers want you to understand their business, their products and services, and the importance of client service – in a nutshell, being commercially aware.

This does not mean having worked in a business – or even a law firm – before, but about recognising and appreciating what they do, how they do it, and how they meet clients' needs and get paid for it.

Entry routes into the sector

Whichever professional route you decide to pursue, you will need to know what to do when, and have tremendous amounts of resilience and be prepared to persevere as you will be competing with many other people who will be just as committed.

The Bar Council maps out the timeline perfectly, as does the Law Society.

Work experience and where to get it

The legal profession provides many opportunities to gain insights and experience. Some, but not all of the experience you will undertake will form part of a recruitment process. Those that do are work experience placements (solicitors), and assessed mini-pupillages (barristers).

Gaining experience of the bar

  • undertake a mini-pupillage
  • network with chambers
  • marshalling
  • pro-bono and other volunteering work
  • mooting and debating
  • experience in a solicitors' office
  • visit and join an Inn of Court
  • attend the National Pupillage Fair
  • sit in on in-court proceedings

Gain experience of the life of a solicitor

  • attend open days and presentations
  • apply for work placements
  • attend skills workshops at University
  • network with solicitors
  • attend the Law Fair
  • volunteer and do pro-bono
  • seek work experience to develop your personal and commercial awareness skills in other work environments.
 

Opportunities to develop your skills

There are several student-run societies that will give you an insight into the legal profession, and develop the skills employers need.

You should also look out for societies that reflect your interests including where you may see the focus of your legal career and those that give you the opportunity for community engagement.

Volunteering within the local community through Nottingham CVS, the Students' Union Student Volunteer Centre, or a student-led service such as Nightline will also give you valuable experience of working and communicating with a wide range of people.

Student societies you might want to join
 

Making a successful application

Those of you who do your research well and understand what the firm or chambers is looking for will have a greater chance of success than those who do not.

You need to have a plan, you need to know what the firm or chamber are looking for, and you need to address their needs at every stage of the recruitment process. Chambers Student provides lots of useful advice that is worth taking note of.

Applying for a legal career is a long and arduous process and knowing yourself, knowing why you are applying for a particular opportunity and demonstrating your suitability is key.

Writing applications will be a time-consuming business. If you are to impress the recruiter you must address their needs. You have to write in a professional manner, use plain language, avoid cliches, use grammar correctly and make no spelling mistakes. LawCareers.net provides good advice on writing formal letters and applications.

 

When to apply for jobs

If you are a law student, a lot of your job application activity to become a solicitor will take place in your penultimate year.

If you are a non-law undergraduate, a lot of your job application activity will take place in your final year.

Law firms want to recruit candidates with the potential to become future associates and partners. Non-law students have as much chance as law students at becoming qualified practitioners.

Having a postgraduate qualification does not shorten the route to qualification for either profession. If law was your first degree, you still have to complete the LPC or BPTC. If law was not your first degree, you will have to complete the GDL followed by the LPC or BPTC.

Diversity access schemes

The legal profession is keen to recruit from the widest possible talent pool and there are a wide range of organisations you can register with.

Students with a disability

The legal profesion is keen to recruit students from all backgrounds and you should not be put off applying if you have a disability or health issues.

Some law firms have linked up with organisations such as EmployAbility and greatwithdisability who are worth contacting, attending their events and applying to employers they work with.

What's on at Nottingham

As a student interested in law, there are many opportunities to engage with the profession and access advice, information, and guidance about choosing law as a profession.

Law Fair taking place every October

Employer presentations on-campus

Skills workshops on legal skills

Spotlight On... events looking at the working life of solicitors or barristers, or alternative legal opportunities

Application and advice sessions

Student-run societies

 

 

Careers and Employability Service

The University of Nottingham
Portland Building, Level D
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 3680
fax: +44 (0) 115 951 3679
email: careers-team@nottingham.ac.uk