Advice for Law Graduates
Now is the time when students are completing their final exams, receiving their results and starting to think about what they want to do with their careers. For many graduates they are probably thinking about taking the conventional route of LPC, Paralegal, Training Contract and eventually Solicitor.
However, there are actually other routes that you can take where you can still use your legal skills but also get to speak with people every day. I decided to take that path and I am going to share with you some tips I learnt whilst doing my degree and also why I chose to take the unconventional route.
When it comes to taking the conventional route, one thing I highly recommend doing is signing yourself up for as many vacation schemes and insight days as you can. Universities should offer multiple pro bono opportunities and you can find most of these directly on a firm’s website. I also recommend that you contact the human resources or info email which law firms will have on their careers page, attaching your CV and cover letter directed towards the firm showing why you specifically want to gain your experience with them. Direct approaches are often much more successful, as they show initiative.
Also, try gaining experience in practice areas relevant to what you enjoy and where you see yourself applying for roles in the future. For instance, if you enjoy personal injury and would want to become a Paralegal in that field, try shadowing a Personal Injury Lawyer. That will allow you to decide if you genuinely enjoy the practice area and what that role would require you to do.
Solicitor or Barrister?
Many law students will have ‘tunnel vision’ with this question and forget many other professional options. Both the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and the Bar Practice Course (BPC) are an expensive investment for your future and are not part-funded, unless sat with the Master of Laws (LLM). Post-graduation loans will award up to £11,570 from August 2021, and you can expect the LPC to cost between £9,000 and £17,000 and the BPC to cost between £13,000 and £20,000. You then have the newest way to qualify, the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), costing around £4,000 per exam, as well as additional tuition fees. The best advice I would give is to be certain that you want to become either a Solicitor or Barrister before investing into these qualifications.
A much-forgotten route for law or GDL graduates is sitting the Chartered Legal Executive exam and this would be at the equivalent of an LPC qualification. You can become a Senior Paralegal or Fee Earner with a CILEx Level 6 diploma and can later be independently regulated with a FCILEx. This role is now so similar to that of a Solicitor that most clients are unlikely to distinguish between the two. You can expect the course fees to amount to £10,000 with this option.
Something I can personally relate to is being able to step away from private practice and feel completely satisfied with something else. We are very much made to feel that the only two options we have are becoming a Solicitor or Barrister. I am currently working within legal recruitment and thoroughly enjoying the start of my professional career. It feels immensely powerful to have insider knowledge of many reputable UK law firms and witness first-hand the experience that Solicitors have working in private practice. Having the realisation that Solicitors do not always earn millions, which we are led to believe starting law school, and that many aren’t satisfied with the practice area they are in is very interesting.
Grades are not Everything
After speaking with hundreds of Paralegals and placing them into their roles, grades are a minor detail to what law firms want. Whilst it is obvious that these are a benefiting factor, most roles will be offered on the basis of experience and personality fits. A first-class grade will not walk you into a training contract and this is something many graduates have learned the hard way. Most industries live by the saying ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’. Something that I go into more detail in the next paragraph is that it is vital to engage and network with as many firms, Solicitors and other key stakeholders as you can throughout your studies. Experience and personality should be the biggest priority through your job search and please do not stress if you haven’t walked away from university with a first-class grade.
The Importance of LinkedIn
Something I have learned in my time working within legal recruitment is that networking is key. Having a strong profile and expanding your network will be the most useful tool for your career. My advice would be to start building your profile from your first year of law school and connect with as many Solicitors, Barristers, HR staff and other relevant stakeholders as you can.
HR staff will release legal opportunities and any other recruitment activities that their law firm has going on. Keep updated with seminars, open days and events that law firms host as well as keeping your personal profile updated with any relevant work experience and high achieving grades. If you got a first, then post it! Connecting with previous graduates and Paralegals will allow you to see their career journey and will offer you the chance to ask for advice. Network, network and… network.