All degrees welcome: why non-law graduates are in demand for solicitors' jobs
If you talk to law recruiters at a fair, you’ll see that your degree subject is rarely on their list of top ten things to look for in an application. Teamwork skills, people skills, resilience, ambition and motivation are all factors that can be developed outside your degree. ‘Commercial awareness’ – an ability to understand your client’s business and an appreciation of how the City works – is something that is built up over time by reading the financial papers, keeping your ear to the ground or picking up work experience in an investment bank or City institution. Making yourself irresistible to law recruiters is often a case of demonstrating your interest in law and gaining relevant experiences.
Demand for language skills from global law firms
Many degrees will build the skills needed to become a good lawyer. Linguists should note that the larger law firms, like their counterparts in banking and accountancy, are at the front of the globalisation queue and as such have offices or associate offices all over the world. Trainees and qualified practitioners can expect to be seconded overseas if they so wish and a second language is a huge bonus.
How a scientific approach can boost your career in law
Legal practice involves analysing masses of information, drafting succinct and unambiguous documents, deciphering complicated legislation and explaining it in clear terms to your lay client. An ordered, logical mind is a huge advantage and, as a result, scientists, engineers and mathematicians tend to make good lawyers. A science background is particularly helpful in intellectual property work where you will be dealing with technical jargon behind new and groundbreaking inventions. Similarly, those with a numerical background would arguably have an edge in employment, tax or banking law where transactions involve complicated calculations.
Using your non-law background as an-house lawyer
Most global companies, government organisations and charities will have their own legal team to oversee their day-to-day legal matters. The size of the team will vary hugely depending on the organisation and they may still instruct external lawyers for specialised work. Most ‘in-house lawyers’, as they are known, will have originally trained and qualified in a law firm or ‘private practice’ and moved in-house later on in their career. An in-house role is often attractive to those lawyers who don’t want the long hours that private practice transactions can bring.
Show your commitment to a career in law
A word of warning. Whatever your background, law is a competitive profession. On top of a consistently strong academic record, communication skills and extracurricular activities, recruiters will want to see evidence of a strong commitment to law. To a degree, law graduates can show that from their interest in the academic subject at university. Non-law graduates need to be a bit more creative: make sure you have legal work experience on your CV. To be honest, you’d be mad to enter the profession without trying out life at a firm for size: it’s the best way to prove to yourself as well as recruiters that the profession is for you.
Volunteering at your local Citizens Advice Bureau or legal advice centre are other good ways to illustrate that you’re genuinely interested in the law whilst equipping yourself with confidence and valuable client-care skills. Applying to firms' vacation schemes is crucial in showing you’re serious about entering this profession. Make sure you visit your careers centre to get the lowdown on legal careers and attend as many talks, presentations and open days from law recruiters as you can.