How to get a job in law
Graduate jobs in law are known as training contracts. Most large, commercial law firms recruit future trainee solicitors two years in advance – during your penultimate year on a law or non-law degree. Many training application deadlines deadlines fall between March and 31 July (though recently a few larger firms’, such as Clifford Chance, opportunities are closing as early as December). Vacation scheme (ie work experience) deadlines typically land between December and February. Smaller high street firms recruit on a more ad-hoc basis.
How to become a lawyer in the UK
Read this overview about the various jobs available to you in law and how you go about getting them and qualifying. If you're just coming to law as a career idea, this feature is a great starting point for you.
To qualify as a lawyer, you will first need to complete the legal practice course (LPC). Many commercial law firms will sponsor you through the LPC.
Non-law students: can you become a lawyer with a non-law degree?
Absolutely. Around 50% of practising solicitors come from a non-law background. Graduates from science, languages and humanities are at no disadvantage to law students – in fact, science, technology, engineering and maths graduates in particular are in high demand by law firms. For now, you will need to convert your non-law degree by taking the graduate diploma in law (GDL) before starting the LPC. Find out more about the non-law degree route.
What you need to know
The way that you qualify to become a lawyer is planned to change from Autumn of 2021 with the introduction of the SQE (Solicitors’ Qualifying Examination). If you have, or will have, started your degree before September 2021, you will have a choice between qualifying through the LPC or through the SQE.
You may be worried about communicating your insights into Brexit and its effect on the legal profession during training contract interviews and on vacation schemes and open days. If so, use our special Brexit feature full of insight from TARGETjobs Law contributors to gain some confidence.
Top skills to get a job in law
In their covering letters and applications aspiring lawyers need to convince recruiters that they have a consistently good academic background for law along with these necessary skills and qualities:
- an ability to juggle several projects at the same time: some solicitors we've interviewed for TARGETjobs Law have up to 50 cases or transactions on the go at any one time. Time management is essential.
- communication skills: you'll spend your days communicating with clients and other lawyers – by email, letter, conference call and on the phone. For litigation lawyers, add presenting in court to that list. Recruiters will look for evidence of strong communication skills in your application, at interview and on work experience.
- research skills: trainee solicitors get involved in research at an early stage – researching case law, legislation or a client's industry are typical tasks set by associates and partners. Think of ways you can demonstrate your research skills, above and beyond what you've achieved on your law degree or GDL.
- attention to detail: being a bit slapdash when drafting a document doesn't inspire confidence in clients and, crucially, an error can change the meaning of a clause in a contract. Give recruiters confidence in your attention to detail by submitting typo-free applications for vacation schemes or training contracts. Get your applications proofread by friends and family before sending.
- teamwork skills: from the start of your training contract and throughout your career, you'll work in teams of lawyers to complete a transaction or case. Take advantage of opportunities at university (sports clubs, part-time jobs or being on the university law society committee) to develop your teamwork skills.
- networking skills: networking with clients – and bringing in work for the firm as a consequence – is a big part of being a senior associate or partner. Recruiters are looking for good networkers in future trainees but don't panic – we demystify what networking means here.
- commercial awareness: gone are the days when solicitors simply provide legal advice for their clients. These days successful commercial lawyers have a genuine interest in how businesses work and the effect they have on clients -and are prepared to learn about an industry to provide the best advice for their client. Find out what trainee solicitors say about commercial awareness here.
It's a competitive profession – promoting these key skills will give you an edge. Trainees and graduate recruiters list the skills you'll need for a career in law here. Also, follow these tips to find out how to do your skills and experience justice by excelling at law interviews.
What is it like to work in the legal profession?
As a qualified solicitor, you're likely to specialise in one area of law – be it employment, banking or tax. Whether working for a global, commercial law firm or a small high street firm, you'll advise clients on their legal matters, such as merging one company with another or drafting the will of a private client. Be prepared to work long hours at times, particularly in transactional areas of law (mergers & acquisitions, corporate, banking) – although the law firms that cover these legal practice areas tend to offer the highest salaries.