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. Smaller high street firms recruit on a more ad-hoc basis. Between graduating and starting your training contract, you will need to complete the legal practice course (LPC).

Top skills to get a job in law

Aspiring trainee solicitors need to convince law recruiters they have a consistently good academic background along with the following skills:

  • 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.
  • Teamwork. 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.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Research. 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.
  • Networking. 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.
  • 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. Juggling is essential.

It's a competitive profession: promoting your skills will give you an edge. Trainees and graduate recruiters list the skills you'll need here

What is it like to work in law?

As a qualified solicitor, you're likely to specialise in one area of law -be it criminal, corporate or competition. 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.

Other degrees welcome or not?

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. You will need to convert your non-law degree by taking the graduate diploma in law (GDL) before starting the LPC. As with the LPC, some law firms sponsor their future trainees through these conversion and vocational courses. Find out more about the non-law degree route

What you need to know now?

Many commercial law firms have application deadlines between April and 31 July. Completing a vacation scheme (work experience) with the firm can help your chances of securing a training contract -it shows you've researched the profession, are committed to a career in law and gives you an opportunity to demonstrate your skills.