My alternative journey into a career in law
Not everybody takes the traditional route into a career in law. Katherine Proctor, Associate Solicitor at The Wilkes Partnership writes about her journey into a career in law and why she believes that it is a fantastic way into the profession.
I wasn’t determined to be a solicitor since I was small. Indeed, I picked my A Levels and then my degree subject (Human Geography) based on what I enjoyed, not what would get me a job. Looking back, I am pleased I did that because I enjoyed the subjects so I worked harder at them than I think I would have done otherwise. It was not until I was in my final year of university when I started thinking about what I wanted to do once I had finished. A friend mentioned she was thinking about the law and it was then I considered if I should move in that direction also. I looked into a conversion (GDL), spoke to family and friends, worked out the financials (professional and career development loans) and took the plunge, without a training contract or sponsorship. After a fairly intensive year of the conversion at BPP, where I did half a dozen internships to gain experience, I found a paralegal position and enrolled at the University of Law (College of Law as it was) to do the LPC part-time over 18 months. It was at that time I started seriously applying for training contracts and was fortunate enough to have a training contract lined up perfectly for the end of my LPC.
Of course, there are advantages to studying law at university and continuing to pursue it as a career but for myself, I was not ready to pick a lifelong job at 17 or 18. Instead, I decided to study a subject that I had an interest in and spent 3 years studying something purely for the joy of it. It gave me the opportunity to forge my career after university and has helped me fall in love with law rather than out of it which I found many of my peers did after spending their time at university studying it.
My experience as a geographer gave me a wider knowledge base. I also focused on building up experiences which gave me transferrable skills, such as communication, problem-solving, research methods. I walked into law with my eyes firmly open, knowing the path I had chosen was one I wanted because I had the time and opportunity to really decide. As a slightly older trainee, I definitely had more confidence in my ability so I entered my training contract at a run (as my old training principle once said of me) but I have taken my career development at my own pace thereafter.
For anyone looking to do law after having not studied it at university, there are now more choices for you than there was for me 10 years ago. You can always do another 3 years at university, or you can do the conversion course at any legal school (BPP, University of Law, or indeed many of the usual university institutions). In 2021, the Solicitor Qualifying Examinations was also introduced where non-lawyers can get 2 years of relevant experience and do two main assessments to qualify into the solicitor route.
Don’t forget that if you know what area of law you want to qualify into you could look into CILEx or Licenced Conveyancing (if residential law is your thing!).
The benefit of a lot of these later options in how to get into law is that you can work whilst studying, thus reducing the amount of money you have to find for fees etc. Look into the Professional and Career Development Loan which at the time I took one out had a reasonable interest rate.
The biggest draw for an employer is being able to have the hands on experience. Legal jobs are competitive so make sure you build up your CV where you can. There are law firms out there which are not the big magic circle firms and they have a very different feel. Keep your eyes on the market and if you do get an interview or work experience make sure the firm feels right for you and what you want!