Welcome back to my page!
Hopefully, if you’re reading this post, you might have already read my first post on what I do, and will know that although the process to becoming a qualified solicitor is heart-wrenching, disheartening, painful, etc., it can and it WILL end well. If you have not read it yet, please do!
For the purposes of brevity, and to avoid sending to you to sleep, I am assuming that anyone (if there is anyone!) reading this post, is either at a similar stage to me in terms of their journey to becoming a lawyer (and just want to compare notes, or tell me how wrong I did the process), or are at the start of their journey, and are looking for some advice, guidance, tips, etc., or you have a similar journey in your chosen field.
Before I begin, let me state, I am not claiming that I have the, or, any answers, that will guarantee you success. I just thought it might be useful to note down my experiences, those beneficial and those which weren’t, and any areas where I think I could have benefited from some hindsight. Someone should learn from my experiences, you know!
Once again, if you have any questions, or aren’t sure about something I have said, don’t hesitate to contact me – I am only too happy to share my experiences and help any way I can!
I thought that first and foremost, we should bust some myths!
1 – You have to know from age 10 that you want to become a lawyer, or you should just forget about it. WRONG
2 – You need to know what type of law you want to do from the beginning of the process. WRONG
3- If you don’t succeed with your applications the first time, you should probably give up and move on to another career or job. WRONG
4 – Being a lawyer, is just like being Mike Ross in Suits. WRONG
5 – If you want to make a lot of money, become a lawyer. Let’s discuss this, shall we…
As you can see, I’ve selected a variety of myths to discuss. Obviously, the list goes on and on, but I just chose a few that have always haunted me or which I think are most pertinent. If you can think of some others that you would particularly like to hear my opinion on, do let me know!
Steps and timing towards becoming a solicitor
The information which follows is subject to the fact that as of September 2020, the Solicitors Qualifying Exam regime will take over, and so, this content will cease to be relevant.
Therefore, the following, is my experience, and hopefully some of it will still be useful and relevant, albeit for a different process.
Steps to becoming a Lawyer:
N.B. in my opinion, choosing to study law at GCSE and/or A-Level makes no difference to the steps that follow. I chose not to study Law, until after completing my undergraduate degree at University. That is not to say that GCSE/A-Levels are not important, believe me, they are (they are what most employers look at when trying to whittle down the list of candidates applying training contract – so choose wisely, work hard and get good grades!).
N.B. 2 – I speak only from experiencing the journey to become a solicitor, not a barrister. Therefore, I omit to detail the route to becoming a barrister.
As another side point, I chose the solicitor route because I am a hugely organised person, I (oddly) enjoy paperwork and administration. I liked the idea of having client contact but not having the stress (seemingly to me) of having to go to court regularly (though now I am coming round to the idea). I am also a team player, so I like working with others and enjoy having daily interactions. It’s commonly known that Barristers spend most of their time working alone, and for these reasons (among many others, I chose the solicitor route). Again, I am in no way downplaying the role of a barrister, I am simply saying that when I was choosing what I thought best aligned with me.
1 – You choose to take a Law degree at University;
2 – You complete the one-year Legal Practice Course (“LPC”) – the vocational part of studying
3 – You complete a 2-year training contract with a law firm
4 – You are a qualified solicitor – congrats!
The only way the above differs if you do not choose to take a Law degree at University, is the additional one-year Law conversion, known as the Graduate Diploma in Law (“GDL”), which you complete prior to the LPC.
From my experience, law firms are pretty 50:50 on selecting trainees who have or have not obtained a law degree at undergraduate level. I personally thought that because there was the option to take the GDL, I could “add another string to my bow”, and enhance my CV by studying Spanish and gaining a skill for life, which hopefully would help me stand out as an applicant.
When to apply for a training contract?*
IF YOU ARE TAKING A LAW DEGREE AT UNIVERSITY:
Apply for training contracts/vacation schemes from your penultimate year of study. Of course, this will depend on the firms you choose to apply to. Larger firms tend to recruit two years in advance, whilst smaller firms can recruit one year in advance. That is why it’s crucial to do your research.
I would suggest that in the Summer leading up to the start of your penultimate year, you start investigating which sort of firm you are interested in, and compile a short list, together with the dates for application deadlines, so you can work into your diary from Day 1 of the first term back at university, how you will manage your time to apply for these and balance academic work.
IF YOU ARE NOT TAKING A LAW DEGREE AT UNIVERSITY:
Apply for training contracts/ vacation schemes in your final year of study. The same rules as above apply.
- Starting your applications early provides you with the most opportunity to amend and improve your technique as the year goes on. If you are unsuccessful, you can often request feedback and can learn from any mistakes you have made in your future applications.
- Make sure you have family/friends read over your applications to proof read, sense check, and provide feedback.
- If you know from the start of University that you intend on heading down this route, make sure you attend the University fairs (specifically Law Fairs, if your University has them), attend relevant talks, join law societies, and do your best to network and meet as many people within the field, or connected to the field of law.
- On that note, try and secure some work experience during free time from University, ask to shadow a solicitor, and just gain as much experience in a legal environment as you can. This is crucial for your CV, and is often a hugely popular topic in interviews. Interviewers love to hear about your experiences, opinions, and like to know that you have been pro-active in seeking this.
*Notwithstanding all of the advice, rules, procedures I have listed, as I said, I was behind the curve and effectively skipped the research and making lists of where I wanted to apply to. That’s to say, if you know ahead of time what you are trying to achieve, then you are ahead of the game. But, fear not, if like me, it has taken a little while to make your decision. All is not lost and you can still be successful. It just causes more of a headache.
Have you made it to the end? Phew…. it’s a lot to take in, right?!
Well, for now, I will leave it there.
As I said, if you have any questions, comments, feedback on any of the content above, or if you just want to share your experiences, please leave a comment. I’d love to feel like I’m not the only one!
Applying for training contracts is a scary and lonely time – so, feel free to get in touch.
My last thoughts… PERSEVERE!
Until next time, “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish” (Steve Jobs), and from me, “Stay Hangry“!
~The Hangry Lawyer, xoxo~