Law - General Information
|Vacation schemes - apply early|
|Have you been unsuccessful in gaining a vacation placement?|
|Open days - opportunities for first year students|
|Pro bono opportunities and contacts for law students|
The legal profession
You can access an Industry Insight into legal services on the Prospects website
The following links include details of typical work activities, work conditions, entry requirements, typical employers, sources of vacancies, related occupations and lists of useful contacts and resources.
|Legal Executive (England & Wales)|
Qualified solicitors can work in a range of specialist areas. You can find out more about these via the Law Careers.Net website.
Specialisation would not take place until you are fully qualified - in England and Wales the usual route is through a training contract, where four different seats (areas of law) need to be completed, as a minimum, to be recognised by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority.
Qualified barristers in England and Wales work in a range of specialist practice areas. You can find out more about these via the Law Careers.Net website.
How can I become a lawyer without a Law degree?
After completing your first degree you will be required to take a conversion course leading to the CPE/ Graduate Diploma in Law. This takes 1 year full-time or 2 years part-time / Distance Learning. Once you have successfully completed this course the rest of your training will be the same as that of Law graduates. At this stage you will follow one of two training routes.
You either progress to the Legal Practice Course, which is available 1 year full-time or 2 years part-time. This is followed by two years under a training contract with a firm of Solicitors or other approved legal employer (or up to 4 years part time) . The exception to the above route is the Part -Time Study Training Contract whereby a student combines study with a full time relevant legal job. This option allows you to start your training contract at the same time as the GDL with the possibility of fully qualifying as a Solicitor in 4 years. To date, according to The College of Law, the majority of individuals who have completed this route have been employed already in a job role recognised by the Law Society, the most common being Paralegal/Legal Executive/Legal Secretary.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is currently running a work based learning pilot. The purpose is to provide more flexibility in the work based route to qualification as a solicitor. Those on the 2009 pilot include part time and full time paralegals who were LPC qualified. The SRA are aiming for a full roll out across England and Wales by 2014 although this is not guaranteed. An "opt in" scheme is being proposed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) for September 2012. If the roll out does occur, it will be possible to qualify as a solicitor doing paralegal work which is deemed of the same standard as a trainee solicitor.
Alternatively you study for the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) which is a 1 year full-time or 2 year part-time course. Once you have successfully completed the BPTC you will be Called to the Bar by your Inn. You will also have to undertake twelve qualifying sessions (previously known as "dining") before Call to the Bar.
From here you spend 12 months or more in an authorized pupillage training organization (either barristers' chambers or another approved legal environment). See the Pupillage section on the BSB website for further information.The first 6 months are non-practising, the second 6 months are practising. You are then qualified to practise as a Barrister in Chambers or another Bar Council approved legal environment. Some trainees will complete a third 6 months to gain further experience, in the event of being unsuccessful in gaining tenancy. A Third 6 pupillage may be unpaid but Chambers rental fees may be waived.
What do I need to consider before choosing a Law career?
- The legal profession is vastly over-subscribed so there is no guarantee of a job at the end of your training.
- There are limited sources of funding and these are very competitive. If you need to self-fund this can cost you up to £22,250 for fees alone.
- Large Firms of Solicitors and Chambers of Barristers usually require a minimum of a 2:1 honours degree plus very good 'A' level results or equivalent before your application will even be considered.
- Paid summer/easter/xmas experience in a Solicitors is now often part of the recruitment process for Training Contracts. These positions are highly competitive to secure and only a few large firms will consider a non-law graduate in their penultimate year (most recruit for final year non-law), although it is becoming more common for firms to offer 1st and penultimate year non-law students Open Days. You are likely to have more success obtaining an unpaid placement in a smaller solicitors firm.
- Mini-pupillages with Barristers Chambers are mainly un-paid.
So what steps do I need to take and when?
Prior to your final year of first degree
- Research this sector using material in the Careers Information Room.
- Attend presentations and Law Fair (November) organised by the Careers Centre.
- Obtain relevant work experience through Open/Insight Days, mini-pupillages, court visits and with firms of solicitors.
- Use your time at university to further develop your personal and communication skills e.g. through debating, mooting and public speaking.
- Achieve as good exam results from Year 1 as possible since these will be looked at by future employers in the Law field.
Final Year of Undergraduate Degree
- Continue to arrange mini-pupillages throughout the year.
- By end of October apply for Winter and Easter vacation placements.
- Attend presentations by Solicitors firms and attend the university Law Fair
- Collect brochures and applications forms for vacation placement and also Training Contracts.
- GDL application form opens for application from early October on www.lawcabs.ac.uk
- Attend application techniques sessions run by the Careers Centre.
- Apply for Easter and summer vacation placements.
- Apply for Training Contracts.
- Attend pupillage Fairs and apply for those pupillages that are offered 2 years in advance (if you choose the barrister route) www.pupillageportal.com
- Apply for an Inns of Court Scholarship for GDL.
- Apply for Inn membership
- Continue to apply for Training Contracts.
Sources of Information at the Careers, Employability & Enterprise Centre
Law Folders in the Careers Centre Information Room are an excellent source of information, including specialisms, training, application tips and securing a position.
Reference Books and Magazines:
(copies of many of these are available to take away at the Careers Centre)
- Prospects Focus on Law
- The Training Contract Handbook
- Chambers Guide to the Legal Profession
- Legal 500
- Solicitors Regional Directories
- The Pupillages Handbook
- Law Society Gazette
Mini-pupillage is a short period of work experience (usually one or two weeks) in a set of chambers. Some chambers require applicants to undertake an assessed mini-pupillage as part of the recruitment process, and others use it as one of their selection criteria for pupilllage. All applicants to the Bar are advised to undertake at least one mini-pupillage as spending time in this way within chambers will provide an invaluable insight into life at the Bar and may provide some useful advice to assist in finding pupillage.
The Target Pupillages Handbook, in the Law section of the Careers Information Room provides details of which chambers offer mini-pupillages, as does the chambers entry on the Pupillage Portal website.
You should apply in most cases direct to chambers enclosing a copy of your CV and cover letter specifying the dates you are available. The four Inns of Courts Student Administrators/Recruitment Outreach Managers can also provide advice on obtaining a mini-pupillage. Contact details to all four Inns are available on the Bar Council website.
Opportunities for work experience also exist within the employed bar. The Crown Prosecution Service accepts applications year round for work shadowing from any year group of student. A CV and cover letter should be directed to your local contact CPS. Opportunities occasionally also exist for temporary casework assistants/support officers. These are advertised at www.cps.gov.uk
The Government Legal Services (GLS) have in the past offered work experience in the form of a summer vacation scheme for penultimate law students or final year (including postgraduate students) . This is temporarily suspended until further notice. GLS will accept speculative applications to individual departments for work experience but cannot guarantee this will be available.
|Court Marshalling||Marshalling or shadowing a Judge. This provides the opportunity to see court proceedings from a Judges perspective, discuss cases and learn from barristers mistakes. Marshalling a Judge is usually arranged via the Inns of Court for up to 1 week. Contact details above- this is open to students of any subject of any year group.|
Generally employed by solicitors' firms on a freelance basis for legal aid work. Duties include liaising with legal representatives and their clients, taking notes of court or tribunal proceedings and running legal errands - hence the term 'outdoor' in the job title. The best way to obtain experience or work in this area is probably by speculative applications by CV/cover letter or through specialist recruitment agencies.
Try starting with the Yellow Pages, which will have the contact details for firms taking legal aid work in your area. Outdoor clerking can be an excellent opportunity for students because it is usually paid and can be fitted around your studies.
|Citizen Advice Bureau (CAB)||Volunteering opportunities for any student year group. Contact your local office for details via www.citizensadvice.org.uk|
Alternative paid options which will develop commercial awareness, a skill highly sort after by legal employers
- Step - UK wide paid 8 week full time work programme with an S.M.E (small medium enterprise) through the Summer vacation. Approximately £210 per week. Apply by mid-June in first penultimate or final year. Visit their website here.
- Commercial Related Internships - many national / multinational companies offer paid summer internships mainly for students in penultimate year of study. Common areas of work include General Management/I.T/Marketing/Sales/Human Resources/ Finance. The majority of deadlines are by mid-February of penultimate year, however some employers, particularly in the Management Consulting/Investment Banking sector have deadlines by early December. See: www.targetjobs.co.uk and www.milkround.com
- Smaller regional employers will also offer similar opportunities outside of the Step programme. They advertise as and when vacancies arise via our online vacancy system.
- Entrepreneur - developing your own business venture whilst a student is an effective way to demonstrate commercial awareness.
- Law Firm Open Days - offered mainly with the larger regional, national and international firms. Usually require a CV and cover letter. Some Open Days are open for first year undergraduates, a great way to get a head start. Firms advertise Open Days via their websites.
- Contacts - think very carefully of relatives, friends etc you may know already working in the legal field. Approach with enthusiasm for gaining work experience. Don't forget to use the contacts in the legal folders in the Careers Centre information room. The residential colleges at Durham are a good source for gaining contacts of Durham Alumni - check with your Senior or Personal Tutor.
- Court Visits - most courts have public galleries.
- Vacation Schemes with Solicitors Firms - usually open to penultimate year law students and final year non-law students. The majority of deadlines are 31st January for Easter and summer schemes. Winter vacation schemes are usually open to non-law students only and deadlines are by early November. A good starting point is the Work placement scheme deadlines section of the Law Careers.Net website.
- For those who are interested in Barrister Clerk as a profession after graduation, work experience may be possible by writing to the Barrister Clerk of individual Chambers with a CV and cover letter. Details of contacts can be obtained by visiting the websites of individual Chambers. You can also refer to the Target Pupillages handbook in the Information Room for specific Chambers.
In the current economic climate it is advisable for applicants for Christmas/Easter and Summer vacation schemes to apply as soon as possible after the opening date. The reason being in the past 2 years (2010-2012) applications increased significantly well before the deadline and in some cases the numbers of vacancies were cut. At the current time, there are signs vacancy numbers are returning in some cases to near pre-recession numbers.
Many recruiters began sifting applications before the deadline and selected for interview candidates that fit the criteria they were seeking. As many applicants to vacation schemes also apply very close to the deadline, you could well be at an advantage by applying early.
Recruiters at the current time are paying more attention to why candidates want to do a vacation scheme with them. This will require you to do thorough research into employers, as many who have an on-line application form will ask this question and be requiring a very concise focused answer. Several legal employers come on to campus through Michaelmas and Epiphany term either running skills sessions, which could include completing effective applications or attending the Durham Law Fair in November 2013.
Check and sign up to any events of interest at www.durham.ac.uk/careers/s/events/es
Non-law finalists be aware deadlines are very early for Winter vacation schemes. Check www.lawcareers.net and there will be examples as early as late October.
Most open dates are late September 2013. Very rarely these are also open to law penultimate year students.
For those final year non-law and penultimate year law students interested in completing vacations schemes in commercial law firms both regional and international be aware the most common reason for rejection is not providing a convincing explanation as to why a commercial law firm. A basic understanding of what commercial solicitors do is essential - many of the international law firms now have impressive websites with video/podcasts of trainee solicitors and recruitment partners explaining the duties of a commercial solicitor including typical deals worked on. These are usually found in the U.K graduate recruitment section of the website.
Commercial awareness sessions are run throughout Michelamas and Epiphany term by employers on campus. Check the events section of www.durham.ac.uk/careers regularly and sign up on-line for those of interest.
The following are two of the best websites for sourcing vacation schemes and mini pupillages.
Note: do check the individual law firm's webpages as well for deadlines. Details could potentially change before being updated on this website.
Take a creative approach
Stay positive !
It is important to remember that paid legal vacation placements are extremely competitive. Many legal employers report applications to vacation placements outweigh those for Training Contracts. In fact, many legal recruiters have confirmed that they have offered training contracts to Durham students and graduates who had previously been rejected for a vacation scheme with that same employer. Key to this success was taking a creative, positive approach to gaining similar types of work experience which demonstrated a range of transferable skills and qualities. This added value to future applications to make the candidate stand out.
Develop Transferable Skills and Qualities
The following skills and qualities are most commonly reported by legal employers as lacking in applications for Vacation Placements and Training Contracts. Rememberr, evidence of the following can be gained from other forms of work experience.
Skills - Persuasion,negotiation,teamwork, initiative and commercial awareness.
Qualities - Enthusiasm, commitment, drive, determination to succeed.
Take a creative approach
In the current economic climate, it is more important than ever to be aware of and to consider alternative options for gaining relevant work experience. A creative "think outside the box" approach is required. The following are some examples of the range of employers you could approach for paid/unpaid experience linked to certain areas of law. You will need to research these employers via the internet and the Careers Advisory Service Information Room. In many cases a speculative application will be required. To improve your chances of success you will need a well focused cover letter and CV, ideally addressed to a named contact. Do not be reluctant to contact companies to find out this information, it shows you are determined and enthusiastic!
If you take the "cold call" approach by directly telephoning make sure you have a well thought out "script" in your mind of what you are going to ask. Remember you need to sound convincing and enthusiastic as the employer only has your voice to go by.
A useful place to start searching for the options below is www.yell.com
- Commercial Litigation - Legal dept of any retail outlet or company; consumer associations; citizens advice bureau; high street solicitor firms which include commercial litigation work in their remit, shadowing a judge on a commercial litigation case in court
- Commercial Property/Construction & Engineering - Estate agencies; Facility management agents; property developers; civil engineering companies; engineering companies
- Banking/ Corporate Finance - Banks; Building Societies; Cash office for retail outlet; tax office; insurance companies/agents; finance houses, investment companies
- Employment - Union Head Office or regional offices; Personnel depts; TUC; ACAS; Citizens Advice Bureau
- Medical Litigation - Healthcare trusts; hospitals; medical insurance companies; NHS legal dept; health authorities; medical related charities
- Intellectual Property - Legal depts of media houses; I.T companies; publishing houses; Patent Office; patent agents
- Crime - Police; Law Courts; Citizens Advice Bureau; Crown Prosecution Service; Youth Offending Teams, victim support groups
- Family - High street law firms; Citizens Advice Bureau; welfare charities; social services; Home Office
- Human Rights - Charities ( i.e AMICUS, Liberty, Amnesty International), The Hague internship (final year law students)
- Environmental - Dept for the environment; waste disposal companies; property developers; local authorities
- Shipping - Shipping Agents; Customs and Excise; Import/Export Companies; Freight Companies
The Durham University Pro Bono Society ('DUPS') was set up towards the end of the 2008/2009 academic year in order to coordinate and bring together groups of students who are involved in different projects throughout the university. 'DUPS' will act as an umbrella organisation to encompass and support existing projects, and provide students with the resources and guidance to begin new Pro Bono projects as the society develops. Their Pro Bono projects engage directly with the local community in a range of different areas and are not only personally rewarding (and helpful to those who receive the services), but are also great illustrations of charitable and community engagement.
Human rights-related experience
You can find details on the lawworks website of a range of opportunities for voluntary legal-related opportunities. Several of the organisationd work in the field of human rights and will be of interest to students and graduates interested in pursuing a career in this area. Please note that several of the organisations will have opportunities for law and non-law students. Check the websites and email contacts provided.
Take a look at the document below to find details of a wide variety of useful websites relating to law.
- Law_useful_websites (last modified: 29 June 2012)