The majority of law students, and a good number of non-law students want to pursue a career as a solicitor or a barrister.
It is important that you understand the differences (and similarities) before applying for either role.
Both professions will consider law and non-law graduates, and as a consequence you will apply for opportunities (work placements, open day, mini-pupillages, training contracts, pupillage) at different stages in your academic career.
Whatever career you choose, you need to be clear about:
- why you wish to pursue your chosen role
- what interests you in the work
- what interests you about the firm/chamber you have applied to
- that you have the right skills, motivation and qualifications
Choosing your career path into law
Think about the area you wish to practice
According to Chambers and Partners, there are approximately 73 broad practice areas to choose from, not counting all of the specialisms.
For example, if you are interested in family law, you can be involved in anything from pre-nuptial agreements to international child abduction depending on the firm.
If you want to be a media lawyer, you may specialise in film, TV, gaming, social media, interactive content, music, publishing or theatre.
How to choose a firm, chamber or organisation
Once you have decided what area(s) of law interest you, you need to research who specialises in that area and decide whether you wish to apply for their opportunities.
You are trying to narrow down your selection so that you can make informed and focused applications.
Does the firm fit with you?
Firms and chambers have personalities and cultures, and as such are not all the same.
Depending on your interests, you might be considering local firms rather than international firms, London chambers rather than regional chambers, or in-house opportunities and the Government Legal Service rather than a firm of solicitors or barristers chambers.
Deciding on the route to qualification
For information on training and qualifying to become a solicitor visit SRA and The Law Society for up to date information on the Solicitors Qualification Exam and the new route to qualifying as a solicitor
For information on training to become a barrister
Solicitor - The new SQE comes into force from September 2021. At the time of writing, we expect funding to be available from law firms who have offered training contracts to study for the SQE assessments. Some Institutions may offer scholarships along with the Law Society. Chambers students guide provide a good overview of what is available.
Barrister - The Inns of Court offer scholarships to study the PGDL and the BTC. Some Commercial Sets may also offer funding. For more information visit Chambers Student
Your lifestyle needs
The lifestyle of a lawyer is something you have to consider, and depending on your chosen area of work, your lifestyle can vary hugely.
This is not to put you off, but for you to be realistic about what will be expected of you in a professional environment.
You can find out more from websites such as RollOnFriday (solicitors) and barristerblogger (barristers).
You can find other legal blogs on Delia Venables' excellent legal resource website.
What are the hot topics in law?
Whatever area of law you are interested in, then that becomes your hot topic.
If you are interested in the media, then you need to understand more than the celebrity gossip. You need to follow the legal and business stories of the media, in the media.
What you also need to know is that law firms and barristers chambers want you to understand their business, their products and services, and the importance of client service – in a nutshell, being commercially aware.
This does not mean having worked in a business – or even a law firm – before, but about recognising and appreciating what they do, how they do it, and how they meet clients' needs and get paid for it.
I have been awarded a scholarship from Lincoln's Inn! Thank you so much for all your help and support this year, especially with the interview practice, I really appreciate it.
How do I organise some work experience?
The legal profession provides many opportunities to gain insights and experience. Some, but not all of the experience you will undertake will form part of a recruitment process. Those that do are work experience placements (solicitors), and assessed mini-pupillages (barristers).
Gaining experience of the bar
- undertake a mini-pupillage
- network with chambers
- pro-bono and other volunteering work
- mooting and debating
- experience in a solicitors' office
- visit and join an Inn of Court
- attend the National Pupillage Fair
- sit in on in-court proceedings
Gain experience of the life of a solicitor
Online work experience
Forage is an online platform providing free access to virtual experience programmes with world leading companies. The virtual experience programmes let you sample ‘life-like’ tasks that provide a better understanding of what it’s like to be a junior employee at that company. They take five to six hours to complete and are self paced.
Firms will also advertise virtual work placements on their websites. Check firm websites for details.
How can I develop my skills through student societies?
How do I make a successful application?
When do I apply for jobs?
If you are a law student, a lot of your job application activity to become a solicitor will take place in your penultimate year.
If you are a non-law undergraduate, a lot of your job application activity will take place in your final year.
Law firms want to recruit candidates with the potential to become future associates and partners. Non-law students have as much chance as law students at becoming qualified practitioners.
Job hunting for a career in law may well continue beyond graduation.
When do I apply for jobs?
Key dates for intending solicitors
Key dates for intending barristers
Diversity access schemes
The legal profession is keen to recruit from the widest possible talent pool and there are a wide range of organisations you can register with.
Law Careers Diversity Access Schemes
Students with a disability
The legal profession is keen to recruit students from all backgrounds and you should not be put off applying if you have a disability or health issues.
Some law firms have linked up with organisations such as EmployAbility and My Plus Consulting who are worth contacting, attending their events and applying to employers they work with.
What's happening on campus?
What are my other law career options?
Working in this sector is not just about solicitors or barristers – in fact there are many careers that are available for you to consider.
Other options for a career in law could be:
Legal Operations Graduate Programmes: Legal Operations graduate programmes are offered by Norton Rose Fulbright, Linklaters, Slaughter & May, Herbert Smith Freehills, Dentons.