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 opportunites and the Government Legal Service rather than a firm of solicitors or barristers chambers.
Deciding on the route to qualification
You need to decide whether you want to become a solicitor, meaning you'll need to take the LPC, or to become a barrister, which means you'll take the BPTC.
If you want to undertake the BPTC, you will have to have already taken and passed the Bar Aptitude Test.
Many of the leading commercial and corporate law firms will fund LPC or GDL places for those who have successfully applied for training contracts. Scholarships are available from the Inns of Court for the GDL and the BPTC.
Student loans may also be available.
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. Have a look at Hold the Front Page for examples.
What you also need to know is that law firms/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.
Entry routes into the sector
Whichever professional route you decide to pursue, you will need to know what to do when, and have tremendous amounts of resilience and be prepared to persevere as you will be competing with many other people who will be just as committed.
The Bar Council maps out the timeline perfectly, as does the Law Society.
Work experience and where to get it
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
- attend open days and presentations
- apply for work placements
- attend skills workshops at University
- network with solicitors
- attend the Law Fair
- volunteer and do pro-bono
- seek work experience to develop your personal and commercial awareness skills in other work environments.