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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

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Your next steps

If you have questions about your plans, talk to a member of our team.

Book a careers appointment

Read Kate's blog about pursuing a career in Law

 
 
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Want an exciting legal career? Join a startup

The pace of learning at a startup is unique – I’ve worked at a bank, a media group, a charity and various publishers and learned more in a year here than in the previous five.

Read Tom's blog post in full

 

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

Funding

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.

 

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
  • marshalling
  • 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 5-6 hours to complete and are self paced.

Forage

Firms will also advertise virtula work placements on their websites. Check firm websites for details.

 

How can I develop my skills through student societies?

There are several student-run societies that will give you an insight into the legal profession, and develop the skills employers need.

You should also look out for societies that reflect your interests including where you may see the focus of your legal career and those that give you the opportunity for community engagement.

Volunteering within the local community through Nottingham CVS, the Students' Union Student Volunteer Centre, or a student-led service such as Nightline will also give you valuable experience of working and communicating with a wide range of people.

Student societies at Nottingham

Advocate Magazine

Amnesty International

Debating Union

Economics and Finance Society

Law Society

The Mooting Society

Negotiation Society

Pro Bono Society

The Bar Society

 

How do I make a successful application?

Writing applications will be a time-consuming business. If you are to impress the recruiter you must address their needs. You have to write in a professional manner, use plain language, avoid cliches, use grammar correctly and make no spelling mistakes.

Attend one of our application support sessions

Read Andrew's blog: The changing legal landscape – what applicants need to know

 

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?

As a student interested in law, there are many opportunities to engage with the profession and access advice, information, and guidance about choosing law as a profession.

Employer recruitment events on-campus

Workshops on applying for legal positions

Spotlight On events looking at the working life of solicitors or barristers, or alternative careers

Application and advice one-to-one appointments

Student-run societies

 

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:

 

 

Careers and Employability Service

University of Nottingham
Portland Building, Level D
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 3680
fax: +44 (0) 115 951 3679
email: careers-team@nottingham.ac.uk