Exploring a career in law – is it for you?

You might think that because you’re a law student you ‘should’ consider a career in the law and it is certainly one of the options open to you. A survey by the Institute of Student Employers in 2018 identified that over 80% of employers don’t stipulate a discipline when recruiting to graduate roles so a broad range of career options are open to you and Warwick law graduates purse careers in a wide range of sectors and job roles as well as the law. So – what if you want to explore a career in the law – here are some things to think about and some resources to help you get started? 

Start with some online research. You need to understand the range of organisations in which lawyers work (law firms, barristers’ chambers, companies, government, regulators, representative bodies to name but a few).  Find out about the role of a solicitor, barrister and other legally related jobs. General careers platforms like Prospects (sector information and job profiles) and specialist platforms like Law Careers Net and Chambers are a great starting point.  In addition to exploring job- roles and how to qualify, you can find out about different types of law firms and barrister chambers and the work they do.

Know yourself.  Reflect on your interests and review any experience you have had (legal/other) and identify what you’ve learnt from this. Consider what’s important to you (sometimes referred to as values) and the implications for any future work roles. Think about which aspects of being a lawyer interest you and which don’t appeal and the sort of clients you are interested in working with and why. Perhaps you want to work directly with people to make a difference and improve things for individuals or maybe your interests are more commercially oriented and you think you would enjoy providing legal support to businesses and their clients. Think about what motivated you to study law in the first place, what you enjoy about your course and the skills you enjoy using across your academic and extra-curricular activities.

Take your research to the next level.  One of the positives to come out of the Coronavirus Lockdown (2020-21) is the shift to providing events and networking opportunities virtually and the wide range of easily accessible opportunities offered by employers. Your online research will have identified questions that you want answers to. There is nothing like meeting solicitors and barristers face to face and finding out the detail of their day-to-day working lives and the satisfaction and challenges that arise from their work. You may be interested in exploring specific firms or areas of practice further.  Getting this level of detail will help you decide whether to apply for further opportunities (insight, open days, vacation and other work experience schemes). If you decide to make an application, the information you’ve gained can help you stand out. Keep notes of what you learn and the people you spoke to so you can use this in your application to demonstrate your motivation and fit for the organisation and its work. 

Freely available online learning programmes like those offered via the Forage provide another opportunity to gain a deeper insight into law firms and specific practice areas. They frequently include tasks similar to those undertaken by trainees and help develop commercial awareness including understanding how a law firm operates as a business.

Seek out experience. Law firms and barristers chambers value a wide range of experience. They are interested in your extra-curricular achievements and any work undertaken part-time and during vacations. These types of experiences are also most likely to provide evidence for the sort of employability skills that employers look for (e.g. teamwork, communication). Legal experience is also valuable as it helps demonstrate motivation towards the law and a realistic appreciation of the work involved. Law firm vacation schemes and mini-pupillages provide the opportunity to gain an insight into the work of a solicitor or barrister by shadowing, taking part in development activities and assisting with tasks similar to those undertaken by trainees. These opportunities are highly sought after and very competitive to get into.  Completing a number of mini-pupillages is essential for aspiring barristers and vacation schemes are the only route to a training contract for some (but not all) law firms. There are other opportunities to gain legal experience via speculative approaches to small firms, legally related volunteering, mooting (essential for aspiring barristers), law competitions, pro bono and other activities provided by your university, the law societies and School of Law as well as external organisations. Check out this link for further information on different ways to gain legal experience. Most importantly reflect on all your experiences and identify what you’ve learnt about the law and your motivation towards the profession. 

Valerie Matthews-Lane

Senior Careers Consultant

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