Changes to Solicitor Qualifications in England And Wales
You may be aware that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is introducing a new method of assessment for qualifying as a solicitor in England and Wales. Read more about this important change on LSE's Law site. A list of Frequently Asked Questions can also be found on the SRA website.
Smaller firms may not advertise vacation placements, but you might be able to proactively organise your own. Search the Law Society's database of solicitors to find a list of firms near your vacation address in the UK. Governments, international organisations, courts and charities also frequently offer internships and traineeships related directly or indirectly to law.
Legal work experience is important for many reasons. The skills you gain will give you examples to use on application forms and to discuss at interview. It can also make you stand out from other candidates and demonstrates a commitment to a legal career. In some areas of law, such as human rights law, employers like to see that you have been involved in related areas such as voluntary work for some time.
The routes into qualifying as a solicitor or barrister can be complicated. The following links provide timetables to help guide you through the process:
An LSE Careers Consultant also outlines what you should be doing and when, for:
For many firms, vacation schemes (competitive work experience schemes) are a way of assessing you over a period of time so that they can decide whether to offer you a permanent position. They are also a chance for you to experience working at a firm and decide whether it is the right firm for you.
They are usually available for around two to four weeks in larger law firms, government organisations and some Legal Aid firms. Students sit in on client meetings, research legal issues and attend hearings. Usually there is some form of appraisal at the end of the placement.
Summer is the main placement season but many firms also operate schemes during the Winter and Easter vacation times. The policy on which schemes non law and law students can apply to varies from firm to firm with some only allowing non law students to apply to the winter and Easter schemes and others open them up to law students. The application deadlines for winter schemes are usually around the end of October and summer and Easter schemes are usually around late January/early February. For a list of deadlines for those firms and organisations who regularly offer vacation schemes see Vacation Scheme Deadlines.
These are one or two week schemes available within Chambers, which you can apply to in advance at any time of year. There are some Chambers that also have assessed mini pupillages as part of their recruitment process. You can apply for these at any point in your academic studies.
Pro bono and voluntary work
There is a wide range of pro bono work available which can assist you with putting your skills and theoretical knowledge into practice and enhance your CV at the same time. It may be a role that allows you to put your client care skills into practice in an advisory role; it may require your written communication skills; or you may be acting as a receptionist in a law centre which will give you an opportunity to see first hand the types of queries that clients present. It will also give you an opportunity to observe lawyers in practice; in return for volunteering, some organisations will allow you to shadow a solicitor and observe a client meeting. If you are interested in a career as a lawyer in human rights or legal aid work then a long standing commitment to social justice through a track record in pro bono/volunteering work will be expected.
Research pro bono opportunities at:
Summer work experience
You may want to try and get work some experience in a law firm over the summer. To find solicitors near your vacation address go to The Law Society website and search by postcode and by the areas of law that a firm has.
You may also want to consider making a speculative application to in-house legal departments as only a minority run official recruitment schemes for graduates.
The best resource to get you started is the Legal 500. Go to UK, In-House Lawyers and you will find a list of companies and the heads of their in-house legal departments, usually with contact details. Target those companies where you can be convincing about how the sector they are working in fits with your career plans and interests, what you can offer them and why that particular company is of interest.
Internships are not always used to recruit to organisations but they can be really helpful in getting excellent experience onto your CV. They are often for several months and so maybe better carried out during the summer vacation. There is a selection of legal internships both in the UK and but recruitment can be very competitive, so it is important to do your research early as deadlines are often a few months before the internship starts.
Shadowing is helpful in gaining an insight into day to day work of lawyers. Use your networks to find contacts. Try a speculative application with a good CV, or telephone or email. You could get your foot in the door by asking for comments on your CV, or request an information interview or half a day to a week's shadowing to gain an insight into day to day work.
To find solicitors near to your vacation address go to: The Law Society.
Involvement in students' law societies and mooting and debating competitions at University are a must with the latter two being vital for a prospective barrister. If you are interested in a career in the commercial sector then joining the finance related student societies can enhance your knowledge of the sector and also confirm an interest in the area on your applications to firms/chambers. See LSE Student Union.
Join an Inn
If you are a prospective barrister then you may want to consider joining an Inn. You need to join by 31 May in the year that your BTPC starts but you can join the Inn at anytime from the first year of your LLB onwards. Each Inn offers different support for students but it can include their own schemes and societies for students such as a mentoring scheme, shadowing a police officer, marshalling with a judge and a chance to participate in debating, mooting and drama societies.
- The Junior Lawyers Division Mentoring Scheme is an initiative aimed at putting future generations of the legal profession in touch with fellow solicitors, who can provide support and advice on work related issues, as well as offer an insight into the work of the profession.
- Young Legal Aid Lawyers is a group of lawyers who are committed to practising in those areas of law, both criminal and civil, that have traditionally been publicly funded. Find out more about their mentoring scheme at Young Legal Aid Lawyers.
- Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) finds summer internships for outstanding penultimate year undergraduates from ethnic minority groups currently under-represented in the City. 80% of SEO interns eventually secure a full-time position with a sponsoring firm, where, among others, will be allocated a personal mentor. For more information and to apply for the scheme, visit the SEO website.
Crown Prosecution Service
The Crown Prosecution Service may have casual and temporary caseworker posts available from time to time and will these will usually be advertised locally. You might also find it useful to spend time shadowing a CPS lawyer during your vacation.
Visit the Courts
Courts are open to the public so go and sit in the courts and observe the lawyers in action and gain a real insight into court procedures. Courts are in session on weekdays and take a break for lunch so either visit in the morning or around 2pm when the lunch break is over.
Dress reasonably smartly, attend the court of your choice and ask at the desk what cases are on that day or you may see a list up when you've been through security. If you want to avoid catching up on an ongoing case, then maybe sit in on one that is just beginning that day.
Make a note of any case you sit in on and the names of the lawyers/judges involved in case you want to make reference to it in the future in interviews or on an application form.
This paid part-time work involves working for solicitors' firms who carry out legal aid. It mainly involves taking notes of court proceedings and typing these up for the solicitor. It can also involve carrying out other task such as liaising with clients.
A speculative approach to finding work is best, probably searching on the Law Society website as outlined under Summer Work Experience; search family and criminal law as these are the areas most likely to be under legal aid.
Due to the reduction in legal aid these positions are difficult to find and, therefore, competitive.
You could spend time at smaller solicitors' firms, local government legal departments, law centres, probation offices or courts. You may be able to find paid clerical work, but even if you work as an unpaid volunteer or simply do work shadowing you should view it as an investment in your future.
Or get a new angle on the legal process. Head for a commercial organisation, such as a bank, if you want to become a corporate lawyer. If human rights is your area of interest, work with a refugee group or women's hostel. Any experience will demonstrate your commitment.
You will need to consider:
- The quality of the work experience
- Will it attract employers
- Will it prove significant in developing a network of useful contacts
- Are there any entry requirements and skills/knowledge
- Is there additional training required and do you really want to do more at this stage?
- Dates for in-house training programmes eg. CAB
- Deadlines for applications
To get your foot in the door you could consider contacting a recruitment agency who specialises in one of the sectors. You could also ring an organisation that you wish to work in e.g. a trade union or large bank and ask them which temping agency they use and sign on with that agency.