10 things you need to know about starting a career as a Solicitor or Barrister

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  1. It All Starts in 2nd Year (LL.B) or Final Year (non-LL.B)
    Start your research as soon as possible into Semester 1. Applications for Vacation Schemes or Training Contracts are open early in Semester 1 so draw up your timetable as soon as you can. Note that the routes to qualifying as a Solicitor and as a Barrister are changing significantly. For barristers, this changed from September 2020, and for Solicitors, this arrives from October 2021 and replaces the current system with the SQE and 2 years qualifying work experience. Keep up to date as more announcements are made.
  1.  Why be a lawyer?
    Be honest with yourself and be able to answer these questions early on:
  • Do I have a clear idea of what a Solicitor/Barrister does?
  • Why specifically do I want to be a Solicitor/Barrister? What exactly attracts me to this career?
  • What sort of work am I drawn to, and why? What clients? Why, specifically?
  1. Think carefully
    If you can answer point 2 above, please read on to point 4. If not, then stop here. You may need to deepen your research and explore what attracts you to this career. Now is a good time to find out more. How can I expand my research? There is no rush and it is important you make a decision that is right for you. Come and have a chat with a Careers Consultant to chew over your thoughts.
  1.  Meet Employers
    The Careers Service will be running a variety of online employability events from October 2020 onwards, which will allow you to virtually meet a range of employers. This includes events such as “Meet the Professionals”, details can be found on the “Careers Fairs and Events” pages of CareersLink. Make the effort to attend these events, they are very useful experiences and a good chance to get some networking practice in. Attend the virtual employability sessions that give tips on how to write a CV or application form. You should also look out for School emails detailing virtual employer events. There is a Law Fair hosted by the University of Manchester every November, and any Open Days at individual law firms are a must-do.
  1.  Work Experience
    Start planning some work experience for the vacation time over Winter, Spring and Summer vacations – or Insight Days for first year LL.B and second year non-LL.B. These Vacation Placements run for 1-2 weeks. Many employers use these as a gateway to find their Trainee Solicitors, so if you treat the applications as a serious pre-Training Contract step, it will serve you well.
  1.  Deadlines
    Deadlines dictate the pace in law applications, and can be as early as mid-October, so do act fast. Remember to map the application deadlines in your diary and work backwards. A good timeline guide can be found at LawCareers.Net.
  1. ‘2 years in advance’ rule for Training Contract Applications
    For historical reasons, applications are made for Training Contracts usually 2 years in advance of the start date. This means that for Law undergraduates, applications are submitted before July 31 in the vacation between second and third years. For non-LL.B the deadline falls after your Finals.
  1. Set aside time for applications – they take ages
    You need to factor in a lot of time in your schedule for application forms. Seriously, they will take you much longer than you expect and need considerable thinking time before you even start typing. There are numerous support teams in place to help you learn how to apply, including Applications advice, information on the careers website and CareersLink will signpost you to additional workshops.
  1. Non-Legal Work Experience counts
    Really, it does. When you consider that lawyers have clients, and those clients tend to be in retail, hospitality, finance, insurance, sales etc, and if you have had jobs in any of these sectors, it gives you a commercial outlook.
  2. Don’t Panic
    If you miss deadlines, then move on and either resolve to re-apply next year, or turn your attention to other ways of gaining work experience. Keep it positive. Book an appointment with a Careers Consultant to discuss.

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