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Five things you can do to get ahead as a non-law student

updated on 16 November 2021

Reading time: six minutes

Non-law students often worry that their degree is an invisible barrier between themselves and the legal profession. This is not true.

Your non-law degree will equip you with alternative skills and experiences from other fields that law firms want to see in their future trainees. The trick to getting ahead is to use these to your advantage and make the most of the opportunities offered to you throughout your studies.  

Here are five things you can do to help you secure your dream job in the legal profession.

  1. Research and understand the career path

Understanding the various routes into law, as well as the profession as a whole, is important for all aspiring lawyers.

First, consider whether you want to work with a team of like-minded lawyers as a solicitor in a law firm or at the self-funded Bar as a barrister.

Do you want to work in a small high-street firm, a City firm, or an international or boutique firm? There are several types of law firm, so take some time to understand the different types and what they offer. Consider what you can bring to these firms and whether you can see yourself building a career at one of them. Alternatively, if you’re more interested in becoming a barrister, think about what type of chambers would best suit you and your career goals.  

You should also research the different areas of law. You can read our solicitor and barrister practice area profiles for exclusive insights from those in the profession – they share their journeys into the law and how they came to be specialising in a particular practice area. That said, keep an open mind for now as you don’t want to pigeonhole yourself into a specific area of law that in practice is very different to how you had imagined it would be.

In terms of applications, as a non-law student you can start applying for vacation schemes in the final year of your degree, with some firms offering non-law specific schemes. Mini-pupillages are also available for non-law students considering the barrister route. Those looking to pursue a career as a barrister should check for mini-pupillages throughout the year, with a number of chambers running mini-pupillages between February and May.

Use LawCareers.Net’s vacation scheme, training contract and pupillage deadlines pages to make sure you don’t miss an important deadline.

For more information on vacation schemes and when you should apply, read this Oracle.

  1. Get some work experience and attend events

On top of vacation schemes and mini-pupillages, getting as much legal or non-legal work experience as you can will be hugely beneficial to your future applications.

While covid-19 has limited the amount of face-to-face work experience that was available over the past 18 months, it is still worth reaching out to firms and chambers to see whether it is possible to secure even just a few days of shadowing. Snippets of experience like this will give you a taste of what it’s like to work in the profession, and might help make the decision between barrister and solicitor that little bit more straightforward.

Pro bono is another excellent way to gain legal experience while also providing legal services to those in need.

You can find a list of pro-bono and volunteering initiatives on LawCareers.Net.  

Non-legal work experience is also an important aspect of an aspiring lawyer’s journey into the profession. By providing you with the opportunity to develop key skills that can be transferred to a career in law, non-law work experience will help you develop into a well-rounded individual, making you a more appealing candidate for your future employer. Think about how you can use your non-law-related work experience to add depth to your CV and highlight what you can bring to the profession.

Aside from work experience, there are additional ways that you can get to know a firm and speak to its lawyers, including law fairs, webinars and open days. While some of these will continue to take place virtually this year it’s still important that you make the most of these opportunities. Do some research to prepare, ask lots of questions and think about which firms you want to speak to.

  1. Listen to podcasts to develop your commercial awareness

Podcasts are great! Whether you’re a law student, a non-law student or a successful lawyer, listening to podcasts is a fantastic way to stay up to date with the latest in the world of law and business.

Commercial awareness is a skill that all law firms want to see in their future trainees. Being able to show that you are commercially minded is essential for all aspiring lawyers and listening to the right podcasts is one way that you can start to develop your commercial understanding. Plus, commercial awareness is not something that you can pick up the night before an interview, so getting started early is crucial.

Read this LCN Says for a list of 15 podcasts that LawCareers.Net thinks all aspiring lawyers should listen to – it includes LCN’s very own podcast, which features interviews with recruiters, students, trainees, partners and more, touching on topics such as networking, psychometric testing and interviews.

  1. Join your student law society and other extracurricular activities

Make the most of the opportunities on offer to you at university. Joining your university’s student law society is a must – not only will you meet other candidates who are embarking on the same journey as yourself, but you will also have the chance to attend networking events, firm presentations and much more.

It’s all well and good having fantastic academic grades, but an aspiring lawyer’s personality is also important to law firms. They want well-rounded trainees who have more to offer than just their first-class law degree. As such, make sure you are giving yourself time to continue to do the things you love, whether that’s playing for a competitive sports team, joining a music or drama society, or perhaps even a book club. It is important to then be able to talk about your extracurricular activities in your applications – for example, your role, the skills you have developed and how these skills will benefit you in the legal profession.

Pursuing a career in law does not mean that you must put everything else in your life on hold. Law firms want the real you, so make sure that’s what you bring.

  1. Sign up to LCN

Finally, LCN is your essential companion during your search for a training contract or pupillage. By signing up and creating a free MyLCN account, you will unlock a host of extra benefits to support you on your journey into the legal profession. Among other things, signing up will enable to you to save a list of your favourite firms or chambers, add important events or deadlines to your MyCalendar and save a list of vacancies that you’re interested in. On top of this, you will automatically receive our LCN Weekly email, which includes important news to ensure your commercial awareness remains up to date, careers advice and firm recruitment profiles.

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