updated on 29 September 2021
All roads can lead to law.
Most of you will know that many routes can be taken to access the legal profession, one of which is the conversion course known as the Graduate Diploma in Law; this enables non-law students to convert an undergraduate degree to the equivalent of a law degree.
One point that myself and others who have come from a non-legal background face is concerns over their lack of legal work experience and how that will impact their training contract application. However, non-law students often have a range of skills that they can draw on and transfer to the law firm environment, which will make them an asset to any team.
Many law firms appreciate the diversity of skills that non-law students can provide and you should feel confident to emphasise these within training contract applications. Outlined below are some examples of key transferable skills that non-law students can capitalise on to demonstrate their abilities to future employers.
Communication is fundamental to any career in the law, whether it is speaking with colleagues, networking or interacting with clients. Legal work experience is not the only way to build communication skills.
Often students have public facing or service industry jobs throughout university. These types of roles allow non-law students to develop their communication skills and they provide direct contact with members of the public. This will be highly attractive to a law firm who will be comforted to know an applicant can communicate appropriately with clients.
Written communication is equally as important, for example preparing letters for clients or drafting longer documents for court. Non-law students often have experience writing extended pieces of work from their undergraduate degree, which will set the foundations of their written communication within a law firm. (Find out more about communication in this blog: ‘The key to effective communication’).
It will be no surprise that law firms can be high-pressured environments, but there is an increasing focus on the importance of teamwork to ensure supportive working environments are fostered. For many firms, it is becoming a cornerstone of their business plans. Having teamwork skills will also demonstrate to a law firm how you can assimilate into their departments. Being able to assimilate into teams quickly and contribute well will allow you to move seats during your training contract with relative ease.
Non-law students can showcase their teamwork skills by emphasising their contributions to sporting teams or other clubs that they have been involved with. If you can think of a few examples of how a team you were part of worked well together and why you think that is the case this will be of use in any training contract applications.
A key skill for any lawyer is to be able to analyse and assess the case before them and reach a conclusion or point of advice for their client.
Any undergraduate degree a non-law student obtains may have allowed them to grow those analytical skills, for example, humanities subjects often include research of different perspectives, formulating an essay, outlining those perspectives and arguing a point of view.
This skill can be easily transferred to a legal role, the ability to see different points of view on the same issue and argue one position will impress graduate recruiters. Further, progressing from training contracts, this skill will develop your strategies for a case and produce the best results for your client.
Case management/time management
A good lawyer must be good at multitasking to handle numerous matters at any one time. Therefore, demonstrating case management and time management is another skill that non-law students can emphasise in their training contract applications to validate their suitability for the role.
Throughout university, many students balance different deadlines with part-time work, and this is a simple way for them to show a firm that they can prioritise different tasks and their time effectively.
Further, any events you have undertaken in clubs, volunteering or paid employment that involved a level of project management is another excellent skill to highlight. Non-students should reflect on their previous experiences and note where they have organised or assisted with projects and what specific tasks, they undertook, as this style of project management can be transferred to the case management work, they will be required to do in a law firm.
Networking and business development
A law firm is still a business and for it to be successful clients must continue to choose to instruct the firm. Networking and business development can seem daunting to non-law students but highlighting this skill to a firm will allow them to see your commitment to the business side of the firm as well as the legal side.
A simple way for non-law students to build these skills and transfer them to the legal environment is to start early to grow their professional profile. Social networks such as LinkedIn can be useful to show an understanding of the business.
Read our Oracle: ‘The law firm as a business’ for more information on how you can showcase your commercial acumen.
The importance of online networking cannot be understated, especially since covid-19 forced many networking events online. Staying connected has never been so important.
Non-law students also have the added benefit of a wealth of diverse contacts in different industries, as well as those they encounter during any legal training they embark on. They can emphasise the range and scope of contacts they will have just from completing a different undergraduate degree. It could also be advantageous to link this back to your communication skills and promote your ability to become one of the key networkers within the law firm.
Non-lawyers should not feel disadvantaged when applying for training contracts, most firms have generalised skills that they want a candidate to embody rather than specific legal skills. Firms are often keen to encourage applications from alternative routes as they appreciate the additional skills and different perspectives these applicants can have. If you can assess and recognise your skills and demonstrate how they can transfer to the legal environment and specifically the firm you are applying for, then your applications will be difficult to ignore by any future employer.
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