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The Oracle

Training contract application advice for non-law students

updated on 06 July 2021

Dear Oracle

I'm just finishing my final year of a non-law degree and haven’t taken a law conversion yet. Is the application process for a training contract or vacation scheme harder or different in any way for non-law students?

The Oracle replies

Don’t worry, being a non-law student does not put you at a disadvantage when pursuing a career in the legal profession – law firms are just as interested in recruiting trainees who have not studied law at undergraduate level. Firms also value the wider experiences and skills that people from non-law backgrounds have to offer – it’s your job to work out how exactly to demonstrate these well on application forms and at interview.

As a non-law student, it will understandably take more initial effort to understand the industry, battle legal acronyms and appreciate the unique timeframes of the legal recruitment cycle, but once you have done the necessary research you will be in a good position to apply for vacation schemes and a training contract.

Recruiters do not expect candidates who are only in the middle of their non-law degrees to have the same knowledge as, for example, applicants who are currently studying the Legal Practice Course. Some firms run separate assessment days and interviews specifically for non-law applicants, which will of course not be exactly the same as those for law students and graduates. Therefore, it is important to showcase your strengths, as firms will be looking for personable people with good communication skills, intellectual ability and common sense, as well as the other key skills required to become a lawyer.

Developing commercial awareness is also important, but this does not mean that you must understand all the technical details of how law firms and businesses operate – it means that you should keep up with business news so that you can offer considered opinions when it comes to interview or a business scenario at an assessment day. Thinking in a commercial way is not just limited to those who have studied law; for economics students your business acumen should be something to highlight but, in general, commercial awareness is about thinking in a logical way and from different points of view. This is something that many degrees equip their students for – especially in the humanities – but staying on top of business news yourself is vital.

Ultimately, the application process presents the same challenges to you as it does for a law graduate – you must conduct detailed research to learn about the profession and identify potential employers to which to apply. Your lack of technical legal knowledge will not be a disadvantage at this stage, as recruiters are looking for candidates with potential and good key skills, such as academic aptitude, communication and teamwork. Know your key strengths, show off your transferable skills and explain why you are pursuing this career and why this particular firm.

You should note that the route to qualifying as a solicitor will be changing from September 2021 with the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE). Here are the four requirements to qualify as a solicitor once the SQE comes into effect – you must:

  • have a university degree or equivalent in any subject (law or non-law);
  • pass the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) character and suitability test;
  • pass SQE stages one and two; and
  • have two years’ qualifying work experience (QWE).

These changes mean that you do not necessarily need to take a law conversion course to qualify as a solicitor, although it would be the recommended course of action to gain the necessary legal knowledge for you to pass both stages of the SQE. To find out more about the introduction of the SQE and how your route to qualifying might be affected, visit LCN’s SQE Hub. Many firms will continue to use training contracts as a way to train their future lawyers, so the same application advice applies in that sense – demonstrate what you can bring to the firm that’s unique to you.

Good luck!

Find more information in LCN’s non-law section.