updated on 14 November 2023
I'm finishing my final year of a non-law degree and need to complete a law conversion. Is the application process for a vacation scheme or training contract more difficult or different for non-law students?
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Don’t worry, being a non-law student doesn’t put you at a disadvantage when pursuing a career in the legal profession – law firms are just as interested in recruiting trainees who haven’t studied law at undergraduate level. In fact, on average, around 50% of trainee solicitors studied a non-law degree.
Firms value the wider experiences and skills that applicants from non-law backgrounds have to offer – it’s your job to work out how exactly to demonstrate and evidence these well on application forms and during interviews.
Read LawCareers.Net’s 10 tips for training contract interviews.
As a non-law student, it’ll take more initial effort to understand the industry, battle legal acronyms and appreciate the unique timeframes of the legal recruitment cycle, but once you’ve done the necessary research you’ll be in a good position to apply for vacation schemes and a training programme – whether that’s a training contract or graduate solicitor apprenticeship.
Recruiters won’t expect candidates who are only in the middle of their non-law degrees to have the same knowledge as, for example, applicants who are studying or have graduated from the Legal Practice Course or those who’ve prepared for and passed the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE).
Some law firms run separate assessment days and interviews specifically for non-law applicants, which will of course not be the same as those for law students and graduates. You can use the LawCareers.Net training contract deadlines search and apply the non-law filter to find these opportunities.
Therefore, it’s important to showcase your strengths because 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 an excellent lawyer.
Developing commercial awareness is also important, but this doesn’t mean you must understand all the technical details of how law firms and businesses operate – it means you should keep up with business news so you can offer well-considered opinions when it comes to interviews or a business scenario at assessment days.
Read ‘Training contract assessment centres: everything you need to know’ for more advice on preparing for these assessments and what to expect on the day.
Thinking in a commercial way isn’t just limited to those who’ve 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 humanities – but staying on top of business news yourself is vital.
You can keep up with commercial news, in LawCareers.Net’s weekly commercial news round-up and read a new Commercial Question each week from leading law firms to find out what’s on the mind of lawyers in practice.
A key difference in making applications is that law students are encouraged to apply for a training programme (ie, training contract or graduate solicitor apprenticeship) in the penultimate year of their degree, whereas non-law students should apply in their final year – this is because aspiring solicitors should apply two years before the training programme is due to start.
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 won’t be a disadvantage at this stage because law firm recruiters are looking for candidates with potential and good key skills, such as:
Know your key strengths, show off your transferable skills and explain why you’re pursuing a legal career, as well as why you’ve chosen to apply to this specific firm.
Are you a non-law student? Read our ‘what you need to know’ article for advice on getting into the profession from a non-law background.
You should note that the route to qualifying as a solicitor changed in September 2021 with the introduction of the SQE. Here are the four requirements to qualify as a solicitor through the SQE – you must:
The introduction of the SQE means that you don’t necessarily need to take a law conversion course to qualify as a solicitor, although it’s the recommended course of action to gain the necessary legal knowledge for you to pass both stages of the SQE. If you’ve secured a training contract or graduate solicitor apprenticeship with a firm, many, if not all, will require non-law graduates to complete a specific law conversion course with a specific education provider before starting any further SQE preparation.
LCN answers your questions relating to non-law graduates, law conversion courses and the SQE in this Oracle.
To find out more about the introduction of the SQE and how your route to qualifying might be affected, visit LCN’s SQE hub.
For a full explanation of a non-law student’s guide to a career in law, read this Feature.
Many firms will continue to use training contracts 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.
Find more information in LCN’s non-law section.