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The Oracle

Legal work experience for non-law graduates

updated on 20 August 2019

Dear Oracle

I recently graduated with a 2.1 in philosophy and plan to take a year out to save up before taking the GDL. What kind of paid work could I do which looks impressive to employers and would be flexible enough to allow me to keep putting my legal career first?

The Oracle replies

You're right to be looking for legal work opportunities at this point - students often have to work to pay for their postgraduate courses, and if you can find a role in the legal profession, even better.

Paralegal work

You could try applying to the legal departments of non-law organisations; one barrister we spoke to recently spent her first months after graduating with Channel 4's legal team.

Working as a paralegal or legal secretary would be a good option, but without any legal qualifications, securing a role may be difficult (although it is possible). Enquire with paralegal recruitment agencies: you may find one that will take you on. It can be difficult to land that first paralegal role, particularly when many vacancies request prior experience, although not all do – keep an eye on our Jobs board to see the sort of opportunities that are on offer.

Many firms run open days that are open to non-law graduates, while some even put on days specifically, as non-law candidates are a valued pool of talent. While attending open days isn’t paid experience, it is highly recommended as a way to meet contacts and learn about firms before you apply for a training contract.  

Pro bono

Alternatively, you could ask your local high-street firms if they need any administrative help or you could look at some of the various pro bono opportunities available. Investigate the possibility of volunteering with your nearest free legal advice centre or branch of Citizens Advice, and with pro bono organisations such as the Free Representation Unit, the Innocence Project and Amicus.

LawCareers.Net has a directory of pro bono and volunteering opportunities to help you. Working pro bono will boost your CV and employability (both in terms of paralegal work and applying for a training contract) and improve your skills, but it will also give you the chance to use your knowledge to help others and participate in rewarding and wholly worthwhile work. Consider, applying for vacation schemes at slightly larger firms, some of which are open to non-law graduates. Vacation schemes are a great way to accrue valuable experience and impress potential employers. To get started, search our database of vacation scheme deadlines, which will give you all the details you need to apply.

Also, many firms run open days that are open to non-law graduates, while some even put on days specifically, as non-law candidates are a valued pool of talent. While attending open days isn’t paid experience, it is highly recommended as a way to meet contacts and learn about firms before you apply for a training contract.  

Transferable skills

Finally, remember that any spell of employment to pay for your further education does not necessarily have to be centred on the legal profession in order to impress law firm recruiters. Any job, from bar work to retail, will provide you with valuable experience that develops essential skills such as client interaction, presentation and time management. Remember to include any experiences such as this when you finally come to apply for legal roles, as too many aspiring lawyers neglect to emphasise the wealth of skills and experiences that they have acquired outside of a legal context.