Training contracts, pupillages, legal work experience and careers advice: get started with LCN

A new academic year has begun and the recruitment race is underway. We have lots of tips on how to work your way into a legal career, including info on self-analysis, research, law fairs and where to seek help. Let’s get started!

After a long summer of interviews, assessment centres and training contract offers, law firms and barristers’ chambers are gearing up for another recruitment cycle, while a new academic year is just getting underway  To be in the race to get a training contract or pupillage for as far away as 2020, you need to prepare.

LawCareers.Net (LCN) is a starting point for learning about firms, chambers, their recruitment processes and application deadlines, as well as the opportunities available to students in terms of work experience, open days, pro bono and so on. We also provide free tools to make your research faster and easier to organise. Set out below are a few of the things you should be looking out for over the coming months and beyond.

Managing your research and applications

LCN has a valuable personalised service called MyLCN, which is free to sign up for and use. MyLCN is a customisable area of the site where you can manage your law firm applications and research. Here is a brief summary of its most attractive features:

  • MyFirms, MyChambers and MyCourses: These sections allow you to keep a record of every employer you consider and build up a dossier on what you have found out, when you have interacted with them, what you have to offer and vice versa. As for law schools, considering how much you are likely to be paying them, it also pays to do your homework!
  • MyPages: This is the storage box for anything and everything that might come in handy, be it information on LCN or elsewhere - details of Inns of Court bursaries; a list of the 10 biggest corporate deals of the year; a government policy document on the future of legal aid; or even a profile of the partner who is due to interview you in a fortnight.
  • MyCalendar: As you save firms or chambers to your MyLCN account, their deadlines (eg, training contract, vacation scheme and/or pupillage) will be added to your personal calendar. MyCalendar also keeps track of events you plan to attend, added to MyLCN by you via the Diary, such as law fairs and firm presentations. What's more, you will receive a weekly email to remind you which events and deadlines are coming up.
  • MyJobs: LCN's Jobs section features ads from firms and organisations around the country looking to hire, among others, trainees, paralegals, legal assistants and caseworkers. Some organisations post short-term work experience (both paid and unpaid) and volunteer positions. It is likely that some of these may appeal to you and, as such, you can save those that you're interested in or have applied for direct to MyJobs, so that you can make notes and keep track of any deadlines.
  • MyLocker: MyLCN is integrated with the application forms of around 80 leading firms which use the AllHires online application system. You can save all the stuff that you find yourself writing out over and over again (eg, exam results or course modules) to your MyLocker account beforehand. When you apply to a participating firm, you can quickly and easily transfer this information to the form and devote the bulk of your application time to the important business of telling the employer who you really are.

MyLCN is an easy and reliable way of storing information and keeping on top of your progression towards a legal career. If you're not a member already, sign up here.

Know your CV’s strengths and weaknesses

MySelf, LCN’s useful (and free) online tool, is designed to give you a way of systematically analysing and recording your activities and achievements to present to employers in an application form or CV.

If there is one piece of analysis that can be described as essential to success in establishing a career in law, it is analysis of yourself. You are the commodity that you are putting in front of recruiters and asking them to buy into. If you do not know exactly what you are selling and what you have to offer, your strengths and weaknesses and how they will be of use to the 'buyer', then you are unlikely to prevail.

To use MySelf, log in to your free MyLCN account and click on MySelf. First, you need to take each individual experience - be it academic (eg, degree, thesis or special project), extracurricular (eg, societies, trips or charity initiatives) or work experience (eg, vacation scheme, bar work, office experience or retail)  – and think in depth about what you did, what skills or competencies you had to demonstrate and what you learnt. You must then record which of these will be of interest to employers. With this systematic approach, you will (i) gain a much better understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, and (ii) have all that you have done written down and ready to blend together into the perfect application.

Most importantly, you should complete your MySelf analysis BEFORE you start making applications. Your careers adviser will be overjoyed if, when you book a session, you have already started looking at your selling points. The adviser can then ensure you are on the right track.

Law fairs, work placement schemes and mini-pupillages

Law fairs will take place across the country this autumn, most of them before Christmas. Universities will open their doors to trainees, recruiters and partners, who will in turn advise students and graduates about how to get on the ladder and answer questions about their organisations. In addition to the fairs, firms will also be showing up on campus to give individual presentations. Law fairs are also a great way to start learning more about firms and what differentiates them - and identifying those which might be good fit for you. Firms’ working cultures differ considerably, so this area of your research is important.

At these events, recruiters will be taking a good look at the available talent, largely because firms place ever more emphasis on summer work placement schemes, the deadlines for which come in January and February. Many firms hold them at Christmas and Easter too.

Securing a place on a work placement scheme can sometimes be more competitive than getting a training contract, so you need to start thinking about them now and, if you get a place, celebrate it as an indication that you could also get a training contract on the back of it. And if you think you're fit for the Bar, mini-pupillages are practically the only way to be seriously considered by chambers.

Details of the fairs and presentations can be found in the Diary, on the designated Law Fairs page and in a feature due to be published in a couple of weeks' time - keep your eyes peeled!

Researching your future legal career

There's nothing like a hefty research project to stimulate the mind. That's what you are about to embark upon. Getting a career in law starts with painstaking, solid research. Identify the criteria that are important to you (eg, size, location or practice areas) and find firms/chambers that match. Never underestimate how pleased recruiters at law fairs are when they meet a well-briefed candidate. LCN should certainly be your first port of call. After all, it is the most comprehensive online guide to training contracts and pupillages - and you're already here! Specific sections you might like to consult include News and Commercial Question.

Make sure you also pick up a copy of The Training Contract & Pupillage Handbook, published in October and available free from your law faculty or careers service. Then there are the websites of the firms/chambers themselves. Usually their websites are an excellent source of information about deals, cases and personalities, and they'll give you an impression of what the firm/chambers is like. Recruiters spend a lot of time disseminating information, so use it. You're more likely to get a job if you do.

Get help from your careers service and the experienced pros on LCN

You are not alone! Although you're competing for a job and have to do a lot of solitary research, there's actually a huge support group surrounding you. Deserting your university careers service is a big mistake - you will miss out on a wealth of advice. Its advisers will give you a candid assessment of your career prospects and how to enhance them. Lecturers can also give you input on your ideas. And don’t forget LCN. Check out the many lawyers profiled in our Meet the Lawyer section and think about what they did that you haven't yet done. And of course, you can email our friendly Oracle to ask for advice.

Begin now and you really do give yourself the best chance. The closer you are to the starting line, the more chance you have of seizing the early opportunities. Do your homework, reflect on where you're at, and then get stuck in by meeting recruiters and applying for work placement schemes or mini-pupillages. Good luck!

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