Training contract application advice for non-law students

Dear Oracle

I'm just finishing my final year of a non-law degree and have yet to take the GDL – will recruiters take into consideration that someone like me will not have a textbook understanding of the law, and 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 applying for training contracts - 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 takes 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 LPC. Some firms run separate assessment days and interviews specifically for non-law applicants and these will of course not be exactly the same as those for law students and graduates. It is therefore 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 will also be important, but this does not mean that you need to 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 are able to 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.

Ultimately, the application process presents the same challenges to you as it does for a law graduate – you need to 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 disadvantage at this stage, as recruiters are looking for candidates with potential and good key skills, such as academic aptitude, communication and team work. Know your key strengths, show off your transferable skills and explain why you are pursuing this career. Good luck!

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

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