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Non-law students

Non-law: what you need to know

updated on 06 March 2024

Not having a law degree is no barrier to becoming a lawyer – in fact, the legal profession is full of non-law graduates, and the skills and experiences gained studying and working in other fields can be used to your advantage.

In terms of learning about the profession that you might one day join, there are several things that you should be both learning more about and actively doing.


The earlier you start your research into the legal profession and apply for work experience, the better. As soon as you’ve decided that you’re interested in a career in law, you should begin conducting thorough research into law firms and/or chambers, and the necessary postgraduate qualifications.

First, you must decide which branch of the profession appeals to you – working in a team as a solicitor or the more solitary, academic and court-based lifestyle of a barrister?

To get started, read The Beginner's Guide to a Career in Law.

Then think broadly about the kind of law that interests you – careers in commercial, family or crime practices are clearly going to be quite different, and you should research them thoroughly

However, don't set your heart on too narrow a specialism, especially at such an early stage. The advice we hear time and again from lawyers is to keep an open mind about the area of law in which you might ultimately end up qualifying, as the reality of actually working in those areas over the course of a training contract or pupillage may be very different to any preconceived ideas you might’ve formed about them.

Read LCN’s Meet the Lawyer (solicitor) interviews and Meet the Lawyer (barrister) interviews for insights and advice from those in the profession.

You’ll also need to put some thought into how best to make those training contract or pupillage applications. As long as you spend the requisite time that allows you to make a carefully considered application, you’re off to a good start.


Law is an intellectually rigorous career so academic excellence and commercial understanding are usually top of the list of key skills that recruiters are looking for.

Both written and spoken communication skills, and accuracy and attention to detail are among some of the other core skills that recruiters want to see from applicants – whether you’re applying for a vacation scheme, training contract or apprenticeship.

While a law conversion course is no longer a requirement for non-law graduates, following the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is encouraging students (law and non-law) to complete an SQE preparation course. A number of education providers have developed non-law specific SQE preparation courses that will act in a similar way to a law conversion course. In fact, some firms will require non-law graduates to take some form of law conversion – for example, The University of Law’s Postgraduate Diploma in Law – before embarking on a subsequent SQE preparation course and the exams.  

You can find out more about the SQE preparation courses on offer in LCN’s guide.

To qualify as a solicitor via the SQE, you must:

  • have a university degree or equivalent in any subject (law or non-law);
  • pass the SRA’s character and suitability assessment;
  • pass SQE1 and 2; and
  • have two years’ qualifying work experience (QWE).

For many, QWE will take the form of a traditional training contract.

Find out about the difference between training contracts and QWE in this Oracle and find the answers to your QWE questions via LCN’s SQE hub.

So, knuckle down, study hard, build up evidence of you developing the key skills that make a successful lawyer, and you’ll be one step closer to the legal career of your dreams.

Legal and non-legal work experience

It’s essential to secure as much work experience as possible. For aspiring solicitors this means applying for law firm vacation schemes, which take place in winter, spring and summer, while those wishing to join the Bar must apply for mini-pupillages, the availability and timing of which differs between chambers.

You can use LCN to see upcoming vacation scheme application deadlines and search for mini-pupillages at chambers that interest you.

Many firms and chambers run training contract and pupillage interviews at the end of each vacation scheme and mini-pupillage. They then make a sizeable proportion of their offers to those candidates who complete placements with them, so the importance of these schemes is clear.

In addition to these formal placements, it’s worth contacting local firms or chambers to ask whether they’ll let you:

  • complete a few days' informal work experience with them; or
  • shadow a solicitor or barrister for the day.

All these forms of experience are a great way to improve your CV when applying for a training contract or pupillage. They’re also valuable in helping you to decide through first-hand experience whether a career in one of these areas is really for you.

Another valuable form of work experience is voluntary pro bono work, which allows you to help your local community at the same time as boosting your CV.

Check out this list of pro bono initiatives on LCN to get you started.

We appreciate that it can be difficult for some to find the time for work experience such as this in the face of employment commitments and caring responsibilities, so this is all the more reason to present the life skills you’ve developed through non-legal experiences – such as other jobs and the activities you got involved in at university – in the best possible way when making applications.

Read ‘How aspiring lawyers can succeed with no legal work experience’ for advice on how to showcase your transferable skills and more in your applications.

Thinking about how you would take your non-legal experiences and skills (eg, background in science), and applying them as a trainee solicitor or pupil barrister, is just as important as legal work experience.

Take a look at our list of key transferable skills because these will give you an idea of what you can bring across from your undergraduate degree to your legal career.

Extracurricular activities

You should definitely join your university’s student law society as it's a great place to immerse yourself in your search for a legal career, and meet other aspiring lawyers. They run great events, including networking events, firm presentations, and information sessions, as well as the more well-known social options.

Some universities also have specific law for non-law student groups on Facebook or even WhatsApp, so keep an eye out for these as well.

One activity that you should think about getting involved in is your university’s mooting or debating society. Taking part in debating competitions is great for building up the key skills needed to be a successful lawyer – advocacy, obviously, but also team work and research.

Mooting is essential for those bound for the Bar, but it’s also a great activity for any aspiring solicitor to get involved in too.

Listen to this LCN Podcast episode on the benefits of mooting.

But again, don’t be limited by just law-related groups. When it comes to applying for training contacts or pupillage, evidence that you’re a well-rounded human being with interest beyond law is just as important for recruiters to see. Music, sport, drama – anything that you’re interested in, take the plunge, join in and show your future employers exactly what you've learnt from the experience.

Law fairs and open days

Taking place every autumn during October and November, university law fairs are a great way to introduce yourself to firms and chambers. Conduct research into the organisations attending before you go, so you can make the most of your time by having constructive conversations with those that interest you.

Don’t ask basic questions that you could find answers to on a firm’s website – aim for more interesting conversations. This will be invaluable in determining what may be for you, while it also creates a good impression with recruiters. You can even mention your conversation and who you spoke to in a later application.

Also, while you’re at a law fair, why not ask firms and chambers what opportunities they offer for non-law students?

Meanwhile, lots of law firms run open days and presentations throughout the year, and you should certainly apply for a place at two or three. These are great opportunities to network, be shown round a firm’s offices, find out how law firms work, and to ask pertinent questions.

You can learn about upcoming fairs and other events by consulting the LCN Events page.

To find out how to prepare for a networking encounter, including at a law fair, listen to this LawCareers.Net podcast episode on the benefits of networking