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Beginner's Guide

Key law career deadlines

updated on 28 January 2021

During your time at university, there are several key events and deadlines that you need to diarise or risk missing out! It’s all part of the broader need to keep ahead of the game and plan your time wisely. Here are just a few that you should be aware of.

Law fairs

Law fairs are an excellent way for you to introduce yourself to lawyers and graduate recruiters and learn more about their firms. Attendance is essential for second-year law and third-year non-law students approaching training contract application time; but listen up, first years – this is a precious opportunity to make a good first impression and learn more. They usually occur October/November.

Winter vacation schemes (at some firms only)

It’s crucial for aspiring solicitors to attend at least one vacation scheme run by a firm that they’re interested in, and the winter vac schemes are an important opportunity for third-year non law students to have contact time with firms and sound out the profession. Be mindful of the firms’ deadlines (usually late October or November) and take care over your application – these schemes can be highly competitive.

Spring & summer vacation schemes

Vacation schemes are one of the ways in which firms assess candidates and should be treated as part of the interview process – in fact, many firms now offer training contracts direct to people on the scheme. Be warm, professional and willing to get involved with everything the firm has your group doing. The major deadline for these schemes is 31 January of the year in which they will be held.

Law school open days

Law students must choose a law school at which to complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) before going on to a training contract with a law firm or pupillage with a barristers’ chambers. Non-law students will also need to complete the law conversion course, the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), at their chosen law school before the LPC or BPTC. You apply for both the LPC and GDL through the Central Applications Board. It operates a rolling system – that is, there is no deadline by which to apply – but as with most things, the earlier the better. You apply for the BPTC through the central BTPC online application system.

Firm open days

Aimed at first and second years, firm open days are a great way to experience the working environments and contrasting atmospheres at different law firms. It’s also the perfect opportunity for early networking. Often held in the winter and spring term, these can occur throughout the year.

Pupillage applications deadline

The online Pupillage Gateway is the method by which aspiring barristers in their final year of undergraduate study must apply for pupillage. Be mindful of the closing deadline (usually the beginning of February); there is no leeway when the gateway shuts. Note that not all chambers use the gateway, but their deadlines often coincide with the Gateway's.

Training contract applications deadlines

Many firms recruit their trainees two years in advance and many (although not all) use 31 July as their annual deadline for training contract applications. For law students, this often means applying in the June/July of the summer holiday after their second year. For non-law students, it means applying in the June/July before they start the GDL. However, you should note that a change to the Voluntary Code to good practice in the recruitment of trainee solicitors now permit firms to offer training contracts to students from the second year of university onwards. This means that you are now free to apply even longer in advance of starting a training contract. Nonetheless, LCN still recommends trying to secure some work experience and learn more about what is right for you before applying.