This Step looks at what it takes to be a lawyer, what recruiters are looking for and the type of experience and skills you’ll need to work in the profession. The legal profession is competitive and securing a training position or pupillage can be challenging. However, everyone can take steps to improve their employability.
What do recruiters look for?
Strong Academic Ability
Law is an academically challenging profession and employers want to know that you will be able to handle the work. Your most recent grades will carry the most weight when applying for vacation placements or training contracts early on in your degree. However GCSEs, A Levels, academic awards and first year university grades will all count.
Many larger recruiters look for a minimum of a 2:1 degree classification.
It is possible to achieve a career in law with a 2:2, particularly if you want to practise as a solicitor where there are more opportunities than at the Bar. You will need to target your applications carefully and be flexible about your career path. You will also need to make sure that the rest of your application is made stronger. You can do this by having relevant work experience, good previous and/or subsequent academic results and knowledge of a firm’s clients from previous experience.
Work Experience (both legal and non-legal)
Work experience is essential in order to gain an insight into the legal profession. Obtaining work experience is important as it tells a prospective employer that you are committed to a career in law and that you are a person they should seriously consider.
Legal work experience
If you are interested in the larger firms or becoming a barrister, we strongly advise you to apply for vacation schemes or mini-pupillages, respectively. Many firms are prepared to offer informal work experience or shadowing opportunities if you ask them.
Non-legal work experience
Other experience opportunities include voluntary work, pro bono work, firm open days and observing court proceedings from the public gallery.
Our form allows you to identify evidence from your own experience that shows you have the skills needed to be a lawyer. This allows you to assess how strong your abilities are and identify actions you need to undertake to enhance these before making applications.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are mature students disadvantaged?
We have many mature students studying with us and depending on what you have done before your change to law, you can even be better placed than your younger counterparts when it comes to obtaining a training contract or pupillage. If you’ve worked in a relevant related sector (you’ve worked in insurance and you’re seeking to go into insurance litigation) you may have relevant experience and possibly contacts, which are likely to be of interest for recruiters with specialisms in your area of expertise.
Can you get a training contract with a 2:2?
Some candidates with a 2:2 may have mitigating circumstances which a firm may take into account or they may be an outstanding candidate in all other respects (their previous academic record, postgraduate qualifications, experience in a highly relevant industry sector of interest to a firm).
However having a 2:2 may restrict the type of firms you can apply to – many big City firms require a 2:1 as well as As and Bs at A-Level. You may need to be more flexible and determined to achieve your goal and you should try to improve your CV with, for example, relevant work experience.
I'm applying for training contracts. How much will my first/second year count?
It will depend on the type of firm you are applying to. If you’re targeting large City firms, they want to see consistently strong academics and will therefore look closely at your first, second and third year results, but not all firms will look in that much detail.
What do legal employers look for?
The requirements vary, but academic results are often first in many employers’ minds. They also look for commercial awareness and transferable skills such as communication and problem solving skills, as well as evidence of a commitment to a career in law which can be demonstrated by work experience. A number of employers we have links with have stressed their interest in seeing something on a CV that sets a candidate apart from the rest.