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legal careers guide

3. Planning your legal career

With long recruitment cycles and significant competition for graduate roles, planning is essential to career success.

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Three things to think about when career planning

To qualify as a lawyer, you will spend around eight years in education and training after GCSEs, it is therefore essential to plan your route through those years.

You will need to organise your time around education, experience and recruitment in order to maximise your chances of success.

1. Legal education needed

You need to make considered decisions at every stage, from choosing A-levels (or equivalents) to deciding on your law school - so you need to find time to gather the information you need. As education becomes increasingly costly, you should consider different ways to fund your studies.

2. Legal experience needed

Think about the other opportunities you have for gaining experience (extracurricular activities) and when that experience needs to be completed to go on your CV, so that you can use it to your advantage in the recruitment process.

3. Recruitment lead time

Law has a much longer lead time (the time between when you have to make an application and when you start work) than many other graduate careers.

The larger law firms and chambers can begin recruiting almost three years before you plan to start work. Applications for work experience must be made even earlier, so planning ahead in this case is really important.

The following timeline is an example of a typical route for a full-time student who wants to become a solicitor – your timetable may differ depending on the route you take and what your career plans are.

A-Levels (2 years)

  • Apply for university in final year (January deadline for most universities)
  • Try to secure work experience and, if possible, arrange legal experience

Degree (3 years)

Qualifying law degree – Apply for LPC in autumn term of final year of university.

  • Take part in law related activities, pro bono, commercial awareness activities and obtain positions of trust or responsibility.
  • Get some vacation/ work placements and experience – either law-related or experience that’s transferrable.
  • Deadlines for applying to training contracts at City firms can be as early as January (penultimate year for law students and the final year for non-law students).

LPC (1 year)

  • Take part in pro bono, mentoring, commercial awareness, mooting and negotiation experiences
  • Obtain vacation/ work placements and experience
  • Continue to apply for training contracts.

Training Contract (2 years)

  • Do the Professional Skills Course (PSC) during your training contract
  • Take part in pro bono

How to plan for your legal career

Download and fill out our action planning checklists to see what you have done to plan for your legal career and what you still need to do.

Action planning for solicitors

Action planning for barristers

Frequently Asked Questions

It is possible to combine your training contract with studying the LPC. See the SRA’s website for the latest information.

Yes – it is possible, but obviously it will depend on the firm.

Many students start the LPC without having a training contract lined up. A number of students secure training contracts within the first few months of the academic year as large firms interview in September and October. Others secure training during their course or within a few months of leaving the University.

Certain types of organisations may only recruit a few months before the training contract is due to start. Some students initially secure paralegal work or similar as an immediate next step after the LPC.

Not necessarily, all decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. Factors that will be taken into account include the seriousness of the matter, how long ago it happened and the nature of the offence.

The SRA and the Inns will be particularly concerned about anything that shows financial mismanagement or calls into your question your integrity or honesty. You should talk to your Inn (for aspiring barristers) or the SRA (for aspiring solicitors) as soon as possible.

Next step: 4

Go to step 4 in the Student Employability Programme.

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