Step 1: Understanding the legal market

This Step provides an overview of the legal profession, looking at the different areas of practice, what solicitors and barristers do and what type of lawyer you want to be.

Step 1 Resource book

Our resource book contains comprehensive advice and guidance to help you understand the legal market and your potential place in it.

Step 1 Weblinks

Below is a list of key websites which will help you understand the legal market

  • The Bar Council:
    Website of the Bar Council, the Bar’s representative body the representative body of the Bar.
  • The Bar Standards Board:
    The Bar Standards Board – the Bar’s regulatory body which also oversees training, qualification and entry to the profession
  • Barristers Association for Local Government and Public Service: 
    Association website providing information for barristers working in local government and those interested in this sector
  • Chambers and Partners:
    The Chambers and Partners website allows online access to a range of publications including the Chambers UK client guide and Chambers Student Guide
  • Counsel Magazine: 
    Counsel is the monthly Journal of the Bar of England and Wales
  • Crown Prosecution Service: 
    The website for the Crown Prosecution Service
  • Government Legal Service: 
    The website for the GLS: the central recruitment site for trainee solicitors and pupils into government departments
  • The Lawyer: 
    The lawyer is one of the main weekly legal magazines. The online site is free and also provides a daily email alert
  • The Law Society:
    The representative body for the solicitors’ profession. This site contains links to various membership group, information about practice areas and legal developments. This site also houses the Find a Solicitor database
  • LawCareers.Net: 
    An extremely comprehensive resource for prospective lawyers, containing a wealth of advice, guidance and news (you can sign up for a regular newsletter). It also contains details of courses and information on law firms, chambers, vacancies and much more.
  • Lawyer2B:
    News and information aimed at students planning a career in the Law (sister site of the Lawyer)
  • Legal 500: 
    The business-to-business guide for solicitors and barristers, covering the leading firms and organised regionally for the UK and overseas
  • Solicitors in Local Government: 
    Information for lawyers and those interested in a legal career within local government
  • The Solicitors Regulation Authority: 
    The Solicitors Regulation Authority is the regulatory body for the solicitor profession responsible for legal training
  • The Training Contract & Pupillage Handbook:
    A comprehensive resource of over 1,000 firms offering training contracts; and details of chambers offering pupillages. Available to order online, or free from most University Careers Services.


Step 1 Workshop

If you are thinking of pursuing a career in the legal profession, you need to understand the legal market. Watch our online workshop for a thorough overview of this Step.

You can also read the transcript here.

Step 1 Activities

Not sure whether you want to be a barrister or a solicitor? Answer the questions in our quiz to see if this helps you work out where you want to go.

Download our quiz here

Step 1 FAQs

Understanding the legal market

I’m about to start the LPC and I don’t know what sector of the legal profession I want to go into: will that matter?

Where are most of the training contract opportunities to be found?

Where can I find information on the number of pupillages available?

I’m interested in the Bar, but the terminology is pretty difficult!

How do I find out what’s going on in the market for trainee solicitors and barristers?

Q. I’m about to start the LPC and I don’t know what sector of the legal profession I want to go into: will that matter?

A. No: many students join The University of Law with no particular sector or practice area yet in mind.

However, if you think you may want to apply to large, corporate/commercial, City and regional firms you should be aware that they recruit 2 years ahead, with deadlines usually in July. If you think it’s possible that you might be interested in this kind of firm, we advise you to make applications in order not to miss the boat and have to wait another year to apply: often the very process of making the applications (researching the firms, considering the types of clients, skills sets required and so on) focuses your mind and helps you decide whether or not this is the area for you.

The reason we encourage you to decide on the type of firms you’re interested in as soon as possible is so that you can build up your CV in areas that are most likely to impress your future employer, thereby giving you the greatest chance of success.

These early decisions are difficult: it is why we have devoted the first 5 steps of the Step programme to them. Start by working through the steps and see if you can begin to build a focus: the kind of client you want to work with, size or location of the sort of firm you’d like to work in, what sort of things motivate you? If you come to The University of Law (or indeed if you go to another provider), careers professionals will be able to help you to fine tune your thinking.

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 Q. Where are most of the training contract opportunities to be found?

 A. Around a quarter of all training contracts are with the big City firms in London; and over half of all vacancies are concentrated in London and the South East.

 Most training contract opportunities (over 90%) are to be found in private practice (ie law firms)

 Have a look at The Training Contract & Pupillage Handbook (, and the student guides such as which give you a breakdown of the training contract market each year.

Further statistical information is available from the Law Society (

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Q. Where can I find information on the number of pupillages available?

A. Look at the Bar Standards Board website for latest statistics and further information.

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Q. I’m interested in the Bar, but the terminology is pretty difficult!

A. Yes, there are certain terms you’ll need to get to grips with.  

The main terms for now however are probably ‘BPTC’ (the Bar Professional Training Course), and ‘pupillage’ (the period of work based experience you need after your course, before you can be a practising barrister).

Pupillages are broken down into a ‘first six’ and a ‘second six’. In the first six (ie the first 6 months of your pupillage) you are ‘non-practising’ and will assist your pupil supervisor; it is not until the second six that you are let loose on your own cases (under supervision) and can accept instructions with the approval of your supervisor or head of chambers.

After completing the first and second six and qualifying, it is possible to undertake a third six: sometimes barristers continue working at the same chambers while they wait for a tenancy opportunity to arise or they may switch to another set for a third six, in order to gain experience of a new area of law.

There are a whole host of other terms associated with the Bar: for instance, ‘squatters’ is the name given to those who work from a set of chambers (usually the one in which they did their pupillage), taking on work from the clerks, even though they are not a member of chambers. Squatters are responsible for themselves and are not supervised as, for instance, a pupil undertaking a third six would be. Squatting usually occurs when a barrister is waiting for, or trying to secure, tenancy.

Another term is ‘deviling’ which means doing paperwork for other members of chambers to use as their own.

Look at the Bar Standards Board website mentioned above for further enlightenment!

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Q. How do I find out what’s going on in the market for trainee solicitors and barristers?

A. As a first port of call, if you haven’t already done so, join our ‘Future Lawyers Network,’ which aims to keep all those interested in entering the profession up to date with news, webinars, updates and so on.

Look at the Weblinks for Step 1 for a range of useful websites and links to the legal press, for example, Lawyer2B at is a very useful publication aimed at the student market.

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Step 1 In brief

Want to get a simple overview of this topic? Our ‘in brief’ summary highlights the key things you should know and what you should be considering at this stage in your career.

Practice areas

Information on different areas of the law: what it covers, what it's like in practice, current issues, and further information.

Case studies

University staff pass on their experience of what it's like to work as a lawyer in practice.