I suspect this is a subject to which I shall return on many occasions over the coming years, for obvious reasons: What am I going to do after the degree?
I should make it clear, I’m in the first year of a five or six year course.* I know it’s early to be thinking about this, but is it too early? Well, no. It’s well documented that the legal profession is already a hard place to gain a foothold. Every year, more students finish their LPC or BPTC** and start applying for training contracts and pupillages (anyone reading this who isn’t in the legal field would probably benefit from reading the footnote to that one). There are far more applicants than there are training contracts or pupillages, and the ones who are unsuccessful one year will be applying again the next. The applicants mount up. Add to that the incoming cuts in legal aid, and it’s a tough world.
None of this means it’s impossible. I’m thinking about what I want to do for two reasons:
Firstly, in the second year of a Law degree (so third and fourth years for me), a student has to pick modules. These need to be chosen pretty carefully. If I decide to go into telecoms law, and haven’t done the relevant modules, I’m going to look pretty stupid in the interview, if I even get that far. Chances are I won’t, because why would I be interviewed ahead of the dozens of applicants who did do the relevant modules?
Secondly, and possibly more importantly, work experience. Well, we don’t call it that. If you’re doing it with a barrister’s chambers, it’s a mini-pupillage. If you’re doing it with a solicitor’s firm, it’s often referred to as a vacation scheme. While this might sound like that week you spent doing the photocopying during your GCSE years, it can be incredibly useful. You get involved, read case papers, see law at work. The only similarity with that work experience you did at school is that it might help you decide what you want.
These work experience schemes are more important than that though. Having done one or two in the relevant area strongly helps your application. It shows that you’ve looked at this specialisation, have put the work in to research it, and have still decided it’s what you want. It shows that you’re not just firing applications off to anyone who might give you a training contract.
Legal Bizzle recently wrote a series of posts explaining this sort of thing from the recruiter’s point of view. Consider that for one in house position, he received nearly 80 applications. He has to whittle that down to a handful for the purposes of interview. He’s not going to give it to the applicant who has a bit of experience in criminal law, and is trying to pretend that’s relevant to his need for someone with a strong background in contracts. Bizzle tells me that application was for a paralegal role, but the principle remains the same.
So yes, I’m already thinking about what I want to do after I’ve completed the LLB. I can’t say I’m getting that far in deciding what I want, but that’s for another day.
*It’s six years, but there is the option to do the last two years in one. I don’t think it’s an option I’ll take up, but who knows?
** Legal Practice Course or Bar Professional Training Course. The LPC is the vocational course for a Law graduate wishing to become a solicitor, and the BPTC is the equivalent for barristers. Once the student has passed the relevant course, they have to complete the vocational part of their training. A prospective solicitor obtains a training contract, while the barrister needs to obtain a pupillage. Their training isn’t complete until they’ve done this part and until it’s done, they don’t get to say “I’m a solicitor/barrister”.