Louise Sethi: 'Many students thinking of a law career will need a flexible attitude and a plan b'

Careers consultant, MLP, careers and employability division, The University of Manchester

A History student has just booked a careers appointment to find out how to become a lawyer. They haven't got around to reading anything yet, but like the idea of being a solicitor. Many a successful career has been built on flimsier foundations. However, to stand a chance, this student, like any other thinking of entering the law professions, needs to do their research and honestly appraise whether they have the ability and tenacity needed for the road ahead.

Law careers are popular with law and non-law students alike because they offer status, potentially high earnings and a chance to do something intellectually challenging, often for the greater good. The programme of career talks universities put on give a chance to learn about commercial and non-commercial law and the life of a solicitor or barrister. These are complemented by regional law fairs where exhibitors give detailed information about recruitment. Also helpful are court visits and open days, arranged by larger law firms, allowing a glimpse at the working environment.

Those who don't seek information could come unstuck. Entry is competitive and the routes to becoming a solicitor or barrister have strict timelines. The solicitor's pathway includes deadlines for the legal practice course (LPC), vacation schemes and two-year training contracts. Aspiring barristers need to meet deadlines for the bar professional training course (BPTC), mini-pupillages and pupillages with barristers' chambers. However, because the Bar is very small, most will take the solicitor route. Non-law students and graduates also need to apply for a law conversion course – the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL).

The cost of training can be in excess of £8,000 for a GDL, £12,000 for an LPC and £14,000 for a BPTC. A small number on the LPC will be sponsored by corporate law firms who usually recruit for their training contracts two years in advance of the starting date. Those they select are among the highest achievers who have displayed commercial awareness and a well-informed enthusiasm for the profession. Funding from an Inn of Court is one of the main sources of help available for the BPTC. However, most students on both courses are self-funded and, as the number of training places is limited, some may need to keep up the search for training contracts and pupillages even after they have completed their course. The current economic climate only adds to the pressure.

Many thinking of a law career will need a flexible attitude and a plan B. For those who have completed the LPC/BPTC, but have yet to secure a training contract or pupillage, paralegal work can be a good way to build relevant experience while continuing the search. Otherwise any work experience, even outside a legal setting, will complement a CV. Due to the small number of pupillages and tenancies with chambers, those seeking to become a barrister may find their pathway to the Bar is blocked. Some will decide to "cross qualify" and make the transition from barrister to solicitor where the role of Solicitor Advocate provides an opportunity to represent clients in the higher courts of England and Wales.

Becoming a legal executive is an increasingly popular option, particularly as holding an LPC or BPTC qualification gives exemption from the ILEX academic qualifications. Others consider working in related occupations, such as the police, or as a company secretary, where they can capitalise on their training. Skills also transfer well to positions within both the commercial and public sectors. For information on all this, go to www.lawcareers.net.

For a student just thinking about a career in law, the amount they need to know may seem overwhelming. If so, they should ask themselves if they are suited to a profession where distilling large amounts of complex information is a routine demand. If still keen, they should take a look at student activities on campus to get off to a good start – for example, a student law society, mooting or debating clubs and relevant voluntary work. And, like the history student, if they are eager to know more and grab opportunities to build useful experience, they stand a much better chance of success.

The Law Fair on 29 October in Manchester will have more than 100 exhibitors from City, national and local law firms, representatives from the Bar, legal course providers and professional bodies. See www.manchester.ac.uk/careers/lawfair

Suggested Topics
News
A scene from the video shows students mock rioting
newsSchool leaver's pic YouTube video features staging of a playground gun massacre
Travel
travel
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
Life and Style
The director of Wall-E Andrew Stanton with Angus MacLane's Lego model
gadgetsDesign made in Pixar animator’s spare time could get retail release
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

KS1 Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Randstad Education Ltd are seeking KS...

C# R&D .NET Developer (Algorithms, WCF, WPF, Agile, ASP.NET)

£45000 - £65000 per annum: Harrington Starr: C# R&D .NET Developer (Algori...

Year 3 Teacher needed- Worthing!

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: Look no further; this is the ...

Primary NQT Teachers

£95 - £105 per day: Randstad Education Crawley: Opportunities for NQTs for the...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star