The Careers Adviser

How far ahead do you apply for a job in the law? And is it difficult to get work in the US?
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The Independent Online

Legal niceties

Q. My daughter is finishing her first year of a law degree course and wants to study to be a solicitor. She is concerned about the amount of competition she may face for training contracts. How far ahead can she realistically apply for these?

A. The law is probably the only career where you might need to think two years ahead, rather than one, when applying for jobs and training - in most jobs, a year ahead will do. It does depend on what size and type of firm your daughter wants to go into. Larger firms and some medium-size ones need applications two years ahead. With other medium-size firms and smaller practices, you might be able to wait until the last few months of the legal practice course that your daughter will need to take after her degree. There is, therefore, early pressure on law students to make decisions.

Your daughter should use her second year to get some work experience, using www.solicitors-online.com (which gives the geographical location and specialisation of companies) to draw up a hit list. It's worth sending a CV and covering letter to two companies asking for work or shadow experience for even a couple of days. She can also apply for more formal structured vacation placements in bigger companies - she should do this by the end of January or just after, in time for Easter or the summer.

It is essential to get some legal work experience under your belt. Her university careers service should be able to let her have a copy of the Training Contract and Pupillage Handbook (Global Publishing), which lists firms offering contracts and, handily, placements.

For those who do miss the two-year deadline, it is just possible to check if some firms are still looking for recruits at a late stage, through individual websites or www.lawcareers.net. A good site that explains things simply and informally is www.lcan.org.uk.

Summer in the States

Q. I'd like to think about working in America next year. Is it more difficult to get jobs there after September 11?

A. It shouldn't be a problem getting a job in the US, but since September 11 2001 you do need to make sure you leave enough time to negotiate the process of getting the right visa for a work or exchange trip. Work and travel organisation Bunac ( www.bunac.org.uk) says getting a job is easy and it is still sending a steady stream of people.

To qualify for a summer work programme you have to be returning to university after your stint abroad. And you have to apply in person to the US embassy in London; with the introduction of biometrics in visas last year, an interview and biometric "enrolment" at the embassy has become necessary for most applications. The embassy gives advice on processing time on www.usembassy.org.uk, although it says it makes special arrangements to ensure summer work travel visas are issued on time.

It can be useful to use an agency (probably the company organising your trip) to save hassle. Fees might include a basic cost, plus possible add-ons such as processing paperwork or insurance. Check out the Association for International Practical Training ( www.aipt.org, a US-based association, and a sound source of advice and information) and IST Plus ( www.istplus.com). The Work and Travel Company ( www.worktravelcompany.co.uk) offers work for students, graduates and young professionals.

Careers advisers: Liz Rhodes, director, National Council for Work Experience; Phil Murray, gap advice.org; Jennifer Connell, careers adviser, University of Liverpool

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Second Floor, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020 7005 2143; or e-mail chaydon@blueyonder.co.uk

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