Thanks for your email. I had to ask myself many similar questions when I was applying for TC’s.
I shall try to answer your questions as best as I can:
How did I justify wanting to join the legal profession?
As a non-lawyer this can be hard- why didn’t we just study law? Fortunately many firms look favourably upon non-lawyers because of the transferable skills (e.g analytical ability, attention to detail, research capabilities etc.) that we possess. Therefore a strong argument is that you studied English (in your case) to strengthen these and to help you to develop as a lawyer.
Another issue is trying to persuade the firms that you have a genuine interest in the law and that you are not merely applying because it is a well-paid, popular profession. To get around this you need to show your commitment to the law. This can be done via:
- legal work experience (both formal and informal- see below);
- non-legal work experience (if you can demonstrate a link such as obtaining useful transferable skills);
- effectively answering the application questions (the questions are there for precisely this reason! if your answers are well researched and justified you will be in a strong position);
- extras such as joining your University Law Society, going to Law Fairs, and attending law firm Open Days (these are great and relatively easy to get a place on).
How to show your commitment to commercial law?
It can be tricky to demonstrate a commitment to commercial law however it can be done in similar ways to those used to demonstrate your interest in the law (see above). You can go a long way to answering this by displaying an interest in high-end multi-jurisdictional legal work (through your well researched answers) as well as in the financial sector (through work experience, awareness of current issues, general commercial awareness etc).
Is it a disadvantage not having a VAC scheme?
Sadly sometimes it can be (firms have different views on this), but it is certainly not prohibitive. If you are fortunate enough to have got onto a VAC scheme with a firm you will be in a much better position to write about that firm in their TC application. There are a large number of people that I know who obtained TC’s but had no legal work experience. If you have strong academics (I am sure you are already aware but this year really counts so do not forsake your degree) and an interesting CV you will be in with a good chance of getting through to interview.
In the absence of formal VAC schemes you might want to look at getting informal legal experience. Turning up to your local law courts, observing cases and preparing case summaries can still be valuable and prove that you are really interested in the profession.
On a more general note you may wish to apply for VAC schemes along with applying for TC’s. This will strengthen your CV in the event that you do not manage to get a TC this year. Additionally, VAC schemes are a fantastic opportunity for you to get a further and truer insight into a firm before applying for their TC.
Sadly be prepared to get rejections, even the best applicants get them! If you keep trying and improving your applications you will ultimately get the job that you want.
Good luck with the applications.
Let me know if you have any further questions.