When I first researched a career in the law, I naturally assumed that training contracts were reserved for law students. I was therefore surprised to discover law firms proclaiming that non-law students are as desirable and have equal potential as their law counterparts. Yet, the facts support this: approximately half of all training contract places are offered to non-law students. But how can students of other disciplines demonstrate their passion and aptitude to pursue a law career? This article will draw upon my personal experiences to suggest ways that non-law students can market themselves to law firms.
Employers value the fresh perspective of a student provided by a non-law background. Therefore, it is important to be able to narrativise the skills gained during your degree and relate these to why you have chosen a career in the law. For example, I am a final year American Studies student who receives six hours of teaching per week. Therefore, my degree involves self-managed learning and the ability to work with different modes of study across history, literature, politics and culture. The interdisciplinary element of my course allows me to see issues from a variety of angles and requires research, analysis and argumentative skills. Moreover, my degree involved a year abroad in San Francisco where I demonstrated my adaptability to a new culture and educational system. Employers value these types of skills, thus it is your task to relate them to why you have chosen a career in the law. Try and be specific and avoid clichés.
With regards to work experience, be resourceful. Use contacts within the law industry to help you, such as extended family or friends. Consider sending them a letter and following up with a phone call. Unless you are a direct contact, it is best to avoid e-mailing speculatively. At least, they will be able to refer you to someone in a similar situation who can provide advice, or at best they can offer informal work experience. Even if this involves shadowing, shredding or bundling files and making hot beverages, this is a platform for networking. Establish contacts, seek work from other staff members, and commit yourself to every task. Even if you have your heart set on a City firm, consider work experience in a local high street firm. Experience in a wide range of legal settings will not only help tailor your aspirations, but also demonstrate to employers that you have considered your options. It is never too late, so open the phonebook and start dialling!
If you don’t have any contacts, think outside of the box. Go to your university careers service and ask law professors whether they are aware of any opportunities that you could be involved with. Ask to be placed on e-mail lists that advertise law-related events, as well as the law portal (if applicable). Attend open days and the law fair at your university and connect with the people you meet on LinkedIn. Contact local pro bono organisations that do not require a law degree as a prerequisite, such as the Citizens Advice Bureau. All of these examples demonstrate a commitment to a career in the law. However minor the opportunity, make the most of it. It is unlikely that you will reach your goal immediately, so treat any experience as a process of evolution towards it.
However, what if you are unsuccessful with securing legally related experience? If this is the case, do not discount the relevance of non-law work. Demonstrate how your past and present jobs indicate your potential for a career in the law. Working part-time stacking shelves in Tesco during university studies may be perceived as not relevant or worthwhile mentioning on an application, however it demonstrates many qualities: commitment, resilience, aptitude, time management, organisation, and teamwork within a commercial organisation. These are all transferable skills that you can mould to a legal career. Often it will be the most trivial or outlandish experience that will grab an employer’s eye, not necessarily an exhaustive list of vacation schemes. Recruiters want to see that you are a well-rounded individual who can balance outside interests and commitments with a desire for the law. Use your non-law experience to your advantage.
Wherever you are on your journey towards a legal career, use the services of Aspiring Solicitors. There is a wealth of advertised opportunities that non-law students are eligible to apply for, and I encourage you to make the most of these. If you need help tailoring applications, Chris will take the time to read your CV, Covering Letter, and/or application and provide invaluable feedback and advice. Good luck!