So you have just started your non-law undergraduate study, or maybe have just come to the end of a gruelling three years, and something has dawned on you – you want to become a lawyer. You may think that you have missed your opportunity, but fear not, your career goal is still attainable.
It is by no means an easy venture, and be prepared, you are about to entire one of the most competitive job markets around so you need to know what you are getting yourself into. From the practicalities of the course, to getting you ahead of the competition, this article should provide you with an introduction to the next steps you need to take.
It is worth a reminder that the route to become a lawyer as a non-law graduate is scheduled to change in the coming years. The Solicitors Regulation Authority has revealed plans to introduce a new ‘super-exam’ which is set to be introduced by 2020 at the earliest. Whilst this is looming in the not too distant future, this article will focus on the traditional route (completing the GDL and then the LPC).
This is not only because the SRA are yet to provide a concrete initial start date, but also because the transition will be phased meaning anyone part way through their degree in 2020 (the proposed introduction year) will be offered the traditional route. So if you are at the beginning of your degree you need not worry about the very daunting sounding ‘super-exam’.
So what do you need to be worried about? Well firstly, the cost. Currently, student finance do not offer funding for the GDL, so you will need to find some way of funding it yourself. There are numerous ways of meeting this demand; scholarships are available but they are few and far between (not to mention competitive).
You can also attempt to secure sponsorship through a training contract, but unsurprisingly, they are also competitive, and if those options fail there is always the option of working part-time or taking out a bank loan. The cost of the course is definitely something which needs to be factored into your decision as it may have an impact on where you choose to study and whether you complete the course full or part time.
A theme that runs through conversations about the legal profession is how competitive the job market is. To succeed you therefore need to set yourself apart because you will not just be competing against your fellow GDL graduates, you also face competition from all straight law students, who will have been preparing for years.
It is therefore important you gain some experience in the field, even if it is not your chosen speciality. Do not be shy to apply to firms and chambers just because you do not have a law degree, simply tailor your application to promote the appropriate skills you have gained from your degree – there will definitely be something trust me!
If you are still at university and are considering a progression into law ensure you get involved in the law society and see if there is any pro-bono work you can volunteer with. This will show whoever you are applying to that your decision has not been quick but has been something you have been considering for some time. Even if it is something that has been fairly last minute I am sure there is something you have done at University that can be adapted to an application.
One last thing. Remember that your progression into law is not hampered by completing a non-law degree, it has arguably been enhanced. You will have developed skills throughout your degree which law students may not have. Focus on these skills and how they will make you a successful solicitor or barrister.
Best of luck with your applications!