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Careers Tutor: Richard Austen-Baker
Each year our graduates demonstrate that there are excellent career opportunities open to those who have a law degree from Lancaster University . However, in the present economic climate it is particularly important that you should consider career planning at an early stage in your studies. The graduate jobs market is highly competitive and you will not "walk into a job" just because you have a good degree, all graduate employers are looking for the "X" factor which marks you out as different or better than the other applicants. It is important that you give early thought to your post university career and take the necessary steps to explore career options - if you don't someone else will and they will get the job you crave!
First Year Students
The first objective in year one is to put yourself in a position whereby you can make an informed career choice later on in your academic studies. If you wish to pursue a legal career you should apply for vacation placements (usually of 1 - 2 weeks duration - longer if you get it) with firms of solicitors or sets of barristers' chambers. This will be difficult for first years, because the London and provincial city solicitors' firms are usually only interested in second year students. You may find that it is easier to find placements with the smaller firms of solicitors, mini pupillages with sets of barristers chambers, or anything with the public legal services such as the CPS, local authority Legal Departments, law centres and the various court clerks departments at your local courts. If you don't ask you won't get anything! All of these will give you valuable experience of law and will add to your CV and the "X" factor referred to above.
Second Year LLB and Second and Third Year LLB (ELS) Students
As far as second years are concerned the above advice still stands - get what you can in the way of experience - however, if you want a career with a large city practice you must try to get placements during your Christmas, Easter and the early Summer vacations. The reason for this is that the large firms of solicitors set training contract application deadlines that are generally in late summer or early autumn and they recruit two years ahead of the commencement date of a training contract.
N.B. A postscript for the second years is to remind you that if your early second year coursework does not give you high marks it is no reason to think that you will not be good enough for the large firms. The School's degree results in recent years show that around 65 - 75% of its students graduate with a 2.1 or First. Look at the degree regulations and you will see that you do not need to attain superb marks in every single course you take, in order to obtain a good degree. There are thousands of successful practitioners who still have nightmares about compulsory courses they had to take during their second year!
Third Year LLB and Fourth Year LLB (ELS) Students
If you have made it to your final year, and done none of the above, you need to do so now before you expend serious money on the LPC or BVC!
A vacation placements will help you to decide whether you wish to pursue a career as a solicitor or a barrister and it may help to determine the type of legal practice, commercial/non commercial, you wish to follow. It may help you decide that law is not for you and that you will use your law degree as a stepping stone into another career.
The town "High Street" firms of solicitors have not generally taken up the idea of vacation placements on a formal basis. If you are interested in smaller mixed practice, family or criminal work you should apply direct to local firms of solicitors. Most Barristers' Chambers now offer mini-pupillage programmes during vacations. Full details can be obtained from the General Council of the Bar. Details of other vacation schemes are posted in the School and in the The Centre for Employability and Careers (CEEC) as they arrive. Details of practitioners can be obtained from CEEC, which is located on the ground floor of University House. One of the careers officers specialises in Law Careers, and is available for consultation. She is Heather Tomlinson , ext 92483 email: firstname.lastname@example.org. See also the various web sites below.
Not all students wish to practise law. In the recent past a growing number of students have decided to undertake post-graduate legal studies. Each year law graduates take up careers in the civil service, police, industry, business, financial services, accounting, insurance, social work, teaching, to name but a few. CEEC can provide information about all career pathways and there are several careers fairs staged by the University during the year which you must attend. The Graduate Studies tutor can provide you with information about post graduate degrees, including those available in the School.
You should regularly consult the Careers notice board in the Law School and the careers page of the School website to keep abreast of legal career activities organised by the Law School and the University. You should also read the free publications which are placed outside the Law School Office. Many of these publications provide you with details of the larger firms of Solicitors and training opportunities. The Law School is happy to give general guidance on careers, but the onus is on you to apply for placements, pupillages and training contracts.
Law Careers Timetable
Explore options - would you prefer to work as a solicitor or a barrister? Or perhaps something entirely different?
Arrange vacation work in a solicitor's firm and/or Mini pupillage in a set of barristers' chambers.
Solicitor: Year Two
Arrange vacation placement(s).
June - complete and return registration card for the Legal Practice Course (LPC) Central Applications Board (they send form late summer). Investigate sources of funding for LPC.
March - July - apply for training contracts - this is especially important if you want to train with a City firm or large commercial practice. Smaller firms may not be in a position to offer training contracts so far in advance. Research training opportunities. Interviews are held throughout the spring and summer.
Solicitor: Year Three
August - Dec - interviews for training contracts for the large firms. Return LPC application form to Central Applications Board (closing date early December - but check) and register with them.
February - apply for student membership of The Law Society (closing date end of March ).
April - check your LEA's policy for funding LPC.
May - confirm acceptance of LPC place
July - details of degree result are sent to Law Society. Apply to small firms for training contracts.
September - start LPC .
Barrister: Year Two
Consider joining an Inn of Court early to take advantage of its facilities and opportunities for learning about practice at the Bar.
July - November - consider applying to join an Inn. Scholarships for Bar Vocational Course (closing date mid-November - check)
Barrister: Year Three
Sept- November - apply for place on Bar Vocational Course (BVC) through CACH (Central Applications Clearing House). Check your LEA's policy for funding BVC.
May onwards - investigate pupillages and be ready to apply for pupillage through PACH (Pupillage Application Clearing House) as soon as your degree result is known.
August Check PACH closing date.
July - evidence of degree result is sent to Bar Council. Join an Inn before commencing BVC.
September - start BVC.
At this moment in time the Bar is not expanding because of the cutbacks in legal aid and the reform of civil procedure. This has particularly affected the junior members of the Bar. If you wish to practise as a Barrister consider your position very carefully. If you are taking advantage of mini-pupillages do not be "seduced" by the " bonhomie" of the Bar, the good time which you will enjoy in Courts and verbal promises of opportunities for training! Enquire (politely) how many pupils the chambers take on each year and how many pupils they keep on as tenants. The provincial sets of chambers are taking very few pupils and the London sets often take on more pupils than they can offer tenancies.
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