Find out just how important work experience is and how to maximise your chances of securing a training contract…

If you are graduating with a law degree accredited by the Solicitors Regulation Authority you need to do the Legal Practice Course (LPC) before embarking on a two-year, full-time training contract. During your training contract, you will undertake the Professional Skills Course. Once this is all successfully completed you will be a qualified solicitor.

To become a barrister, if you studied law at undergraduate level you need to complete the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). From here you need to do a pupillage before getting a tenancy in chambers or working as an employed barrister.

If you studied a different subject at undergraduate level you will have to complete the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) before following the same path as those with a law degree.

Although entry is possible with any degree subject, specific subjects can be useful for certain areas of law, such as science, technical or maths based subjects to work in patents.

It's important to note that there are different training routes and entry requirements for those in Scotland and Northern Ireland. Find out more at The Law Society of Scotland - Education and careers and The Law Society of Northern Ireland - Becoming a solicitor.

You do not need a degree to train as a legal executive but having one can make you exempt from some Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) professional qualifications. It is possible to train as a solicitor after qualifying as a legal executive but this is a long route.

The government has created new higher legal apprenticeships and has approved standards for a new apprenticeship route to the legal profession in a move that could pave the way for solicitor apprenticeships. When questioned by Skills for Justice, 83% of law firms said that they are considering offering apprenticeships and some already do.

For information on entry requirements and training for a range of careers in law, see job profiles.

What skills do employers want?

Graduate employers in the law sector generally require candidates with:

  • commercial awareness;
  • customer service skills;
  • good communication skills (written and oral);
  • personal integrity and an ethical approach;
  • problem-solving skills.

Where can I get work experience?

There are a number of ways to gain worthwhile experience:

  • Vacation placements last between one and three weeks. They usually take place in the winter and summer of law undergraduates' penultimate year or the final year for non-law students.
  • Pro bono work gives law students real-life experience and often takes place at law schools, some of which are now opening their own law clinics.
  • Mini-pupillages last between two days and one week; they involve reading papers, discussing cases, court visits and the opportunity to sit in on client meetings.
  • Visits to chambers/firms, work shadowing and observation are all great ways to gain experience and require less of a time commitment.
  • Volunteering to 'clerk' for small firms of solicitors (recording what happens in their court cases) and court marshalling (sitting with a judge for a few days), which provides another view of judicial processes.

While at university you should take the opportunity to be involved in debating and mooting competitions or to play a role in a student law society. You could also join the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD), which gives you access to a number of networking events.

To find work placements and internships in the law sector, search for vacation placements.

How do I find a graduate job in law?

Most law firms will advertise training contract vacancies on their own websites, so it's worthwhile making a list of firms that you'd like to apply to and keeping an eye on their websites. Most law firms will advertise training contracts vacancies on their own websites, so it’s worthwhile making a list of firms that you’d like to apply to and keeping an eye on their websites.

You should apply two years before you want to start your training contract and applications usually open in May. As competition for training contracts is tough, you should consider initially applying to vacation schemes as some firms use this as the first stage of recruitment. You will usually need a 2:1 minimum and good A-level grades. Law firms are now also looking at first and second year degree results in the subjects you are taking.

Some larger law firms may pay course fees and offer a maintenance grant to enable students to complete the LPC. In some cases law firms will sponsor non-law students to do a GDL and the LPC. It pays to make contact with law firms you’re interested in as early as possible to establish what they offer.

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) offers pupillages and training contracts through its Legal Trainee Scheme (LTS). You need a 2:1 in any degree subject and to have completed the GDL if your undergraduate degree wasn't in law.

Attending legal graduate recruitment fairs gives you the chance to meet representatives from firms face-to-face, find out more about what they're looking for, and ask any questions. To find an event near you, search careers fairs, open days and workshops.

To find jobs in this sector, search for law training contracts and graduate jobs in the law profession.