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Jobs Outside Law – Keeping Your Options Open

Just because you’ve completed significant legal education doesn’t mean it’s essential that you get a job in law. It may actually be the best thing for you to actually NOT work in law. After all, we all know that academic law, and practical law are very different things. Legal training is useful in many professions.

But a major hurdle is getting over the “I’ve put in all this effort and money – I don’t want it to go to waste” thought. I know it was for me. I thought I’d be “quitting” and making myself look like a flip flopper in front of my friends and family. Those who I’d so confidently proclaimed “I want a career in law” to previously.

However that wasn’t a helpful way of thinking. I’d got significant work experience in the legal sector, and although I did like it, I didn’t love it. Definitely not as much as I did studying law academically. I wasn’t sure I could see myself doing it for the rest of my career. If I thought that then, what would I think in 5, 10, 20 years? The problem was made worse by the fact that it was one of the worst climates for graduates in history. Although I would have been able to get a training contract with a few years more experience, I’m not sure I had the drive knowing I’d be doing it all for a career I knew I wouldn’t love, but just tolerate.

So I’m actually glad for the tough graduate climate which existed (especially) a few years ago. Otherwise I may have got a training contract relatively quickly and be in a career I knew deep down inside wasn’t for me. Although if that was the case, I’m sure I’d have tried to lie to myself a fair bit!

Right now I work for myself by running my own eCommerce business which sell guitar equipment (you can read more about this on my about.me profile). I love it. But this isn’t a blog post about how great working for yourself is. It’s more about how what I learnt during my time studying law has really helped, any maybe how I should have kept my mind open a little sooner.

The Benefits

Now it’s impossible to say that if it wasn’t for my legal education, I wouldn’t be doing what I am doing now. But I believe that it certainly gave me the confidence to start my own business. You really feel like you’ve accomplished something special when you’ve got a decent score on your LLB/GDL. You feel like if you can do that, then you can do anything. But I also found that a law degree helped me think in a certain way. It helped with my decision making processes and justifications for the actions I take. It helped me make the right decisions more often than not.

I’m sure without legal education my thinking would be based a little bit more on “feelings” or “hunches” like a detective from a 90s cop show. When picking products to sell, that’s a really bad idea! But my legal education made me justify all my choices to myself. I needed evidence and sound reasoning to back up my business based decisions.

And then there’s the more obvious stuff. The legal knowledge which law gave me such as knowledge of contracts. The ability to dissect complex information, whether it’s in the form of a new selling regulation, or just teaching yourself about shipping, customs or marketing was essential. After getting your head around an especially complex case or rule of law, this stuff seemed much easier.

Then there’s old fashioned hard work. As a GDL student the workload was brutal. So was the pressure. Again after studying law the pressure and work load in the practical world didn’t seem too bad.

Think Wider

All of that stuff wasn’t just beneficial for what I’m doing. It’s beneficial for all sorts of career, whether you’re working for yourself, as part of a big corporation, or everything in between.

So what I’m trying to say is keep your options open. Don’t think that the legal sector is your only choice; give yourself more credit than that. Also don’t feel like you must get a job in law, it’s possible that you’ll be much happier and more successful doing something else.

Especially if you’ve only done the GDL / LLB (this doesn’t apply as much if you’ve done the LPC), don’t think it must go into a legal career. Have a broader approach and think of all the possible other careers out there. The fact is the real world of law isn’t at all like the undergraduate course. Do all English students become authors? Do all History student become historians? No. It may be helpful to think as your undergraduate course as closer to these subjects than a subject like Medicine where you are heading towards a specific goal. I don’t think undergraduate Law is like Medicine at all in that respect.

I’m not going to sit here and list all the potential careers you can go into, because it’s practically anything. Actually I can’t think of a career where law wouldn’t be a massive benefit.

The Future of Studying Law

As I said, I’ve been running my eCommerce website full time for the past year or so. It has taken a lot of time and effort but now that I’ve got various systems in place and actually know what I’m doing, it’s taking up less time. So that means I can actually update this site a bit. I’m sure the information is getting a bit out of date so I’ll be revamping the articles a bit. I’ll hopefully add more articles  too.

As for this blog, it’s a bit of a problem. Because this blog was meant to be more about personal experiences in law. And because I’m not experiencing anything in the legal sector, there’s nothing for me to write about. Hopefully there is someone out there who’d like to blog about their experiences in legal education / work. If that’s you then please contact me at [email protected] There was a way to automatically set up a blog on the site but it got abused by spammers, so just ask me directly.

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Time is ticking! Get your hands on a £2,000 bursary

A post from TARGETcourses.

For many people considering a postgraduate course, how to fund it is the main cause for concern. It can even be a deterrent. It’s a case of finding funding, applying, and waiting, (potentially lots of waiting), often only to find that you have been unsuccessful and have to repeat the process.

Prospective students are tormented by questions like: where do I find postgraduate funding? Will it be enough? Am I eligible?

And even though there are lots of options available – studentships, bursaries, grants and loans, and employers may also help fund a postgraduate course for those in employment – demand continues to exceed supply.

More help is on its way.  At TARGETcourses we are giving away five £2,000 bursaries. These are open to ALL prospective students, and will help pay fees for a postgraduate course at a UK university in 2013/14.

The application process consists of three questions, to be answered in no more than a total of 1,000 words.

  • How will postgraduate study contribute to your career goals?
  • How will your postgraduate experience and qualification benefit the community, the economy or indeed any other person or group?
  • Apart from academic knowledge, what else do you expect to learn from postgraduate study?

The closing date for applications is 30 June 2013. Enter here: http://targetcourses.co.uk/bursary-competition

You Need to Show the Recruiter You Care

You need to show the recruiter that you care about their firm and you really want to work there. You want to make them feel like you want to work for them over and above every other firm, not that they are one of many firms you are applying to just to enable you to get a training contract.

Think of it being a bit like dating. People do not want to be asked out on a date solely because they are single and available. Instead they want to be asked on a date because there is something about them that the other person likes. They need to know that the other person cares.

The same goes for law firms. They do not want you to apply to them just because they are one of the many firms out there that are available (ie offering training contracts). Instead they want you to convince them that there is something about them that you particularly like and that is why you are interested in them.

As well as showing that you are interested in them, you also need to show that you have made an effort to impress them. If you display to them a lack of care and effort by having mistakes in your applications then that may well be the end of a very short relationship.

This article is an extract from the eBook “21 Secrets to Successful Applications” written by Matt Oliver of Trainee Solicitor Surgery. Get a free copy of the full eBook here.

How to Draft a Letter for Your LPC Supervising Solicitor

This article has been written by Justin from LawTeacher helping law students with their law essays since 2003.

Drafting a legal letter is not something that should be undertaken lightly, or on the spur of the moment. It is important to remember that legal documents, including letters drafted for a supervising solicitor may, in time, become part of the legal process and may even be read out in court, if the information contained within the letter is pertinent to the case. There are several factors to consider when beginning to draft a letter:

Purpose

What purpose will this letter serve? There are generally three categories into which legal letters can fall; information, guidance or request. Consider the purpose of the letter and once you pin down why the letter needs to written that will give invaluable assistance in the wording of the document.

Audience

Who will be reading the letter? The letter will need to be handled very differently depending on whether it is going to be read by a judge or other solicitors who will have a thorough understanding of legal terms and nuances, or if it is going to be pored over by a layperson with little or no legal training. The target audience of the letter must be considered so that the wording can be adjusted accordingly.

Structure

Legal letters can be read by frantically busy lawyers who have little time to read through a confusingly worded document; they may discard the letter, or put it to one side for later, which may have a negative impact on the case at hand. On the other hand, legal letters are often sent to plaintiffs or defendants, people who may be very worried by the legal bother they find themselves in, and who may not have a clear-cut understanding of legal definitions and terms. To avoid any confusion, a legal letter should follow a clear structure; an opening paragraph that summarises the details of the case, followed by a second paragraph indicating the action taken, or needing to be taken, along with any guidance that may be felt necessary to pass along. A concluding paragraph should indicate any other information and possibly repeat a call to action with a dead line or time limit. When ending a letter to a known and named person, ‘Mrs A Smith’ for example, the end salutation should be ‘Yours Sincerely’; while a letter addressed to an unknown or unnamed person, that is ‘Dear Sir or Madam’, would end with ‘Yours Faithfully.’

Tone

The tone of a letter should be dictated by the audience and the purpose of the communication. The recipient’s situation must be remembered when formulating the letter and tone adjusted accordingly. If the letter is dealing with an estate it must be remembered that there are bereaved people involved, who have lost a loved one, and a certain amount of sympathy and empathy should be employed. Likewise, if the legal situation is becoming urgent and needs to be dealt with in a very short time, the tone should reflect this state of affairs and insist on a response. A politely-worded missive risks being ignored until it is too late.

Accuracy

All legal documents must be 100 per cent accurate. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation where a defendant has walked free because of a poor quality document which enabled the defence to cast doubts on the strength of the prosecutor’s case – a nightmare scenario to be avoided at all costs! Double- and triple-check all facts included in the letter, ensure names are spelt correctly and that addresses are not only correct, but up-to-date. Use a dictionary or a spell-checker, then read through the letter minutely, looking for any mistakes that may have crept in.

Client Care

The Solicitor’s Code of Conduct 2007 emphasises that customer care is paramount in all dealing between solicitor and client and this must be adhered to strictly. Ensure that the client is given all the relevant information and be sure to include terms and conditions of the law firm including a recent, accurate price list. Clients must be informed of any potential costs they may incur, for example, if the case is lost they may be responsible for the other parties’ legal fees. Rule 1 of the Code of Conduct gives details of the Core Duties a solicitor must afford his or her customers and some part of a legal letter must include this information, or at the very least, mention the enclosures with the letter that supply this information.

In short, when drafting a letter for your LPC supervising solicitor make sure that you have all the information to hand, including the latest updates. Make sure you have no distractions while you work, and set aside enough time for a good draft to be made in one sitting. This will prevent accidental slip-ups, like vital information being left out, and will help the letter to flow in a readable and ‘user-friendly’ manner.

Studying the LPC in London

The following is a post from Kaplan Law School. On our full time London law courses we insist on small class sizes and combined with a personalised approach to legal training provide a collaborative and social learning experience to give you the best possible chance of Law exam success.

Completed your Law LLB or Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and decided to pursue a career as a solicitor? Well then the Legal Practice Course (LPC) is the next step for you.

The LPC

The LPC is more vocational based than your GDL or LLB and as a result, is more focused on providing you with the essential skills required to successfully practice as a lawyer. There are full-time, part-time and distance learning options available depending on your personal requirements.

Once you’ve decided which study option suits you best the next big decision is not just which provider to study with, but in which city. There are providers spread around the UK but we’re going to concentrate on the options available to you and the benefits of studying in London.

First up, a reality check: You should carefully consider your decision to pursue a career as a solicitor, make sure you conduct extensive research, undertake varied work experience, and seek out the opinions of others already in the profession. Studying the LPC course does not guarantee you a training contract with a law firm and competition for contracts can be tough. You should aim for a 2.1 or above at undergraduate degree and have a strong academic background; firms will look at your A Levels as well as your degree result.

Studying in London

Once you’ve decided that your ambition is to become a solicitor and you feel you have the right academic skills and attributes to succeed, you’re ready for the move to the big smoke! Studying in London can be an expensive option with living costs and course fees being higher than elsewhere in the UK but the advantages of living and studying on the doorstep of one of the world’s business hubs far outstrip any negatives.

If you start your LPC course without the safety blanket of sponsorship by a law firm, the hunt for a training contract will be a constant source of concern during your LPC year but you should work hard to balance study with research and time dedicated to making the best possible applications. Seek the advice of peers on your course that have gained a training contract, but more importantly make sure you take full advantage of the careers services available to you.

Meeting recruiters and careers events

By studying in London you will be in a unique position in that many of the world’s largest commercial law firms are based in the City. You should make the most of this by ensuring you take as many opportunities as possible to meet with representatives from any firms you are interested in. You should attend as many law fairs, law firm open events and legal conferences as possible. Your law school will be able to keep you up-to-date with such events and a good careers service will coach you on how to present yourself to firms and ensure you make the strongest first impression possible at these events.

More than just big law firms

But it’s not all about the big commercial law firms. If your academics are not quite what they’re looking for, or you aspire to work in another area of the legal profession, London is well connected for the many regional and high street firms located in the commuter towns and outer reaches of Greater London, not to mention well connected by national rail to other UK cities. The City is not the end of the story but regardless, London is a commercially and culturally vibrant and rewarding place to study and live. There’ll be plenty of time to explore all it has to offer, but only once you’ve finished in the library!

Making Sure you Have the Right Image Online

Recently I’ve been wondering how much law firms actually research their prospective employees online. An episode of How I Met Your Mother actually made me think about it when one of the characters had an embarrassing clip of them appear quite high in the search results. Watch the video for laughs.

If I was in charge of employment for a firm, I’d probably do quite a bit of Googling. It can tell you so much about a person. Probably some very positive things and some very negative things. For example, I like to think that if I was researching somebody who blogs on this site, it would reflect very positively on them. On the other hand you could find some incriminating pictures or forum posts.

Don’t think you’re safe by not using your name or using an alias either. I read about a situation on a forum in which a trainee got his training contract taken away. He was complaining / bitching about the firm he was going to take his TC at. He used an alias, but the firm were able to figure out exactly who it was making those comments. Just think; every single forum post gives away more information about who you are. The firm knew the individual had a training contract but he hadn’t started it yet. Then they found out his gender. This already could have given them for a good idea about who was making the comments. As you can imagine it didn’t take long for them to figure out who exactly it was. They eventually did find out and took away his training contract.

This is an extreme example. My point is, even if you make your digital footprint as anonymous as possible, there’s still a risk of being found out. But you should do all you can to minimise it.

As I said, I’d probably look at potential candidates online if I was running a firm. The more information you have to make a decision the better. Yet at the same time I think it’s very very sad. It’s sad that the best candidate is essentially a corporate drone who never does anything out of the ordinary or impulsive.

Unfortunately you’ve got to play the game. But it is possible to remove some of the stuff online. Is it hiding who you really are? Yes. But if you’re going to get stalked by a prospective employer, then it’s the logical thing to do. First of all set all your social media profiles to private. This means only friends can look at your pictures and view your messages. Secondly Google your name. If you’ve got a very common name, it may be hard to find yourself. So type in your name along with more information like your university and where you live etc. These extra details will narrow it down. Once you find the relevant results all you need to do is go through them and see which ones might not be seen favourably by a potential firm. If you can remove some of these yourself then great – go ahead and do that. To delete some other things you may need to contact the site owner directly and request a take down.

What if this isn’t possible? What if you have a really bad reputation online!? Hopefully no one is at this stage, but if you are there is something you can do. You can create a website which is like an online CV. This will hopefully be at the top of the search results when your name is Googled. This therefore pushes the other search results further down. Still not enough? Why don’t you put up a video on youtube – kind of like a video CV. Even if the bad results are still visible, these pages should at least offset the damage.

What is Jury Duty Like & My Thoughts on Truth

Sometimes it’s really hard to come up with an idea for a blog post. You can think and think, yet nothing interesting comes to mind. Then you can be doing something which isn’t related to blogging or law at all, and an idea will jump out at you.

That happened when I went a walk earlier. It was a really obvious idea too. I’m going to tell you about the time I was on jury duty. Nothing too specific, just my general feelings and thoughts. This post was actually longer and a bit more interesting. But I didn’t want to give too much away and be in contempt of court so I deleted some!

Getting jury duty at the time was actually really convenient. As anyone who has been on jury duty (or has worked in courts) knows, there can be a lot of waiting around. This was good because it gave me time to read my law books for the upcoming year. I literally had nothing else to do. No distractions. No chance to procrastinate. And then I got to see bits of what I was reading in action.

There was so much waiting because, if you’re not assigned to a case, you just wait until you’re needed. It comes down to luck really. In theory you could be called up for jury duty and not be put on an actual case. Alternatively you could be called onto a case which lasts several months. I was on 2 cases over a two week period. And if I remember correctly I was only doing something jury related about half of that time.

The case started with your name being called along with the other people who may serve on the jury. You were then led by the court clerks to the location outside the courtroom. You got a brief overview of what would happen next. When in court the 12 jurors were randomly picked and sworn in. More than 12 people are initially selected to be potential jurors just in case one of them knows the defendant / others in the courtroom.

Obviously I can’t say much about the trial itself. But the offences in question weren’t overly serious. The facts of one of the cases was actually mildly comical.

Thinking about more general philosophical matters, one of the cases essentially came down to one persons word against the other. So believing that one person was telling the truth, rather than the other person, would decide the outcome. This made me think – can you ever be sure beyond reasonable doubt that someone is guilty when it comes down to this? I don’t think so. Not without further evidence. And the evidence wasn’t conclusive one way or the other.

Although you would think one person more reliable, and more likely to tell the truth than the other, this still wasn’t enough. Hypothetically speaking if there was a witness on the stand who I knew to be very truthful, what would I think? In my opinion it would still be very hard to say beyond reasonable doubt that they were telling the truth.

Think of all the times you’ve felt so sure that you’ve seen something happen. Or so sure that you’ve done something. You’d say “I’m 100% sure I locked the door.” And that wouldn’t be a lie. Yet you check the door and it’s unlocked. This happens from time to time – people make mistakes. They may also have preconceptions about a person and just believe they’ve seen something. They also could have other reasons to lie. Reasons you don’t know about.

Now think about the above in relation to, not someone you know to be truthful, but a complete stranger. You don’t know them, you don’t know if they hold any bias, you don’t know if they though they saw something when they didn’t.

I think there needs to be some more physical evidence there, apart from a witness. Otherwise you’re claiming some sort of psychic insight into others…

I’ve never liked the idea of one person essentially being able to get the other sent to jail because they seem more trustworthy. However I’ve seen a lot of TV/moves where someone get framed, so I’m probably a little paranoid.

However if you discount all witness evidence then it would be very hard to get a conviction. I suppose that’s why it’s better to have several witnesses and make sure their stories match up.

Overall I actually enjoyed the experience. My fellow jurors were reasonable and I believe the correct verdicts were reached in both cases. It was also a good chance to test some legal skills too. You need to put forward your own justifications for your decision and express yourself clearly.

If only law students could volunteer for jury duty!