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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.

Journey through university

My journey through university:

Studying law has its ups and definitely has its downs.

The doubts: do I really want to pursue a legal career? what area will I specialise in? Is it really as boring as people say?

Being constantly reminded by people about the “lack of jobs” and the tendency of firms to hire “Oxbridge students”

Thanks for that information, whether these statements are intended to derail me from pursuing a legal career they actually do the exact opposite.

I’m determined to be a solicitor and I will get there one day!

Choosing an area of law:

I’ve confirmed the area I want to specialise in, its employment law hands down!

A module I can genuinely say I enjoyed and something I can see myself doing in the future.

Employment law is such an interesting area that continues to develop and reform according to the patterns of society. This field of law is essential within a democratic system and promotes basic human rights. What’s not to love?!

Stages of university:

The fast pace of university can be extremely overwhelming, one minute you’re in first year going through legal methods lectures, the next your trawling through journals for your dissertation wondering how did you get to this so quickly.

First year, a fairly dare I say it superficial introduction to university. The extent of the workload isn’t so blatant at this stage.

Second year, a bit more challenging but still relatively manageable.

Third year, the all or nothing year in a nutshell. 70% of the degree, let that sink in a whole 70% yes it’s that surreal!

It’s a whirlwind of emotions and can all get on top of you at stages but then you see the light at the end of the tunnel.

At this stage I have two more months left of university then I will officially be a law graduate.

The dissertation, the revision, more dissertation, more revision can become so monotonous and repetitive. However, picturing yourself graduating and knowing you reached that finish line, because of your hard work and determination is a reason to keep pushing and missing out on sleep!

Sure, studying law isn’t easy but I wouldn’t change my university experience. The past three years of studying law has developed my personal character, enhanced my skills and made me who I am today!

Tips for students:

My top tip for any current or soon to be law students. Avoid procrastination it really is the biggest thief of time! It’s much easier said than done, but when you get something to do just do it!!

Stepping into the unknown

I began this blog because I felt out of place in the legal sphere. I felt like it wasn’t open to people like me. At Clifford Chance, I didn’t feel at all like this. They allowed me to feel like I belonged there.

10943717_10203774863949138_5161171544458839200_nOn 29th January, I was invited to Clifford Chance for an interview for the First Year Springboard Vacation Scheme. I can honestly say setting foot in a leading international law firm is as fantastic as it sounds!

 

My experience of Clifford Chance was incredible. Everyone I met was exceedingly kind, welcoming and helpful. I felt immediately at ease: something I did not expect when setting foot in Canary Wharf for the first time.

Accompanied by an overwhelming sense of pride, I looked up at the 32-floor glass palace that is 10 Upper Bank Street. I will never forget the moment I stepped inside, and nervously made my way up to the 1st floor reception to wait to be briefed. The graduate recruitment manager, Aasha Tikoo, put me at ease immediately with kind words of praise, recognising the excellent achievement we’d all attained having reached the interview round of the process. After an hour’s interview, we were taken on a tour of the building to get a feel for what it would be like to work at Clifford Chance. The views, swimming pool, gym, cafeteria, bar… you name it, they’ve got it! Yet amongst all this grandeur, what stood out as the single most impressive part of the building was the people. Everyone was so friendly and answered all the burning questions I had about a career in commercial lIMG_20150129_191542aw.

My experience of Clifford Chance showed me that there is no reason to think I can’t be successful just because of my background. The two hours I spent there inspired me further in pursuit of my career goal. It showed me the importance of giving everyone the opportunity to succeed: if I hadn’t been invited to interview, I never would have had the opportunity to see Clifford Chance from the inside. I never would have known how at home I could feel in a leading, international commercial law firm. Everyone deserves to be given a chance. I am so grateful to Clifford Chance for giving me this opportunity.

So, I guess I’m trying to say that what’s important is that you seize every opportunity you are given or can make for yourself. Never give up: one day someone will open the door which gives you a glimpse into what the future could hold. And that glimpse will allow you to feel that it just might be possible. And that feeling will inspire you to continue on your journey to achieve your dream.

Ethnic Diversity

Happy New Year!
I’ve been looking into ethnic diversity in law firms, as the beginning of a new year has provided us with up-to-date statistics to evaluate 2014.

In order to make best sense of the figures, I’ll quickly run through the general structure of a law firm.
There are three levels of solicitors in a firm:

1) Partners – business directors and owners, most firms have a two tiered system: ‘equity partners’ have a stake in the firms profits, whereas ‘non-equity partners’ usually have a fixed salary. Also, non equity partners are likely to have more restricted voting rights about firm matters in comparison to equity partners.
2) Associates –  Associates are more senior than assistant solicitors, but not as senior as partners. According to ‘legalcareers.about.com’, ‘The typical law firm lawyer works as an associate for six to nine years before ascending to the partnership ranks (“making partner”) (3).

3) Trainees – before fully qualifying as a solicitor, you work in several ‘seats’ in different practice areas as a trainee.

Law firms also tend to be identified with a certain ‘type’. I shall make use of those that Chambers takes up to best make sense of their survey.

Magic circle firms generally refer to the following ‘big five’ (3):
1- Allen & Overy
2- Clifford Chance
3- Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
4- Linklaters
5- Slaughter and May

US firms are those based in the USA. Regional and national firms are those outside of the ‘City firms’; those based in London.

Chambers (1) have gathered data for ethnic diversity (henceforth BME data) at all three levels of practice, for all ‘types’ of firm.

So how do the percentages stack up?
Overall, only 5.1% of partners were BME. Although the average for BME trainees was 13.8%, it still doesn’t marry up to the number of BME law students.
Pleasingly, BME students made up ‘32% of those studying law at university in the UK in 2012-13’ (4) making Law one of the most ethnically diverse subjects to study at University level. Given that there is no reason to think otherwise, it is reasonable to extrapolate that figure to last years’ intake of law students. Yet still, these figures would suggest BME lawyers are under-represented, and more so as you transcend the levels of seniority within a firm.

Is this the picture for all types of firm?

Well, Magic Circle firms have the highest percentage of BME trainees, with almost a quarter (23.9%). Chambers reports that Regional/national firms had the lowest percentage of BME trainees at 8.8%.
But it is worth noting the limitations of these figures.
Law firms are not obligated to report their data: ‘confidentiality concerns’
provide a legitimate reason why this overall picture may not be representative. However, Chambers is pessimistic about the intentions of firms who didn’t respond. 27 firms did not submit data, and 86 did. (The full list can be found here:
http://www.chambersstudent.co.uk/where-to-start/newsletter/2014-ethnicity-in-the-law-survey/ethnicity-in-the-law-data)

On a more positive note, Clifford Chance and Linklaters were the UK leaders. Clifford Chance have 0.7% more BME trainees and 0.7% more associates however Linklaters have the highest percentage of BME partners at 11%.

Those responsive regional firms are currently less ethnically diverse, with 7 respondents have no ethnic minority partners. Yet evidently the ethnic diversity of the population surrounding the firm makes regional firms’ figures difficult to compare as opposed to evaluating those within the City. For example, Birmingham-based SCH Martineau has 16% BME partners: almost 50% more than Linklaters.

Overall, these statistics would suggest that ethnic minorities are yet to be sufficiently represented in the majority of law firms. However, with the highest percentage of BME Law students ever, we should look positively to the future of diversity in law firms. 

References
(1) http://www.chambersstudent.co.uk/where-to-start/newsletter/2014-ethnicity-in-the-law-survey
(2) http://legalcareers.about.com/od/legalcareerbasics/a/Legal-Jobs-Part-I-Lawyer-Careers.htm
(3) http://allaboutlaw.co.uk/law-careers/training-contract/magic-circle-law-firms
(4)  http://www.theguardian.com/law/2014/dec/16/how-do-we-bring-diversity-into-law-at-the-top-levels

The Interview

With deadlines drawing ever nearer, potential lawyers will be anxiously waiting to hear about interviews. With this in mind, here are some tips to make sure your interview is the best it can be.

Know the firm inside out

Graduate recruiters aren’t just looking for potential lawyers, but candidates who want to work at their specific firm. If you want to get that vacation scheme or training contract, make sure you thoroughly research the firm. Find out about their strongest practice areas or their latest achievements. Show that you understand their core values, and think about ways in which you share them.

Read through your application

Be prepared to be thoroughly questioned on all aspects of your application. If you’ve made claims about yourself, make sure you can back them up with evidence. For example, if you said you are a great team-worker, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate moments when you have worked successfully in a team.

Don’t stop growing

Just because you have finished your applications doesn’t mean you should stop improving. Doing more things which benefit your application will help you succeed at interview stage. Think about where your CV is lacking and improve it before interview. That way, if you are questioned about weaknesses in certain areas, you’ll be able to show that you have acknowledged and addressed these concerns.

Do a mock interview

An interview can be a scary situation, so try to practice beforehand. Ask a careers advisor for their help, or read through some mock questions online. Focus on questions which you find hardest to answer, and work on them until you feel confident. Questions like ‘what is your biggest weakness?’ are designed to test you, so make sure you can answer them.

Draw on past experience

Just because you haven’t had a law interview before doesn’t mean you can’t draw upon past experience. Maybe you’ve been interviewed for an LPC course or the LLB. Or you might have had interviews for a variety of other graduate jobs – all of this is useful experience which you can draw upon.

Why are you doing this?

Think about why you want to be a lawyer. What is it that motivates you? Why did you apply in the first place? If you’re passionate about the job, this will come across in your interview.

Stay calm

As a lawyer, you’ll have to make pressured decisions. Show that you have the ability to manage the stress by staying calm during the interview. Don’t be afraid to take a moments to think about the question rather than rushing out an answer or waffling. You have the ability to answer the question, so make sure you do!

My Christmas Wish has come true!

AFTER TWO INTERVIEWS AND SITTING THE CAMBRIDGE LAW TEST, I HAVE JUST BEEN TOLD MY APPLICATION HAS BEEN SUCCESSFUL!

I HAVE BEEN OFFERED A PLACE TO STUDY LAW FOR THE FINAL TWO YEARS OF MY BA DEGREE, STARTING NEXT YEAR, SUBJECT TO ATTAINING A 2:1 OVERALL IN PHILOSOPHY THIS YEAR.

I WILL CONTINUE TO WORK AS HARD AS I CAN TO MEET THE CONDITIONS OF MY OFFER.

IT IS GREAT TO KNOW THAT MY JOURNEY TO SOLICITING HAS BEGUN!

BRING ON THE NEXT CHAPTER!

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU: I HOPE YOUR WISHES COME TRUE TOO!

Women in law

We may not be quite as glamorous as our movie counterparts, but myself and Billy (my chihuahua) could be likened Elle and Bruiser in some ways!
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Equality for women in careers is constantly being discussed in the media.
Just this week the BBC reported that the International Labour Organization (ILO) found a substantial, and unjustified, gender pay gap. It claims that women ‘may be better educated or work harder than men’ yet are paid much less. Here’s the link:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-30340870

Take a look at Lady Justice Hallett’s comments from last year for the Telegraph. She highlights the 2012 Council of Europe report’s findings which place Britian as the worst in Europe for employing female judges.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-politics/10078243/Law-firms-have-unconscious-bias-that-stops-women-from-getting-promoted-says-senior-City-lawyer.html

Yet the number of female law students seems promising: women make up 62.4% of students accepted onto law undergraduate courses (Law Society, 2014). Perhaps there’s been a significant shift in the trend against women in law in the last year? Or perhaps it will just take time for this higher proportion of women to translate into the highest legal positions?

Starting out

Hi there, I’m Emily.

I’m currently a first year Philosopher at Robinson College, Cambridge. After much research, I am intent on becoming a solicitor.

A number of careers meetings later; after attending a ‘Law for Non-Lawyers’ Event, law lectures, speaking to as many lawyers as possible, reading Catherine Barnard’s ‘What About Law?’ and a LOT of guides to the legal profession; I am certain that soliciting is the right career for me. Law has always been at the back of my mind: I’ve always found lawyers inspiring. But I never thought I could have the chance to be one.

I feel pretty lucky that my hard work during A Levels paid off and I achieved a place to study Philosophy at Cambridge University. Before coming here, I didn’t have the confidence to think I had it in me. Eight weeks later, I’ve just finished my first term and have never been so sure of anything in my whole life: I know I can be a great lawyer. I’m ready to do whatever it takes to achieve my goal. What’s more, the biggest lesson I’ve learned this term: your background is no reason you can’t be too. I guess what I’m trying to do is share my lesson of confidence with you. I won’t let my background stop me pursuing my dream, and neither should you.

I know the road to becoming a solicitor can be a very long one. I do not think for a moment any stage will be easy. In fact, I would say that it’s far from an underestimate to expect every step to be extremely difficult. For example, at first I certainly didn’t find it easy to convince myself I had it in me. But getting to Cambridge has taught me that no barrier is insurmountable. There’s no achieving high without aiming high. So that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

Access to law: a bit about Emily

 

Think you can’t have a career in law because of your background? 
First in your family to go to uni? Low income? Female? Ethnic minority? Disabled? LGBT? Non-law degree?

Hi, I’m Emily!emily

         

I always thought law was reserved for those with friends in high places. If you didn’t have family, friends or connections in law, the door to a legal career was firmly closed (excuse the legal pun). Now I know this simply isn’t true, and I want to prove it to you.

         Look to your future, not your past. 
      We can be the future of the legal sector.

There are a number of under-represented groups in the UK Legal profession. Like you, I thought a career in law was closed to me because of my background. I’m from the first generation in my family to go to uni, and am determined to give my family a better life. I hope I can show you we were mistaken: ANYONE sufficiently committed (with a bit of luck and a lot of hard work) can be successful.

Join me as I embark on my journey from first-generation-student to solicitor.

I’m hoping to come across a diverse range of people as I work towards qualifying as a solicitor. I want to talk to as many people as possibleabout their legal experience, and share what I find with those who doubt themselves. I will post anything useful here and on the blog section at http://access2law.weebly.com/ I hope it will help those who were in the position I was in before I got to Cambridge see that law is open to them too. 

Beyond an Undergraduate Law Degree: The LLM

The LLM

So what is an LLM? An LLM is a ‘Master of Laws’ postgraduate law degree, which allows students who have studied law at undergraduate level to broaden their legal knowledge. Whereas an undergraduate degree gives a general overview of the various parts of law, an LLM allows far greater scope for specialisation within a specific area of the law. Studying full time for a year means that you can engage with your subject in a detailed and in-depth manner. Moreover, you can develop your legal research skills through your work, which will aid the transition from student to trainee.

What do I get out of it?

Students who have attained an LLM when they apply for law graduate jobs will be able to demonstrate a range of positive attributes:

  • Commitment to the law
  • Research skills
  • Specialised knowledge of a subject area
  • Academic rigour

If you don’t want to pursue a career in law, the LLM is advantageous for a number of other paths, be that further study at PhD level or HR, consultancy and finance careers. LLMs have developed so that they now encourage independent thought and detailed analysis of the law. Internationally-recognised, the LLM is prestigious qualification which is now pursued by qualified lawyers, not just students.

Where can I study?

There are a variety of LLM law schools throughout the UK, ranging from universities to law-specific colleges. Take time to research the various options and think about the environment you want to study in – different institutions will suit different people. Make sure you factor in course fees, living costs, and funding opportunities.

What can I study?

There are a huge range of LLM course available to study, with options that suit almost any interest you might have. If you can’t find a taught programme which interests you, consider taking a research-based course; this will allow you to focus specifically on the areas of law or research topics you like the most.

Choosing to do an LLM is not an easy decision, and there is a lot of work involved. However, if it is something that appeals to you, an LLM has the potential to really improve your career prospects.