Q&A

The path to qualifying as a lawyer is a minefield. But do not fear, Lawyer 2B’s very own careers agony aunt Kay Pearson is here to help

I’m interested in a career with a global law firm, but I have a 2:2 degree. My university careers adviser says this will limit my chances. What do you think?

The larger commercial law firms are undoubtedly more demanding about academic requirements, usually requiring a 2:1 degree or better. However, you need to look at what you can offer in its totality. Firms can be flexible if you have other things to offer. These include high achievement either earlier in your education (eg A-levels) or after your first degree (eg at LLM or Masters level), especially if the qualification is relevant to the firm’s practice area/client base. Non-academic factors, such as relevant work experience and niche language skills, can also make you more attractive. In my experience, larger firms tend to look for high achievement at A-level or equivalent if a student has a 2:2. Other factors, such as relevant business experience and extra qualifications, may also help, but high grades at A-level seem to work more consistently.

Should I wait until the results of the Training Framework Review are known before I embark upon my LPC?

The Law Society is due to report back on the Training Framework Review (TFR) this autumn. The TFR has been a consultation exercise to consider whether the LPC could be better structured to widen access and create more flexibility. A number of outcomes are possible, from little to no change at all, right the way through to the abolition of the LPC. But if you read the legal press (which any potential trainee should be doing, of course), most of the responses from the profession to the TFR have raised more questions than answers. So if there are changes, it looks as though they may take some time to implement.

The Law Society’s advice is not to wait. And from a careers viewpoint, recruitment of trainee solicitors is continuing much as normal. If you are committed to a career in law, you are probably best placed if you do not change your plans. Even if there are changes in the next year or two, they will not devalue your LPC.

It may be that you have in the back of your mind that any new version of the LPC might make you more attractive to a future employer. We would hope that any changes will improve the LPC, but the real competition will be your peer group rather than the version of the LPC you took. The telling factor is in the hands of the career seeker – your attitude, your skills, your preparation.

I’m confused about part-time training contracts and part-time study training contracts. Can you help?

They sound similar, but are quite different. A part-time training contract starts after the LPC, whereas a part-time study contract can be combined with a part-time LPC/GDL or the last two years of a qualifying law degree (QLD).

A part-time training contract involves working between two and a half and four and a half days per week. The length of the training contract is adjusted according to the precise number of days worked and can last anything from four years (if working half-time) to two and a half years respectively. Part-time training contracts are rare; Law Society figures show only 62 registered as at August 2005 (around 1 per cent of all training contracts).

The part-time study contract allows a student to combine full-time work (subject to a minimum of four days a week) and part-time study. Any time spent working while studying can be counted towards the two-year training requirement at half rate. So if a student starts their part-time study training contract at the start of a two-year part-time LPC, they can count one year of this towards their training contract. They would then need to work for a further year in a full-time training contract in order to qualify. A part-time study training contract can be combined with a part-time LPC/GDL and/or the last two years of a QLD. In August this year, there were 555 part-time study training contracts, or 10 per cent of all training contracts. For more details, see www.lawsociety.org.uk/professional/authorisation/download.law

To what extent do law firms take notice of electives choices?

If you have a training contract offer already, or are close to securing one, check with your employer whether they have any preferences about electives. The larger corporate firms tend to be more interested about which electives you take, but some are more relaxed about your choices. Whether you have a training contract or not, a key point to consider is the message you will send to an employer by your choice of electives. For example, if you have been hankering after working for a global commercial firm but have not had any success so far, try aiming for a balance of subjects rather than three corporate electives. Similarly, if you are fairly sure you want to work in a particular practice area, you could take two relevant electives while using the third choice for a subject that you are genuinely interested in.

Kay Pearson is a careers consultant at the College of Law. Letters to Kay should be sent to Lawyer 2B’s editor Husnara Begum

We regret that no correspondence can be entered into.