September 13, 2019, by Leah Sharpe
Setting the Bar For A Career In Law – Before, During and After University
By Kate Hindmarch, University of Nottingham alumna and partner in employment law at Langleys Solicitors
In the world of law, there are a number of opportunities and career paths waiting for you – far from the silver screen’s depiction of those shouting ‘objection’ in court. Whether it’s family, employment or criminal, the industry is open to more than law postgraduates, but getting onto the career ladder takes time and dedication.
When did your passion for law begin?
First and foremost, it is important to understand that not everyone who ends up working in law necessarily starts with it as a career goal. I never dreamt of being a solicitor, and originally wanted to sign up to the RAF and follow in my father’s footsteps, but after receiving good results at school, my teachers persuaded me to continue onto Sixth Form.
The law route was suggested to me by one brilliant English teacher, but it wasn’t until I could pick my elective subjects in my second year at university that I found my love for it. From there on, I have never looked back. That isn’t to say I knew exactly where I wanted to go in the future – that took a little longer – as it does with many law students.
How did you find your specialism?
Discovering what you’re interested in takes a lot of time. During my training contract I worked in four different seats covering family, conveyancing, personal injury and commercial law. None of these really grabbed me, and by the end of my contract I still hadn’t decided which sector I wanted to work in.
On completing my contract, I was offered a role as a criminal lawyer, which lasted four years until my first maternity leave. While on leave, I had the opportunity to explore my options, and discovered a newfound passion for employment law. Once I returned, I established a new division in the practice for employment law – 18 months later I was headhunted by Langleys Solicitors.
What advice would you offer for current students and graduates?
As an employer I don’t necessarily look for those who have studied law ‘forever’ – I understand that an A-level in law isn’t a mandatory achievement. For pupils considering law, choose subjects that will help you become a well-rounded student but more importantly, choose subjects that interest you.
If you’re currently in university taking a non-law related degree then don’t panic, you can still take a conversion course into law that will get you onto the career ladder. Langleys have lawyers with a range of degrees including in journalism, product design and even Mandarin, so the subject doesn’t have to be related at all.
Work experience is vital for this industry, so even if law is just one of the options you are juggling right now, get yourself into a practice. Practical experience is crucial and it can help you decide whether the industry is for you, as well as helping set you apart from other candidates.
How can graduates prepare for an interview?
Alongside preparing for the usual questions such as ‘where do you see yourself in five years?’, be ready to talk about yourself and your interests. I enjoy asking candidates to talk to me for two minutes about anything (and I mean anything!) that interests them – I have found it helps show character and individuality.
People skills are essential as legal advice is often a distress purchase for clients, so you need to know how to ease them and clearly explain everything they need to know. During the interview stage I am always on the lookout for a mix of personalities and skills, from those who are excited by contentious law, to those who prefer non-contentious.
Overall, if you want to get into law you need to show your personality and be prepared to put in the work. Never panic about not knowing what sector you want to be a part of – you will have plenty of time to explore the options in your training contract. Finally, the number of paralegals and legal assistants making their way to roles as a solicitor have stepped up over the last few years, so even if you don’t study law now, there are several paths to get there.
For more information on careers in law, visit our website.