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Q&A with the Society of Asian Lawyers law students - legal career options beyond university

by Hannah Cottam | 10 November 2020

Last night, I presented to the Society of Asian Lawyers Law students from City, University of London on legal career options beyond university. We covered areas such as alternative legal sectors to the traditional Law firm, or Barrister chambers, as well as discussing other routes to take using a legal degree, out of the legal sector altogether. Areas such as the civil service, retail graduate schemes, banking and accounting graduate schemes, and the Police all welcome law graduates looking for an alternative career. The session ended with a Q&A and here are the questions and answers that came up.

Q: What if I don’t have experience when I am applying for roles?

A: You can and need to get some. Call your local authority or local high street solicitors practice and ask for a week of work experience in the legal team as you are a law student who would benefit. Send a letter in if needed. Eventually someone will always reply and that experience will be invaluable on your CV.

Q: Apart from work experience how else can you stand out?

A: Great question! Voluntary experience and charity work will always go down well. It will show you are a diverse and hardworking individual as you have given up your own time for the benefit of others. It highlights an ability to converse at different levels and with different audiences. These skills along with a 2:1 could be more valuable than a stand-alone first class honours degree, when it comes to employability.

Q: Do you think the lawyers working in legal government roles enjoy a better work life balance than those in magic circle firm?

A: Yes! Magic circle and top tier firms are very high-pressured roles which is why you are remunerated extremely well. It can be unsustainable for some and lawyers can suffer from burn out. In other legal sectors, particularly public sector legal teams, lawyers are often given time back for overtime worked and not called in their personal time.

Q: Do agencies recruit paralegals?

A: Yes. To be considered paralegal applicants usually need to demonstrate that along with a legal degree, and/or an LPC, they have work experience in an office environment. Even if that experience has been on a voluntary basis they will be considered.

Q: What is your opinion on the role of a Chartered Legal Executive?

A: Many clients are keen to get a Legal Executive on their team. Often when candidates have taken the CILEX route they have spent 6 years working in a legal setting alongside evening studies whilst qualifying and which is more favourable to some clients than a NQ Solicitor, with often only 2 years of ‘hands on’ legal experience.

Q: Where do you hear about in-house legal roles?

A: Often clients use agencies for harder to fill or more senior roles but for entry level they often post job information on LinkedIn. Create a profile on the site and subscribe to the job alerts on there and other job boards such as Law Gazette jobs, Totally Legal and Indeed. Once you are setup the profile of jobs you have requested will be emailed to you. Another tip would be to use the Law Society company search function and look at solicitors in the companies you would be keen to work in. You can then search and link in directly with those contacts.

Q: What are good ways to network?

A: LinkedIn is excellent! I recommend you create a strong profile and join some relevant groups so you can see and hear updates. Connect with relevant individuals and before you know it you are networking!

Q: What would you discuss when networking?

A: In my experience one topic people enjoy talking about it is themselves. Ask them some questions asking for their experience or opinion. Why did you choose the law? What would you change if you could? What would you ask if you were me? You will open up individuals and learn a lot from the answers.

Q: How much do lawyers earn?

A: I think there is a real lack of information out there and although magic circle and top tier firms can offer outstanding remuneration I would say the average ranges are:

  • Trainee Solicitor - £24k - £27k

  • NQ Solicitor - £30k - £40k

  • 2 – 10 years PQE - £40k - £70k

  • 10 years+ - £70k+

My thanks go to Sam Harris-Jones, Antonia Clark, of City, University of London, and also thanks to Ranjit Sond, President of Society of Asian Lawyers, for introducing me to this motivated, and ambitious group of Law students.

Please feel free to email me with any questions at hannah.cottam@sellickpartnership.co.uk.