documenting my life, thoughts and tips, as a 20-something woman trying to figure out her life's true purpose

Monday, November 21, 2016

Four things they don’t tell you when you graduate from Law school

Because my uni is prettier than yours x

In July 2013 I graduated from Keele University (best uni in the world) with a 2:1 in LLB Law with Criminology, a (68%) to be exact. I also was awarded The Oxford Law University Press Prize for the best finalist dissertation. I achieved a mid-first for my linguistic analysis of the then US President George W. Bush the third’s speeches and how the semantics used by himself and his administration post 9/11 lead the USA to start the War on Terror and to mislead the US citizen into believing Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WOMD). Of course they did not and of course George W. Bush and his administration lied but hey that’s a whole new blog post.

Having graduated and left the Keele university bubble, I did the obligatory travel the world experience. I went exploring around South East Asia, visiting Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam for three months. You can read about what my friends and I got up to in my tips for travelling South East Asia post.

After returning from SEA I undertook various internships and other non-legal jobs, including a temporary position at Deloitte. I now work as a Criminal Appeal Paralegal in a London firm that specialises in global criminal law, international public law, and human rights. So going straight into, I am sharing the four things that they really don’t say to you in law school!*

You need more than a 2:1, legal work experience and commercial awareness
The upward slog to get your first paid legal job is oh so hard. I spent what felt like forever completing, re-reading and editing job applications. I spent hours on end trawling for job advertisements on YLAL, The Guardian Legal Jobs, Totally Legal, Legal Cheek and Charity Jobs, often close to tears that none of the jobs offered. I remember in two weeks I completed around 10-12 applications heard countless rejections and only heard back from two companies. And I stressed the word paid as I like many of you reading this have undertaking countless unpaid work internships in order to pad out my CV with ‘credible’ legal experience. I have worked in a specialist Charity and interned as a Paralegal in a Criminal Law firm. Looking it back on them now I spent way too much time offering my legal skills for free. These companies and charities need you more than you need them and so they should pay you at the very least minimum wage. Now even though my pocket during these times said otherwise, I genuinely believe I would not have my current job if it were not for these experiences.

The LPC institutes are businesses first and foremost
With courses costing from £15,000 for the Legal Practice Course and £18,500 for the Bar Practice Course wanting to pursue a legal career as a Solicitor or Barrister is not cheap. I haven’t yet completed the LPC and to be honest the main reason is the cost. There are several scholarship applications open to potential law graduates wanting to study the LPC or BPTC. But my advice to you would be to think long and hard as to whether for you the pros outweigh the cons. Perhaps try to get some practical legal work experiences (paid and unpaid) before learning more theory. I’ve been told my students on the LPC and experienced senior solicitors that the cost of the LPC in their opinions is not worth. Food for thought.

Connections in the legal arena are important
No matter what anyone tells you having contacts within the field that you want to build a career in are really important. This does not mean attending every legal social networking event and being that one student who name drops that he has Lord Bingham on speed dial but having a selective few of practitioners who will remember you and refer you for jobs and work experience opportunities.

Like any legal job application do not simply approach these networking opportunities with an over enthusiastic copy and paste mini-speech on why you want to be a Lawyer, how determined you are to get where you want to be and how hard you’re willing to work for it. Instead research who will be at these events (aka social media stalk the HELL out of them) find what they’re interested in and take it from there. I know someone who was able to get a job within a reputable civil liberties and human rights chambers after talking with one a barrister about their joint disdain for TOWIE.

Success is not granted
Now this for me is the most crucial point I believe law school fails to adequately prepare you on. Once you don your overly expensive graduate robes and hats, and purchased those extortionate grad pics, your fellow students become your competition. As hundreds of you compete for a small number of legal jobs, not everyone will reach the law school version of the American dream: the training contract or the pupillage. It is a tough truth to swallow but it is a sobering reality for any law graduate. In 2015 an approximate total of 17,300 UK students were accepted onto law undergraduate course in England and Wales and in that year ending only 5,500 new trainee solicitors were registered.

*If there’s anything you would like to ask me about my path from law graduate to Paralegal, please leave a message in the comments section below or drop me an email. Please bear in mind these points are meant to be helpful and informative but they are my personal opinion and are in no way meant to be taken as official career advice.


Rosh xo

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