While many Law students will already have the LPC and a career as a lawyer in their sights, firms are equally keen to recruit non-law students and make an effort to reach out to them and invite them to consider the career. Our panel of Experts are here to explain how enrolling on the conversion course can lead to a rewarding career for those from different academic backgrounds.
Why do firms encourage training contract applications from non-law students?
We are keen to accept applications from candidates who have studied law and those who come from non-law backgrounds as both routes into private practice bring a range of skills and attributes. We encourage candidates to be open-minded and choose degrees they are naturally interested in. If they are keen to study law, then this is a great way to explore different areas and learn the basics from day one.
However, if students decide to immerse themselves in other disciplines, this will not prevent them from pursuing a career in law at a later stage. In fact, studying other degrees can often boost your employability by allowing you to draw on transferable skills such as analysis, creativity, problem solving and so on. Experience outside the ‘traditional’ route can often bring different ideas, skills and perspectives to the table that law firms will be keen to explore.
Thanks to the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), students from any discipline can undertake a year of studying to gain the technical equivalent of an LLB. This essentially means that non-law students are in the same position as those coming out of a three-year undergraduate degree with an added advantage of broadening their knowledge outside of the legal world.
Shearman & Sterling
In a practical sense, how can a non-law background help a lawyer to succeed in their work?
Each student's unique experiences and varied degree subjects are essential in helping firms provide the best possible service for each client they work with. As a non- law background can help firms to understand their clients from a different perspective and give further. Therefore, firms recognise the importance of recruiting non-lawyers as it is important that they reflect their clients who usually cover a broad spectrum of industries. For instance, at Taylor Wessing we recruit around 50:50 law to non-law trainees.
Non law degrees help you develop a range of skills, which are crucial to becoming a successful lawyer. The practical application of these skills in the legal environment has essential commercial implications as it allows firms to remain competitive and fresh with their external offering. An example of one such skill are degree disciplines, which involve analysis or critical thinking as solicitors spend a lot of time analysing complex documents to try and understand how it fits together. Other such skills are attention to detail, problem solving, flexibility or presentations skills. The list of transferable skills from non-law degree is extensive, therefore, it is important to recognise that there are advantages to this background in the legal environment
The skills that we look for and test in our graduate recruitment process are identical for students pursuing both the law and non-law routes. It is our core skill set, exhibited by all lawyers at Ashurst, which allows an individual to succeed and thrive in our collaborative environment.
These core competencies that we look for are transferable, and non-law students will, typically, finish their degrees with strong evidence of developing this skill set. The role of a lawyer is a business advisor. There will be large quantities of documentation for the lawyer to read, condense and pull out the key information and facts from. It is then the process of analysing this information and drawing on knowledge and experience to implement a creative solution. This is a process that you will be familiarising yourself with as you progress through your degree, in whatever subject area.
Ashurst is lucky to have such a diverse workforce spread across its global network. Although the end goal is identical for every employee, we draw on each individual's strengths and unique backgrounds – plenty of these coming from a non-law starting point.
At Ashurst, we aim beyond pure legal knowledge. Beyond commercial advice. Be known for something more: a clarity of thought and an instinct for problem solving that can influence leading businesses and organisations the world over.
Are there certain subjects in particular that large City firms are keen to recruit from?
At Norton Rose Fulbright, both law and non-law students from any degree discipline can apply to our graduate schemes including our open days, vacation schemes and training contracts. As a progressive employer we recognise that top talent comes from recruiting a diverse workforce including degree discipline. Like other global law firms, we boast a broad client base.
Therefore, a firm with a diverse range of employees is well placed to understand the needs of a wide range of clients. This means that our people must come from a variety of backgrounds in order to bring different qualities and perspectives to our work and the success of the practice. We encourage students to explore their interests at university as this will ensure a fulfilling experience as well as allow students to bring their personality and unique perspective to the firm. At Norton Rose Fulbright we want to continue being a successful global firm which can only be achieved by recruiting both law and non-law students and show that everyone can thrive, succeed and develop in our practice based on their talent.
Norton Rose Fulbright
Why should students consider a career in law?
Keep two things in mind when considering a career in the law:
Aside from the degree subject and the grades achieved, are firms interested in details of the academic work students do?
We have a section on our application form where applicants are able to provide us with information they feel is relevant, which they haven't already included in their application. This is the perfect place for applicants to discuss the details of their academic work, such as dissertation topics, essay assignments or thesis papers.
We are interested in these details for a number of reasons. First, it gives us further insight into the applicant and their interests. Second, it showcases an applicant's ability to juggle multiple priorities, as undoubtedly they will have already included information regarding their involvement in several extra-curricular activities. Third, discussing their academic work will demonstrate their analytical ability - something we look for in our future trainees. But, beware: anything you put on your application is fair game and our interviewers will likely ask you to provide them with more detail as well as press you on your research and any conclusions you've drawn.
Yes! Particularly at interview stage this becomes very relevant. Please be prepared to talk about your degree in detail. Why did you choose the subject? What have you enjoyed the most? If you can talk about a module, exam or essay question with intelligence and interest, you can show off many of the core competencies law firms are looking for: intellect, communication skills, analytical skills and persuasive skills to name a few. It's even better if you can relate your example to the business or legal worlds.
Interviews play a key part in getting to know the candidate as an individual. We want to know why you chose your degree and what you focused on throughout your course. If you study law – what inspired you to choose this degree at such a young age? If you're studying another subject – what aspects of your course do you think will be relevant for your future career? Now that you've invested all that time and money in your degree you should certainly be willing and able to talk about the details at length and to your advantage!
Is work experience in the other branches of the legal profession valid for training contract applicants?
Work experience in a legal environment provides a sound foundation; from exposure to professional behaviours to effectively dealing with a client. Whether in fee-earning teams or other branches of the legal profession - learning professional conduct and learning from peers in fast-paced and innovative environments is extremely beneficial to any professional. These kinds of skills are what give the advantage to applicants who are successful in securing a training contract.
It has enormous value to learn about building a strong reputation in a professional environment, including one within a legal placement. However, you should never approach work experience for the sole purpose of improving your chances of securing a future training contract. Everyone should approach work experience with the personal goal of becoming an excellent professional ready for any challenge.