Lorraine Taylor is a Partner in law firm Bridge McFarland. She recently spoke to DisCUss about her journey to qualifying as a partner. Here are the three things she wished she could have told her student-self.
- There is always more than one route to take.
When I started my career in law there was only really one training route publicised – generally one would complete a law degree in three years, spend a year on the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and then secure a training contract. Some people might study a different degree and undertake a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) in between, but that was often the full extent of variety.I did not train in this traditional way, having discovered the Chartered Legal Executive (CILEx) route after a lot of research. I knew that I wanted to go into law, but I didn’t see how I would be able to with my family commitments until I found out about the CILEx route. The CILEx route is a flexible option that, in many cases, will allow you to ‘earn while you learn’. This route is different from the traditional training to become a solicitor because it involves specialising in a specific area of law from the start. A Chartered Legal Executive, though trained differently, does all the same things a typical solicitor would; they specialise in one area of law and are entitled to become a partner in a law firm just like their solicitor counterparts. I am pleased to say that we have seen a marked rise in the number of people coming through the Chartered Legal Executive (CILEx) route since I went through the process. I hope that it continues to grow as a recognised training option.
- Work experience is essential.
In the UK you can’t train as a teacher without spending at least two weeks volunteering in a school; it’s a way of testing compatibility and discovering what the job actually entails. I think that, particularly in a varied field like law with a lot of disparity from the media’s portrayal of the job, this experience is essential. Most law firms will offer work experience placements, and I would advise you to take as many as you can. If you are a university student planning on perusing a career in law then you should plan on spending at least one of your summers with a law firm gaining hands-on experience. You will also find that this work experience will be vital when you start applying for training contracts. They will want to see that you are a hard worker and that you are prepared for the challenges of working in the field of law.
- Law isn’t everything.
You need to be a well-rounded candidate; a first in law may not be enough (though I’m sure it would help). Use your time at university to expand your horizons and learn about the world you are considering joining. Law, business, and politics all go hand-in-hand. You need a decent understanding of these current affairs, so make sure you are scanning the headlines and make a conscious effort to read The Economist or the Financial Times every week. You should also make sure to take advantage of the various extracurricular opportunities that your university offers–clubs, societies, teams and student politics are great ways to meet new people and crucially, to the graduates of today, gain experience that might help you stand out on applications.
Also, don’t assume that you can’t go into law just because you didn’t study it as an undergraduate; there is an easy graduate diploma route that you can take. So if you have a burning desire to study history don’t be perturbed, you may actually find that some law firms prefer candidates who have different academic backgrounds.