If watching Silk or Law & Order has sparked an interest in studying law, then great! We all get inspired in different ways. But such a spark shouldn't be used in isolation. Many other factors must be considered prior to selecting a degree course, especially law, as I should know, having studied law in the mid 90s, opted for and qualified at the Bar, before starting my career as an employability consultant.
Be warned. If you're considering a legal career, make sure you've thought it through carefully. I have stepped in front of plenty of law students around the country who haven't given enough thought to their career direction or what steps they need to take in order to be successful. Many of them may eventually find themselves in non-legal roles with a substantial student debt to service.
Today, law firms and chambers are expecting more from potential trainees and pupils than ever before. Before embarking on this major journey, start to think about what it is you really want to do and what will make you happy. Then consider these following points. The more you can incorporate into your planning early on, the more you will benefit:
A 2-1 (or higher) degree grade is the preferred entry-level for legal practice
But this is just the starting point. The real benchmark is a little higher. Many legal HR professionals and pupillage committee members tell me that they recruit those who stand out from the crowd.
If your A levels aren't quite what you hoped for, don't be disheartened. While it will be challenging for you to be recruited by a top-set law firm at the outset, you can still embark on a fulfilling and challenging legal career. You must however be strategic in your approach - are you better at exams than practical work, for example? If so, choose electives that are assessed in this way. Think creatively about where you study, and be prepared to prove yourself by undertaking paralegal work or similar in a law firm. Paralegal work can also provide a way into a career in law for those who don't have the grades to go straight into legal practice. Most importantly, find the balance that is right for you. You'll read about the odd success story, it does happen. But this is the exception, not the rule.
You're expected to know or have a sense of what sort of law you want to practise
Not on day one of your law degree, but, in my view, the sooner the better. Many law students are just beginning to get into their stride coping with the work-load towards the end of the second year so this is an excellent time to gain some experience in the field. Do you have a sense of what it is you want to do? Do you aspire to work in a city law firm, or perhaps you're aiming for a support role? Having an idea at this stage will help you immensely throughout your degree.
Endeavour to secure an internship or work experience in a smaller firm during whichever break you can
They will be less concerned about your lack of legal knowledge than most of the city firms. This will give you an excellent advantage and you'll identify areas of law that interest you and, more importantly, rule out those that don't appeal. Your university or college may have links with relevant firms so utilise these where you can.
Recruitment consultants will not help you secure your first job (probably)
Recruitment consultants generally cannot help fresh law graduates secure work. The degree is the academic stage of training, but it is the professional studies courses - such as the Legal Practice Course and Bar Professional Training Course - that provide the practical experience required to be useful in a law firm or chambers. Plan conservatively and be prepared to do some leg work yourself in order to secure work after your degree.
At this stage it is also hugely worthwhile to spend some time thinking about your core strengths. Identifying these and working to them will increase your chances of discovering precisely the right job for you - and most importantly, finding a role where you will be happy and fulfilled... If you are still motivated to study, you're well on your way, and a step ahead of most law students.
Find out about the range of courses and opportunities available by visiting www.holborncollege.ac.uk