Can you get into a City law firm from an ex-poly? And how much will European languages help? Read the response below...
Firstly, I wouldn’t worry too much about which out of Greenwich or London Met seems to cover immigration law better. If you want to practise immigration you’ll be able to develop that speciality once you start training at a law firm or barristers’ chambers. The main thing at this stage is to choose the uni that’ll give you the best shot of getting a job. In terms of reputation, I’d go Greenwich over London Met.
The reality you’ll have to face, though, is that neither Greenwich nor London Met is the sort of high end institution that law firms and barristers’ chambers prefer to recruit from. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use a degree from these unis to get a City law job – indeed, several law firms have recently begun making a concerted push to recruit more widely. Allen & Overy, for example, now hosts graduate recruitment fairs at Greenwich, the University of East London and City University. Pinsent Masons is another firm known for being less biased against candidates who didn’t go to a top uni. For more info about the trend to recruit more widely, have a read of this article.
What you do need if you’re going to get into a top firm from Greenwich/London Met is 1) a good degree result, ideally a first, and 2) something else on your CV that makes you stand out. The fact you speak three languages is a big plus in that respect.
With buoyant South America currently fashionable among UK law firms – which have seen their continental Europe revenues hit hard by the Eurozone crisis – fluency in Portuguese and Spanish is going to go down well. Find out which firms do work in those countries, and target them for work experience placements. By getting in there early, you’ll steal a march on other younger undergraduate students who generally only begin to think about careers towards the end of their courses.
The other thing you might want to consider, if you have EU citizenship, is an Erasmus year. I wrote in the Guardian this week about the European Commission’s proposed ‘Erasmus For All’ scheme – which will see Erasmus funding doubled and create some paid-for study and work placements outside Europe in countries like Brazil and Colombia. Law firms love that sort of thing, plus the networking opportunities you’d have as a fluent Portuguese/Spanish speaker could unlock all sorts of possibilities. It’s not confirmed yet, but people who know more about the EU than I do tell me it’s very likely that ‘Erasmus For All’ will happen – and if it does, the scheme is scheduled to come into force in 2014. That would be perfect timing for you.
In summary, don’t believe the people who claim you won’t get a top legal job if you don’t go to a top uni. But know you’ll have to work extra hard, and make smart choices, if you’re gonna do it from Greenwich or London Met.
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