Noses Back To The Grindstone: What Will The New Academic Year Bring For Law Students And Trainees?

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Legal Cheek editor Alex Aldridge and Bircham Dyson Bell solicitor Kevin Poulter discuss the big issues awaiting the next wave of lawyer wannabes as they begin the new academic year.

What chance do those who are starting the LPC without a training contract stand of finishing the course with a job?

Will the soon-to-be-concluded Legal Education and Training Review (LETR) fundamentally alter the path to becoming a lawyer?

How should trainees and pupils play it as they begin their training contracts and pupillages amid wider uncertainty about the economy?

The podcast is also available on iTunes.



So Kevin Poulter’s pearls of wisdom on the graduate market include;

-“Graduate numbers are increasing” – incorrect
-“Law firms prefer non-law degrees” – no they don’t
-“Do you have any advice on anyone wanting to do law” – “don’t do it”
-“Law firms want good grades and something different” – really? Who knew!

Totally dispiriting first 10mins and then I switched off. How depressing for graduates to listen to someone completely lacking in any original ideas or options.

1. How about being entrepreneurial and setting up a small business during law school? Barrister’s are self-employed and would appeal to those commercially minded chambers.

2. How about going abroad to the commonwealth to start life in practice. Places like Jamaica and the rest of Caribbean absolutely revere the English legal system. Times are changing – our young need to move abroad to exploit gaps in foreign markets like immigrants to UK have done for years. Start a new life or come back with lots of experience rather than relying on crumbs as a paralegal.

3. How about training as a mediator? Yes it is crowded but start your own business…build contacts.

4. How about joining the booming tech/start business – ok, not necessarily as in-house counsel but there a many opportunities for the young and hungry in the app/developer world…

5. Learn how to build websites and basic SEO.

The above worked for me secure my initial foothold in the market as someone who finished legal education is 2011.



You’re thoughts on the podcast are misleading IMO, Kevin was making many more points than you have put and taken out of context. Two of his main points to take away from this are:

-be careful of over-specialising, because the market you specialise in may not last (e.g. the example of property was given – when the recession hit the need for conveyancing diminished and newly specialised lawyers were made redundant)
-Develop networks and friendships within your firm and think about how you can offer views for the firm that are based on solid business/commercial reasons – be someone with a view whom the partners will want to listen to.

However your other more general points are interesting, particularly 2 and 5 – although with 5 you aren’t very specific? Could you give any advice on how any of the above helped you?



Anybody who is remotely interested in being an entrepreneur should learn basic web design and SEO. Dealing with web designers can be expensive and frustrating. Students are short on cash but rich on time and creativity. There is nothing stopping students learning these skills without forking out huge sums in course fees (most info is on the internet anyway). I started my own business to supplement my income during law school – one failure/one success. At the very least, it helps build contacts and is certainly more interesting than completing an extra mini-pupillage.

It is no secret that those students who head off to US/Caribbean/Africa under their own steam to do relevant legal experience, put themselves in a stronger position when/if they eventually return. My point was simply that although places on Amicus (for example) seem limited, there is absolutely nothing stopping graduates firing off CVs to foreign attorneys asking for work experience. I wanted to go to a common law system and therefore focused on the Caribbean. I promised to work for free (although they covered some expenses). I worked hard to save money to fund a 5 month trip and was offered a full time job as practice manager on completion in same firm. Although LPC/BPTC are at the bottom of the food chain in the UK, there is a reason why so many commonwealth students return to the (former) motherland to complete their legal qualification. That is, the english qualification is seen as a fast track to success. UK students should take advantage of this fact. Rather than paralegal – with next to no chance of picking up a pupillage/TC – take a risk, emigrate and exploit this advantage.


troy codnee

Far better to give up study altogether and obtain an hgv licence. See the world by road.


Kevin Poulter

Thank you for sharing your experience Curtis. It is obviously very different from my own. In terms of graduates, I am expecting to find that the number of graduates from and applicants for law degrees to continue to increase. This view is mirrored by this article http://targetjobs.co.uk/news/294310-law-courses-hike-in-popularity-as-a-level-results-are-released?mobile=1.

Although it might not be in your knowledge, but firms are often preferring applicants for training contracts and paralegal positions from non law degree backgrounds. I have seen up to 80% of trainees in some firms have not studied law at university and this pattern is consistent with many top 100 firms (50/50 being common).

My suggestion that students look elsewhere for a rewarding career is not inconsistent with your own advice, numbers 1,3,4 and 5 all steering people away from qualifying as a solicitor or barrister (and 2, out of the country).

Thank you for listening and engaging in the debate Curtis. And thank you WeeJimmie for sticking it out to the end.



Hi KP, thanks for replying with the link. I did end up listening to the rest and I do agree that you made sound points with regards to NQs. I just groaned when you said “it’s all going to be bad news” and “don’t do it” with regards to law graduates. I just thought a few more creative ideas (such as those proposed here https://www.legalcheek.com/2012/07/plan-b-if-you-cant-get-a-tc-or-pupillage-become-an-entrepreneur/) would have been more constructive.

I think there is a subtle difference with respect to my point. I not saying “the legal world is full up, do something else” but rather it tough at the moment so either move country to practice or create your own job. Both of these can directly help you find a TC/pupillage because if you demonstrate the capacity to execute either of those options successfully, you will be a more attractive candidate. This is particular true at the bar where many successful candidates are in their late 20s and need something to do for 3 or 4 years. Doing paralegal work can be a dead end and not terribly imaginative.

I agree that your anecdotal experience is valid and important with respect to non-law degrees, I just haven’t seen any evidence to back that up. Apologies if I was slightly provocative.

I only pointed out graduate numbers as you said “university student numbers are increasing” – which is slightly different from applicants to law degrees are increasing.

Anyway, thanks for the post. Food for thought


Kevin Poulter

Apologies WeeJimmy, I spelt your name wrong.



getting a training contract or pupillage is sooo hard nowadays lol!


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