Advice

I am worried STEM students will scupper my training contract chances

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30

Do City firms still want law graduates?

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, one wannabe lawyer asks whether a law degree still carries clout among City firms.

“I have read your recent articles about science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) students with interest. I was wondering whether we are getting to a stage where law degrees have become worthless in favour of City firms looking to fill training contract positions with STEM grads, or whether the legal profession, at least for the short term (say ten years) will still be just as fond of law degree holders. I am intersted to get your readers’ thoughts and views on this.”

If you have a career conundrum, email us with it to careers@legalcheek.com.

30 Comments

Anonymous

I would be interested to know people’s answers too. From what ive heard , law firms loooooove stem students

(9)(1)

Jeremy Sunt

Nope.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

I still think it was an old Etonian gag to make “the Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt” and that bets were taken to see how long it would take for a newscaster to spoonerise it accidentally.

(0)(1)

Not Amused

I think people worry too much.

(34)(1)

Anonymous

If you’re clever and have the relevant skills (basically communication skills, mental endurance, ability to read quickly and carefully and write decently) and graduate from a prestigious university it doesn’t matter too much what degree you have done. There are some STEM graduates at my firm, but plenty more law, humanities and languages graduates.

Having said that, law seems like a pretty tedious degree to do generally, so if there is a subject that interests you more and you can do it at a prestigious university then just do that (unless you want to be a barrister or legal academic). I have seen no evidence in my career that a law degree actually makes you a better solicitor in practice.

(15)(2)

Anonymous

“prestigious university”

no only be concerned that you’re not a STEM student, but that you did’nt attend Oxford or Cambridge!!!!

(0)(1)

Anonymous

An Oxbridge graduate with a degree in Interpretive Dance or Scandinavian Basket Weaving is much more a threat to your TC/pupillage chances than any civic university STEM grad. Brand power.

That being said, a First class STEM grad will likely do better on those watson glaser/verbal reasoning tests. Same sort of trend in North America with the LSATs for undergrads trying to get into the JD programmes: BSc students with 3.7-4.0 (First equivalents) tend to do much better on the logic-based LSATs then BA students with the same grades. You learn a different way of thinking. However, social prowess becomes more important once you get past the initial testing phase, and all the top marks science students I have met at various universities struggle with soft skills. Massive generalisation, but stereotypes exist for a reason.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

The STEM student thing is over-hyped, not least by this website, just like all the noise about tech which (see Bitcoin) is in a mania phase that is already starting to fade.

Law firms want intelligent people who can operate in the real world and get on reasonably with people. Simple as that.

That sounds easy but is a surprisingly hard combination to find. If you have the above combination of qualities you will very likely get a training contract at a good firm, whatever you study.

The trouble with STEM students is that there are very few of them who want to become lawyers (relative to law and arts students – of whom there is almost a limitless supply). Most go to work for banks and other financial institutions rather than law firms (which pay a good deal less). The ones that stay in science are not going to be tempted by law. So as a wider group they will only make up a small percentage of law firms’ trainee intakes. But with tech being hot at the moment we are hearing a lot about them (which is partly a way for law firms to signal to clients that they are ‘with it’).

One additional point is that STEM students often lack the ‘operate in the real world/get on well with people’ qualities of your typical law/arts graduate, even if they are better with numbers. That will trouble law firms.

(27)(2)

Anonymous

This is completely right. Currently on a training contract at a magic circle and definitely less than 10% of my intake are STEM grads. I’m not even certain there’s more than one.

(8)(1)

Anonymous

Add to this the fact that STEM grads are, generally, not as skilled with the English language. Those with a law degree, or an arts or humanities degree, have spent at least 3 years carefully honing arguments and flexing their linguistic muscles. This counts for a lot if you want to be a barrister or litigation solicitor, in particular.

(2)(0)

LLB all the way

No. It seems to be the “in thing” just now, but the majority are still going to be from your more traditional routes.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

STEM students are attractive applicants because their degrees are far more intellectually difficult than law and are frequently highly relevant to clients’ businesses, especially engineering, computing and bio-tech.

Best of all is to do both degrees, but a GDL will just about do if you need the cheap and cheerful option.

(7)(25)

Does not know Katie King

All those businesses pay lawyers for legal advice, not for help on their engineering, computing or biotech projects.

Pretty much the only time it helps to have that type of technical knowledge – or more accurately, a proven ability to ingest technical information – is in hard IP work. Otherwise, your first in biology is no more or less worthwhile than a first in law.

(12)(2)

Anonymous

I agree – this is very true. It is like the IP Bar’s obsession with science degrees. Yes, your biochemistry degree may well assist in the one biotech patent case you do in your career but we are not being instructed as Expert Witnesses. In all of these cases you have… an Expert! who deals with the dubject matter and answers the Courts questions. As long as you are intelligent and able to grasp the subject matter then there is little more a STEM degree will add.

(11)(2)

Anonymous

You’ve both chosen to ignore the part that says that STEM learning is more intellectually demanding than law. A firm can be confident that a good STEM graduate will be a good lawyer because they have done well at a subject more difficult than law.

As for relevant knowledge of clients’ interests, why is ‘commercial awareness’ apparently so relevant then? If a lawyer knows nothing of the subject matter behind the issues they can hardly be commercially aware. Clients wouldn’t spend time familiarising their lawyers with what they do if it was all irrelevant.

(3)(21)

Does not know Katie King

I’ve ignored your claims about the intellectual difficulty of STEM v law because it’s waffly and doesn’t stand up.

Your take on commercial awareness is, charitably, bizarre.

Here’s commercial awareness: advising your client not to threaten to sue an SEP holder which is stiffing your client on royalties.

Here’s not commercial awareness: unpicking the teeny tiny details of that particular bundle of telecoms patents to see how interesting they are.

(11)(0)

Anonymous

Waffly? Sure. Whatever. Best for you just to leave it alone.

Your examples aren’t about commercial awareness. The first is just simple IP advice. It’s just law. The second isn’t legal or commercial.

(0)(16)

Anonymous

Cheap and cheerful GDL? Far more intellectually demanding?

What a bizarre unreasoned post

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Anything looks cheap next to the BPTC.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Perhaps the question is less ‘are students who studied subjects other than law scuppering my TC chances’ but ‘is the general underinvestment by law firms in suitable HR and graduate recruitment functions hampering applicants’?

(0)(0)

Monty Don

I think it all boils down to how STEM and law grads react to nurturing.

If you water a STEM, a flower bursts forth.

If you water a law grad, they spit it out and ask for alcohol instead.

(16)(1)

Anonymous

Some of the people on the Bar course needed watering…

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Most people at my firm genuinely wouldn’t know what STEM means. Of more interest is where your degree is from. A first in law from Anglia Ruskin won’t open as many doors as an Oxbridge 2.1 in a STEM subject. The thing to focus on is getting into the best university you possibly can.

(11)(0)

Anonymous

Someone took an LC article seriously and is now worried about their chances of a TC? At least try and make your career conundrums seem like real people and not just Alex making shit up, for fuck sake.

(47)(1)

Anonymous

As mentioned above, I think the real question is – do STEM students want to be lawyers? If I was better at maths, I would have gone into banking or trading rather than law – much more lucrative and you can work around the world.

Even accounting (although incredibly dull) allows you more freedom to move around and try new things than law – I don’t see the number crunchers picking law any time soon!

(2)(0)

Anonymous

The problem isn’t STEM graduates, or any other none law graduates converting via GDL, the problem is there are too many graduates in the job market chasing too few graduate level jobs. Tony had a great idea twenty-years ago, send fifty percent of school leavers to university. Works wonders for the youth unemployment figures, but doesn’t help three years down the line when two and a half times as many graduates tumble out of university only to find the graduate jobs market hasn’t increased by two and a half times because neither Tony, or anyone that’s followed him has developed economic or industrial policies that have led to the required growth in the jobs market. Take up of post graduate courses is probably significantly more now than twenty-years ago as graduates look to add something extra, to make themselves stand out in the jobs market. The bottom line is, the jobs market has been swamped with graduates.

(7)(0)

Anonymous

What an original theory! There are too many graduates?? Amazing, I had never considered such a thing!!

(0)(0)

mhm...

Meh

Seriously, just meh

whatever lol

(1)(0)

Anonymous

It’s alright. I won’t add to the competition. I’ll stick to being a peasant and take up an engineering job.

(2)(0)

Opinionated

Opting in to do a law degree at University is the biggest mistake I have made in my life. I blame myself for not doing prior-research on alternative paths to a career in law. I was offered a place at Oxford to read history and opted-out thinking that a law degree would open more doors in the future. A big failure. Law degree is as useful as Theresa May in Brexit negotiations.

(2)(1)

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