Advice

9 things I wish I knew before starting my law degree

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It’s never too early to start thinking about your career, says LSE grad Bláithín Dockery

Starting my law degree as a fresh-faced 18-year-old I was blissfully unaware of the challenges to come. A new city, a new group of friends and a hectic academic schedule can be testing for even the most resolute of wannabe lawyers. Thankfully, I made it to the other side, graduating from the LSE in 2016 with a 2:1. Here I look back at my time during the LLB and offer some practical advice for freshers.

1. Learn how to explain concepts clearly

Studying at university is a huge change from school. Lectures are uncharted territory for many students so it may take time getting used to this new style of learning. You shouldn’t feel the need to write down everything the lecturer says. After all, what good are ridiculously detailed notes when you don’t understand the basics? You’re not expected to recite everything about a particular concept that the lecturer addressed. What’s more important is that you understand the concepts and can write about them clearly. I’d recommend finding a study method that works for you. Printing off lecture slides in advance and making brief additional notes worked for me.

2. It’s never too early to start thinking about your career

Law firms now offer a range of opportunities for first year students, including insight schemes and open days. Take advantage of these. Not only will they help you get a head-start when it comes to building your legal CV, but you can also get a feel for different law firms and work out which best suits you.

3. Get involved in societies

As well as being a great place to meet like-minded people, getting involved in societies helps to build soft skills. Taking on a position of responsibility will help you demonstrate specific skills when it comes to vacation scheme applications. This doesn’t mean that you have to be president of the law society — being captain of a sports team or secretary of a society will help hone equally important skills, such as leadership, organisation, and commitment. If your heart is set on the law society (which tend to recruit from the second year onwards), why not offer your assistance and help out with things such as promotion for an event. This early experience will give you an advantage when later applying for a position in the society.

4. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

Most of you will not have studied law at A-level and so most topics will be completely new. Students with a background in history or politics may find there is some cross-over in modules such as public law. As my background was in science I particularly enjoyed medical law and intellectual property modules as they covered concepts and issues I was familiar with. However, I felt slightly out of my depth during public law lectures. If you do find yourself struggling, it’s important to make use of the office hours provided by your lecturers and tutors and not be afraid to ask questions — no matter how basic. If after doing so you have trouble with the explanations provided, it may help to ask another tutor or even your peers.

5. Sleep is vital

Freshers week is exhausting, as I learnt from personal experience. Going out every night and meeting new people every day can make it difficult to sleep well. This tends to have a knock-on effect on your ability to concentrate in those all-important first few lectures. I caught myself nodding off on more than one occasion! I felt as if I was playing catch up and when topics became more complex, I found it difficult to focus since I had missed explanations of the basic concepts. Although I understand ‘FOMO’, I would suggest taking a break from the partying and getting some much-needed shut-eye.

6. Commercial awareness is important

Make sure you keep up to date with the news. Doing so will get you into a good habit early on and is useful for applications. News reports tend to get straight to the point and don’t take nearly as long to read as journal articles. I found reading the news particularly beneficial in my medical law module. The recommended additional reading would often include complex technical articles which would take me hours to read in depth. By keeping up to date with relevant news stories, I found a quick and easy way to grasp these technicalities and elevate the standard of my work.

7. If you don’t enjoy a module, find a way to make it fun

The stereotype that law is a ‘dry’ subject does hold some truth. Some topics in compulsory modules can be plain dull, but don’t give up on them. Instead, take a look at additional resources. YouTube videos are a great supplementary resource, covering a breadth of topics from criminal law to public law.

8. Make time for yourself

Law aside, university can be overwhelming. For those living in halls, it can feel as if there is no escape and having a moment’s calm may seem like a fantasy. In those first few months life at uni is definitely full on so take some time out so that you don’t burn out. Go to the gym, play an instrument or meditate — do what works best for you.

9. It’s not all dog-eat-dog

The idea that law students are all just looking out for themselves doesn’t have to be true. Yes, many of your peers will be competing for training contract places, but don’t freeze each other out. All law students should have a support network where they can help others, such as a law clinic or even a WhatsApp group! By having such a network, you can pool your resources and keep each other informed about events and networking opportunities.

Bláithín Dockery completed a law degree at LSE and is now studying a BSc in medical biosciences at Imperial College London. She hopes to secure a training contract and later specialise in intellectual property or life sciences.

62 Comments

Anonymous

I’m bored of this, can we have more stories on NQ pay please?

(38)(3)

Anonymous

For the love of God, please no.

The same words again and again, just with different firms’ names inserted. Followed by comments from a load of students and trainees competing for who can be the greediest, most boring show-off.

Only a few hundred people in the whole country give a shit about retention and trainee and NQ pay in MC and US firms.

(21)(4)

Anonymous

And those few hundred make up the bulk of LC’s regular readers… Therefore, it makes sense for LC to produce content to satisfy their readers.

(13)(4)

Anonymous

Maybe LC should try to attract more of the great majority of lawyers and law students who don’t, and don’t want to, work in corporate law in the city?

(7)(3)

Anonymous

What, idiots you mean?

(6)(6)

Anonymous

AKA normal people who are interested in law and the practice of law for reasons other than greed and licking the arses of corporate clients.

(5)(2)

Anonymous

Ah, you meant weirdos. Sorry.

(9)(2)

Anonymous

That’s a very revealing answer. Thanks.

Anonymous

you work in the regions?

(2)(4)

Anonymous

No, in London. Just not in the dull-as-fuck world of MC and US firms.

(3)(8)

Extra Extra

DWF now pays £64k NQ in London. Mayer Brown £78k NQ. Linklaters £81k NQ. Eversheds £72k NQ.

(6)(1)

Lamunker

Wow, I love the random list.

DWF at 64k! Wow. Nearly as much as an intern at Goldmans.

(5)(1)

Anonymous

You laugh but Linklaters take home pay is barely any higher after tax, and the hours are much longer. I don’t work at DWF by the way.

(0)(1)

Regretful of Counsel

Things I wish I’d done:

Live at home and save being in debt while studying.

Live at home during pupillage year and save the pupillage award for a house deposit rather than wasting it on rent.

Still renting at ten years call.

Still love the job, mind.

Learn from my mistake.

(9)(0)

Anonymous

I’m 29 and still don’t own a property; self-funded the LPC and rented ever since I left uni 8 years ago. I don’t regret it, I prefer a quality of life and my independence for the price of rent and taking a bit longer to save.

Plus the fact that I moved cities on qualification and a mortgage would have made that more complicated (and I still couldn’t say where I would buy a property). You might not be here tomorrow. Do what you want. You can (generally speaking) always earn and save more money.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Make sure to get a help to buy ISA

(4)(0)

Regretful of Counsel

I second that. Will manage it eventually, but would have managed it long ago if I’d done it differently at the start.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Wow…this is actually what we want!

(0)(0)

Legal Spice

🎶Yo I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want…🎵

(1)(1)

Anonymous

I wish I knew about legal message boards like Lawbla!

https://www.tapatalk.com/groups/lawbla/forum-f2/

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I think we also need to acknowledge the MASSIVE elephant in the room.

Never self fund for a LPC and then work as a paralegal doing trainee level work whilst being underpaid.

Please, Please, Please secure a training contract as others have done without legal experience.

I have seen people self fund the LPC working part time studying it part time and the work they were doing to sustain themselves wasn’t legal as most LEGAL WORK is unpaid for, THEY HAVE LPC BUT NO LEGAL EXPERIENCE and cant even get a paralegal job or TC.

Bad recruiters keep advertising for paralegal jobs with LPC AND EXPERIENCE!

(9)(5)

Anonymous

Utter rubbish. Sure, it’s a gamble to self-fund the LPC; but if you have the credentials and the drive to make it then paralegalling can be a great way in. I have seen many paralegals make successes of themselves and in some cases they actually outperform the trainees who come straight from uni.

Also, there are many well-paid paralegal jobs out there. You won’t be earning megabucks straightaway like the Oxbridge kids, but if you’re patient and hardworking then by no means is a TC at a decent firm beyond your reach.

(9)(1)

Anonymous

Agreed. I’m a paralegal at a SC firm without the LPC or previous paralegaling experience. Admittedly, I had a TC secured (with another firm) before applying but that isn’t a requirement either.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Should add that I wouldn’t endorse self funding the LPC, given that you can get good paralegal work without it.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

Thank you all for commenting but how do we deal with recruiters imoposing a LPC requirement that does not even state the electives. Stephen James Partnership does this.

Loads of paralegal jobs need a LPC and that doesn’t lead to a TC.

MORAL never do the LPC there’s paralegal jobs in the government/ public sector that don’t even require it.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Or just look a bit harder and do paralegal work that doesn’t require an LPC.

(1)(0)

loljkm8

I work in a top construction litigation team as a paralegal and didn’t need an LPC for this job. NB: albeit starting a TC after completing my LPC.

You don’t *need* an LPC.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

BUT if you don’t have a TC lined up you’d be left out in the cold, it’s either get a paralegal job as a future trainee OR if you aren’t one get a LPC and work as a paralegal. Which some on here do not endorse and I wouldn’t either.

And those that cant afford a LPC and don’t have a TC lined up?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

You wouldn’t be left out in the cold. As I said before, you can get a paralegal job at City firms without a TC or LPC. Whilst working as a paralegal you can get a TC at that firm or another firm.

Anonymous

Or, do as I did (after being advised to do so), and ignore the LPC requirement and apply regardless. If your CV is well received the lack of LPC will close far fewer doors than you might expect. Then kill any doubts in the interview.

Anonymous

SJP slimeballs

(20)(0)

Anonymous

I have recently secured a role through them with an MC firm, over the moon about the job – and yet somehow they still managed to make me hate them. Asking all sorts of intrusive questions and ghosting whenever they feel like it.

(15)(2)

Anonymous

You don’t have to use a recruiter. I am a recruiter myself (not paralegal, and no longer agency), and firms would prefer you didn’t use a recruiter and applied directly!

From a recruiters point of view, the only thing I can think of for why these recruiters are asking for LPC and experience is because they would be more likely to get a position (on paper). A recruiter would be thinking “I’m charging a fee for this person” so need to I guess justify why this person is worth a fee to the client.

However, I agree with you. One of the reasons I am no longer an agency recruiter.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

I agree. I self funded by LPC and actually got a TC during it. Without the uni connections I wouldn’t of had a chance.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

While paralegaling for 2 years, I received three standout offers: £50k at a US firm, £70k at a private equity, and £110k to move to the Caymans to get around the “no lawyers under 3PQE” rule.

I turned down all 3 as I had a TC lined up but the jobs are out there. They pay damn well, the stress is generally pretty low and the working hours are normally decent. Plus there’s always the potential for overtime.

(6)(0)

Anonymous

Hear hear

(0)(0)

loljkm8

What is the “no lawyers under 3PQE” rule? I’m far too sheltered in the regions to know what this is.

(7)(0)

Anonymous

My understanding is that it was introduced as a form of positive discrimination, trying to make the offshore firms hire local junior talent. Several Caribbean islands will not provide work permits to foreign lawyers of less that 3 years PQE, meaning you cannot practise law. However, some firms have plugged this gap with E&W educated paralegals as they are not engaged in the practise of law. Standard operating in the grey areas.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

Absolutely second that.

(4)(0)

Legal Tourism NI

Seriously, take 18 months and go to one of the big near-shoring centres in Belfast.

1. Big name on the CV and big deals that can be talked about albeit minor roles;
2. No LPC required
3. Opportunities to work in London head offices;
4. Money can be saved for the LPC in Belfast as cost of living is low and the wages are over £20,000
5. Large amounts of these people are going on to get city training contracts; and
6. Belfast is a decent city to live in these days

(8)(1)

Anonymous

Yeah I’ve noticed this a couple of Irish girls worked at Citi bank in NI as ISDA negotiators and made some amazing moves into Clifford Chance and Mizuho bank without a LPC.

But cant afford any houses to buy in London.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Nonsense – If you can afford to self fund the LPC, or take on the debt, do it.

I put myself through the LPC, got an in-house role “in the regions” and then moved on to the job I’m in now; I’d say I earn about as much as those pretending to be working in “MoneyLaw” actually do, pretty much dictate my own hours and travel around when I want to. And I own a house.

Oh, and all without one of those training contract things that people seem so strung up on around here…

(2)(9)

Anonymous

Wait a minute you did the trainee solicitors legal practice course to work in-house with no training contract. And you’re earning more than others who have done the TC? You’re taking the piss.

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Had TC interviews, and interviews for in-house roles – Went in-house and haven’t looked back since.

I’ve always worked for / with solicitors in one way or another, so LPC has definitely been a useful investment, but that’s all I see it as.

Having read some of the tosh the City dwellers put up with I’m glad I didn’t pursue TC. The standard of work sounds terrible, working hours ridiculous and having to sacrifice your social life to be some Associate’s lacky?? Come on – Some of you folks need to see the bigger picture…

(2)(2)

Anonymous

Wonder if she will publish a similar article for a Science Week entitled “9 things I wish I knew before starting my medical biosciences degree”.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

I think she should have done a biomedical degree first and then the GDL (Graduate diploma in law) but hey if you’ve got connections you can shorten the education timeline.

(0)(0)

Random passer-by

What do you mean if you’ve got connections you can shorten the education timeline? Surely her doing two undergrad degrees is stretching things out? And it has nothing to do with connections but everything to do with money. Doing two undergrad degrees like this, and it appears the BSc will be a full 3 years, is the most bizarre thing I’ve seen. She appears to be rich, but even if you want to break into IP why not do a 1 year science diploma. 6/7 years of undergrad is a bit much.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

You’ve said it yourself its a bit too much that she’s doing all this study, had she had the connections then she wouldn’t have done a double degree. 3 years science followed by a diploma in law.

(3)(1)

Anonymous

How many times are you going to write this article?

#justice4KK

(0)(0)

loljkm8

10. Always wipe from back to front

(90)(1)

Anonymous

Bantz, top

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Unless you’re biologically female, in which case it’s the other way round.

(1)(0)

loljkm8

I think the joke went over your head…

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I appreciate uni goes quickly and then you are out in the big wide world but I hate the advice that from day one you need to start making connections, getting legal experience, thinking about your future career, going to law fairs etc.

How about develop a personality, make some stupid mistakes, get drunk and misappropriate traffic cones. Law students will have a lifetime of, lets face it, a fairly mundane career. I didn’t go to one career fair, make any connections or think about my future career once at university and ended up OK.

(11)(0)

Anonymous

Tip number 7: I made my constitutional law module much more enjoyable by touching myself during lectures

(4)(0)

Chickens are better than donkeys

Do a pupillage instead of LPC and TC and be a real lawyer not an admin monkey.

If you’re gonna work on a plane, be the pilot.

(6)(1)

o.o

How does one even move from LSE to Imperial

(3)(0)

donald duck

Go West. If you get to Heathrow, you’ve gone too far.

Concentrate less on your prose and think about numbers and formulas and you will do just fine.

(2)(0)

Shabana Hameed

2 things. Why is she doing a science degree (since her career is intended to be in law, there are other ways you can study things as a passion) and will having low A Level grades (BBC) make it difficult to progress in law after I graduate.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

IP law requires some sort of technical degree.

And yes, law firms specify certain A-Level grades (e.g. ABB).

(1)(0)

A King's student

>LSE person
>not thinking about their career since the time they were born

(4)(0)

Anon

I’m retiring soon
It’s still possible, like me, to enter the profession through the back door, no degree, no debts, and still make a career of it.
I’ve had 30 years and no regrets apart from the fact I could have earned more by not doing crime!

(0)(0)

Comments are closed.

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