‘How can I escape the TC application hamster wheel?’

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By Legal Cheek on


One aspiring lawyer needs readers’ advice

In the latest instalment in our Career Conundrums series, a graduate feels stuck in the TC application cycle.

“Hello Team,

I feel like I will never have a career in law. I graduated with a law degree last year and I am feeling really down. I was the first in my family to go to university (albeit “low-ranking”) and went to one of the worst-performing secondary schools in the country so was pretty much doomed from the start.

I managed to get a 2:1 but haven’t been able to secure any jobs, internships, VS’s or TC’s despite applying to over 100 (mainly because of the pandemic). I’ve tried contacting people on LinkedIn and applying to high-street firms. I wanted to get into commercial law as I really enjoyed the topics I would go over in virtual mock assessment centres. I currently work in a supermarket to help stay afloat so I can’t do any volunteering. I am really stuck and not sure what to do and I regret ever even going to university.

Any advice is appreciated!”

If you have a career conundrum, email us at team@legalcheek.com.


Good luck

Have your tired applying for paralegal roles? With a solid 2:1 you should be able secure something in this area. And remember it’s counts towards your QWE too!

You'll need it

But they don’t have a solid 2:1, they have a 2:1 from a ‘low-ranking’ uni. To firms that is a 2:2 or borderline 3rd.


They aren’t interested in top City firms and in any event no recruiter would ever view their 2.1 as a borderline Third. Shame on you for suggesting as such.


No recruiter would ever, ever, view a 2.1 as a borderline Third.


The point being made was that a low 2.1 from a lower ranked university is the equivalent of a borderline 2.2/third before the onset of untrammelled grade inflation. I agree with that point and as someone who is involved in recruitment decisions I can tell you that is how I view it.


There is no suggestion they have a low 2.1 so I don’t understand the relevance of any of these statements.

Law student

But there’s no suggestion that they have low 2.1! Attention to detail would be important as someone who is involved in recruitment decisions, no?


Even with a BPTC along with a 2.1 in LLB did not give me the certainty of securing a paralegal role in law firms. So, just a 2.1 in LLB is not helpful unless someone builds a strong network in law.

Former high street firm employee

Try paralegalling or even becoming a legal assistant at a high street firm first, if you are good they should pick up on it and offer you a path to qualification.

If you want to ever get a training contract you need to get out of the supermarket ASAP and get some legal experience.


Quality is much more important than quantity. Rather than sending a large number of applications, a few focused and specific applications could bring you a better chance. A throughout research of the firm is essential before you start writing an application. Never copy and paste. Try to spend more time tailor-make every single one.

Have you got anyone like the employability service of your uni who can offer some feedback on your CV and covering letter? If not do you think your cohorts at the Uni can help you out by sharing their views?

Remember it is hard but not insurmountable. Don’t give up. Keep trying.

Don Pablo

I was offered my training contract before 2008 when they were still in good supply, but even then it was tricky to go from Uni to a TC without anything to bridge the gap.

The goal is to stand out on paper, and the first element of that is getting the work experience. Sometimes even you need experience to get experience, so my advice would by to try and get a day, a week, whatever, at a local high street practice, at a law centre, pro bono etc, anything you can to demonstrate commitment. That will help you to apply for the vac schemes at commercial law firms.

Second limb, stop applying for loads. Have a look at your background and experience and identify the top 5 where you have a chance. If you grew up in the regions, or studied in the regions, and didn’t go to a wizzy uni, then don’t apply to London etc. If you studied Medical law, apply to a firm that specialises in healthcare etc. then spend at least a week on each application, making it as detailed and tailored as possible.

I was a recruiting partner at an international firm, and we could spot the copy and paste jobs from a mile off. Of the 2500 application we used to receive, 80% were poor and unspecific, binned straight away whether they academics were stellar or not. A really good application probably gives you a 1 in 3 chance of the vac scheme. Once you are on the vac scheme you are probably 1 in 2for a TC.

So don’t try to leap into any old TC, but draw a path from where you are now to where you have the best chance of landing, and fill in the gaps to get you there.

Good luck!


It took me 3 cycles to secure my first Vac scheme and then TC. With each year I got better so keep going, I did reduce the quantity and increased the quality in latter cycles once I knew the sort of firms were a good fit.

Also, consider seeking out a mentor, this helped me with motivation and accountability. There are free and paid resources out there. The Commercial Law Pathway, TCLA and the Commercial Law Academy are all services I used.

Keep going and good luck 🍀

Offshore litigator

Try offshore – you can gain equally great experience and near tax free money.

Casual Observer

By “equally great experience”, I assume that you are talking about the beaches and cocktails, as opposed to the quality of legal work out there?

Offshore litigator

I could never understand the distorted antagonistic attitude towards offshore lawyers. Not everyone wanna work at a top US firm and here in the Cayman you take home more than a typical MC/SC lawyer and more importantly you have an equally fulfilling career and life outside of work (that you don’t get onshore).

I work an average 38 hour week and take home £180k. Not much, I accept, but I never have to work on weekends and regularly hit the bars at 6pm and spend time with my fam. That, my friend, is what I call happiness and success.


You should become a paralegal. This is what I did and it led to my qualification. I probably sent two TC apps before I lost interest and decided that gaining practical experience was the way to go. Good luck.


Have you tried registering with social mobility organisations that are catered towards individuals like yourself coming from an underrepresented background, including: Aspiring Solicitors, SEO-London, Rare Recruitment, Grow Mentoring, BrightNetwork, 10,000BlackInterns (if Black), 10,000AbleInterns (if neurodiverse) etc.

I would highly recommend if you haven’t already, as they offer exclusive in-person events, such as work experience, open days at city law firms, workshop sessions, mock assessment centre sessions, seminars, webinars, etc.

These opportunities give you a chance to diversify your portfolio and increase your employability as you will have much more practical experience to add into your application.

These organisations also provide you with a plethora of resources, which will give you an edge to boost your commercial awareness.

Ice Spice

I think (understandably) lots of aspiring solicitors get into the trap of looking for paralegal jobs ONLY. I’d advise against this. Cast your net wide and as long as the job is professional (I.e. office based. Think compliance, project management etc), you will have relevant experiences to speak about in applications etc. there is no reason to paralegal for 5+ years on a 20-25k salary while a firm dangles the TC carrot in front of your face but goes on to hire trainees from outside the firm when you can be on a decent salary in a decent job whilst applying. This way if the TC applications never work out then you have another career to fall back on. If you put all your chips in the paralegal basket and you don’t get a TC then that’s 5+ years on 20k doing doc review etc. just food for thought to all the young grads going through the struggle at the moment!

Trainee Solicitor

It can take a few years to secure a TC so try not to be so hard on yourself. Working as a paralegal in the mean time is the best idea (more money than your current role and you can see what the firm looks for in tc candidates).

Re the number of applications, it is unfortunately a numbers game (ignore what the firms’ HR say- to be frank they’ve never secured a tc) so keep up applying. People may say ‘quality over quantity’ but really it needs to be quality and quantity.

Securing a TC will change your life (financially) so it will be worth it in the end. You’ll get there – good luck!

Same Trainee Solicitor

Also proof read your applications over and over, unlike myself and my original comment!

Old Guy

“Securing a tc will change your life financially”…..sorry mate what? Even if we take tc to mean City law tc, which seems to be your assumption, how is a couple of years earning between £35k and £55k going to change your life? Are you assuming you’ll be kept on at the same firm and then become a partner? News flash, the average partner at a City Firm is two bad years away from losing everything except those with family money or a spouse on equal salaries. The OP said pursue another decently paid career rather than working as a paralegal, that is really good advice.

Laughing Trainee Solicitor

I’m not your mate but I do find it hilarious that you are lecturing me about my own profession, and that of my friends, colleagues and family members.

News flash: like the vast majority, I intend to have a career in law lasting more than two years.

Black future trainee

DING DING DING!! This is what I tell aspiring solicitors now…don’t waste years being a paralegal. Do it for 2yrs max and look for other professional roles whilst applying for TCs.

Law Grad

Do you have any more examples of office related jobs like compliance and pm you mentioned? I am struggling to find similar career openings with my law degree. Thank you

Been There, Done That

Paralegalling is the age-old advice but it still rings true, the experience you get as a para is great value (depending on the place of course) and could even lead to a TC (depending the policy of the place). I would suggest you get in touch with the reputable recruitment agencies to explore your options. The in-house paralegal agencies like Flex are also good ways to get paralegal opportunities on short to long term contracts, which are good ways to get your foot in the door. I did this years ago and it massively contributed not only to getting my TC but also to doing a good job as a trainee since the tasks you do as a trainee are very similar to the tasks you do as a paralegal.


Sorry you are going through this. I understand how demeaning it must feel to graduate and remain stuck working in a supermarket. Hang in there. You will break into law, but I agree with others have said, that it may be worth also applying for paralegal roles.

US counsel

The question is why law where there are numerous other opportunities that would offer you the same degree of professional satisfaction? I have been looking for a way out since my TC (now 10 PQE)

Future Trainee

Agreed, people need to stop the romanticizing of TCs. Plenty of other great industries that can be more rewarding

Michael Robinson

Go visit local firms and ask, in person, to speak to someone.
You’ll get lots of “sorry no” but keep at it.
I know people are pushed to declare a preferred area of law but in truth myself and some other law firm owners recognise that having 2 or 3 practice areas is better for the firm (and you) and it doesn’t seem to harm barristers’ careers.
Don’t take a job in a “legal call centre” setting as you’ll not learn the process but you’ll learn how to follow a process.
Finally, look “in house”. a great way to learn commercial law/litigation.

Hammy the Hamster 🐹

Meep meep!

Nibble nibble!


Maybe you should take the hint that your qualifications are not to going cut it when there is so much oversupply of new entrants in the market?

More like unhelpful

Comments like this really annoy me. If everyone gave up at the first sign of rejection where on earth would we be? Secondly, they haven’t been applying for apps for that long…as we all know for some folks it can take two or three cycles before something sticks. Take your ‘helpful’ comment elsewhere.


Lots of people saying go secure a paralegal job and then you’ll get a TC.. that’s honestly the worst advice ever; if a firm gets you for a paralegal wage (i.e nothing) they will be very reluctant to wilfully get you up on the pay ladder; in the rare occasion they do- you’ll be “proving” yourself for quite a few years. You will undoubtedly get experience this way, but TC is definitely not guaranteed at all. Having said that, you’ll be able to use that experience to your advantage when applying further.
Truth is, without having the LPC and possibly LLM under your belt you will find it very hard. Firms don’t want to fork our 10k+ for your further studies, they just want the finished product. As for applying to over 100 firms, I agree with those who’ve said quality is far better than quantity. Knowing your audience is important as well, if you’re applying to the top 50-100 firms then you’ll never get it unless your CV is “exceptional” in some other way. Go for your medium, even small, local firms, those that are far more inclined to look at you as a human being rather than a profit making robot. One last thing, DO NOT limit yourself to just “I want to do commercial law”, most firms want someone flexible and someone who will agree to work in whatever field they tell you to. They’ll all say they take your wishes into account but really they couldn’t care less. It’s all about the business and its needs=what generates most MONEY at any given time!
Personally though, I would seriously consider whether you really want to practice in law (I know it’s a difficult thing to decide when you’ve not even seen it yet); take it from the few comments above-A LOT of people are quitting law, A LOT! There are many reasons for that. Good luck!


Find an area of law you’re passionate about and apply to those firms. I got offered a TC at a place that did agricultural law and rural affairs which was area that caught my attention. I mentioned this in my CV and they mentioned it in the interview and could see that I was interested in the subject.

Tailor your CV to areas of law that the firm practices in and learn about that area

Hope this helps

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