Careers

How to land a training contract during the Graduate Diploma in Law

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Legal Cheek’s Alex Aldridge met University of Law employability programme manager Joanne Rourke and picked her brain on how wannabe lawyers can land a TC during the hectic year that is the GDL.

Below are the key points made by Rourke (pictured), with the pair’s full conversation in the podcast at the foot of the page.

Joanne-Rourke

The process of getting a training contract is alien to a lot of students when they get here. In some respects it’s surprising. Many don’t know what type of lawyer they want to be.

Students can become anxious when they see peers who already have training contracts. There is some panic. Especially around the beginning of term. I try to slow things down, and help them to focus on what is important.

Insufficient research is a common problem. Some might want to jump in and start applying for the training contracts that their friends are applying for. But not taking time to consider what sort of firm is right for you makes it hard to sell yourself properly. It’s those students who tend to come to see you later on feeling down having faced lots of rejections.

There are far less places on winter vac schemes than on the schemes in the spring and summer. In the meantime, it’s worth looking at ad hoc opportunities that you can create yourself through contacts and networks. Try not to be regimented: all experience is useful.

Even if you don’t have a training contract after Christmas, there’s still plenty of time. Really, what you’re trying to do is to work out what the best route is for you. It can change. You can do work experience and decide that you actually don’t want to do a particular area of law.

Going to the Bar because you haven’t got a training contract is not recommended. I see students considering this enough to concern me, and I try to delve deeper with these people. You’ve got to jump in very whole-heartedly if you’re going to be successful as a barrister.

There aren’t many in-house training contracts. In-house law is a growing sector, with more lawyers working in companies’ legal teams. However, few start their careers there, and in that sense there is a disconnect. I often get asked where I can go and find in-house training contracts. There isn’t a place, you have to search high and low.

It’s difficult to apply for training contracts during the run up to exams. That’s why it’s important to start early — both in terms of thinking through your motivations and then making applications. If you have a good idea of where you want to be, the process of making applications is much easier.

The option to defer the LPC if you have no training contract depends on the student. Some branches of the legal profession will only recruit students from an LPC market. So if you don’t take the plunge you won’t be in with a chance. In that case there is always the part-time route, although it depends on your appetite for juggling workloads. For other students, there are times when taking a year out makes sense if they have a good plan for how to use it.

Alternative careers can be quite attractive. Compliance, in particular. It’s a growth area at banks and requires a similar skill set to law. Tax consultancy is another interesting alternative. So, you’re not necessarily a qualified solicitor or a barrister, but you can still have a very fulfilling career.

Don’t be put off by negative stories. Instead, concentrate on learning from the setbacks which you inevitably will experience. A mature, part-time candidate I advised recently persevered through lots of rejections while studying the GDL and LPC part-time, and eventually secured a training contract with a very good corporate law firm. She starts in January.

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