The legal industry covers a range of practice areas including the public sector, private practice, and in-house legal work for clients requiring legal advice.
As such, there are a number of different legal career paths, and a number of ways to gain a qualification as a legal professional. These include: solicitors, who provide legal support and advice to clients; solicitor advocates, solicitors with higher rights of audience who can represent clients in higher courts; barristers and advocates, who are self-employed and act as advocates in court and provide written legal opinions; chartered legal executives, qualified lawyers with a role similar to solicitors; and paralegals, who support solicitors with legal transactions.
For those wanting to become a solicitor, the most desirable option is that one completes a vacation scheme (or series of), which would ultimately be followed by a training contract, lasting two years. Depending on whether you are currently a law or non-law student, different firms have various opportunities for candidates at different stages of their university degree. Aspiring solicitors must apply to firms directly, with deadlines varying from firm to firm
Mini-pupillages are available for those willing to gain a taste of a career at the bar, which could then lead onto a pupillage – the bar’s equivalent of a training contract. A pupillage, however, can only be completed following the Bar Professional Training Course, which in turn requires a law degree or the GDL in order to enrol on the programme. Gaining pupillage and, ultimately, tenancy, is notoriously competitive. It is thus important to make the most of any opportunities for vacation schemes, open days and any other forms of legal work experience. Pupillage candidates need to apply via the Pupillage Gateway online. First and second year law students and second and third year non-law should continue to apply for mini-pupillages and attend careers fairs. Law finalists and GDL students apply for a place on the BPTC in the autumn and attend pupillage fairs during the spring. Pupillage applications usually open in March and offers will be made during August.
For more tips on becoming a solicitor or barrister see The Training Contract & Pupillage Handbook 2018 (available from the Careers Centre and the Law Undergraduate Workroom), a must-read for any aspiring solicitor or barrister. Other useful resources include:
Durham University Law Fair – meet representatives from a number of law firms, including international commercial law firms such as our sponsors Allen & Overy and Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner. In 2018, the Law Fair will take place on Tuesday 20th and Wednesday 21st November.
Durham University Careers Centre – check the internal careers website for details on on-campus events and internship and graduate opportunities.