The process for becoming a solicitor often starts with the vacation scheme. This is the legal industry’s equivalent to an internship and firms generally hold these twice a year (summer and winter). Many firms recruit future trainees through vacation schemes, so getting onto one can dramatically improve your chances of securing a training contract (TC).
The process of qualifying as a solicitor takes several years, and most firms recruit a few years in advance. It’s therefore important that you know the timescale of the process to allow you to plan accordingly. The process is slightly different for law and non-law students, so we’ve outlined them separately below.
For students studying a law undergraduate degree, applications for vacation schemes and TCs are open to penultimate year students and above.
Most deadlines for vacation schemes lie between October and December. Aim to get your applications in as early as possible to give a good impression. Applying early might also lead to you being given an option of assessment centre dates. This can help you organise your time more easily around other applications and interviews for other firms.
For non-law students, most applications are open to final year students and graduates.
Although the formal vacation scheme and TC applications might not be open to you until your final year, there are other opportunities to experience law firms in the meantime. Several law firms offer insight days and open days which are open to students from any year of their degree. If you’re interested in seeing what a law firm is like, these will give you a taste of what it’s like to work in a law firm. They can also help you figure out which firms you might want to apply to in the future.
Use open days as a networking opportunity to get to know others who are interested in the same career path as you. Talk to more experienced students and professionals and learn from their approach. This will give you a clearer image of the industry and the applications process. Together, you’ll be able to write better, and more informed vacation scheme and TC applications.
Graduates from law and non-law degrees
If you’ve graduated and don’t have a TC, you’ll be faced with the tough decision of whether or not to start the LPC. Whilst some will be fortunate enough to have the means to self-fund, this isn’t an option for everybody. For a summary of the course fees for different providers, check out this comparison table.
Luckily, if you have a law degree under your belt, this will allow you to start working in legal roles. You can then decide whether you’d like to study the LPC part-time, or use your time in employment to save up enough to fund the LPC. Working in a legal role will also have the advantage of improving your vacation scheme and TC applications. If you’re successful, then many law firms (especially the city law firms) will fund you through your LPC and even provide a maintenance grant.
There is the option of taking out a postgraduate loan of up to £10,906 if you apply for the LPC LLM course. One thing to keep in mind is that completing your LPC does not guarantee you a TC afterwards. Make sure you consider this carefully before self-funding or taking out a loan for the LPC.
Regardless of whether you take the LPC or take up employment, it’s important to keep applying for vacation schemes and TCs during this time. Be prepared to dedicate time outside of your studies/employment to research law firms and produce good quality applications.