in Training Contracts, Pupillage and Work Experience

I’ve finished my law degree – what next?

Finishing your law degree is a massive achievement. The fact that you may have managed to get a 2:1 or a 1st Class Degree is wonderful and you are probably glowing with achievement right at this minute.

If you got a 2:2 or Third Class Degree you are probably fairly depressed although even these are an achievement to some people in certain circumstances.

However, what do you do next? This is if course just the start of your journey down the path towards becoming a lawyer and this path, for want of a better word, has to continue.

Firstly, do not sit back to see what happens next.  You need to carry on with the process of getting qualified.  Being qualified as a solicitor takes a considerable amount of effort and in fact doing the law degree is the easy bit.

What follows next almost always has to come from all your own initiative unless you have been lucky enough to go straight into a large law firm where someone holds your hand throughout the process.

Firstly, as you will see many times on these pages, work experience is the key to getting ahead in law. Work experience, more work experience and even more work experience. This is the thing that makes you, and if you don’t have it it’s the thing that breaks you.

So many times people come to me for career coaching because they don’t know what to do next, but when I look at their CV I can see within a millisecond the problem they have and what they haven’t done so far.

Perhaps this is endemic of the fact that there’s no money to be made out of advising people to get work experience, whereas there is money to be made out of advising them to take further academic courses or to simply use the easy option of showing graduates and students where actual vacancies are instead of suggesting ways they can go out and create their own vacancies.

I am sure the careers services in universities are not deliberately going out of their way to try and encourage people not to find work, but I do wonder sometimes exactly what use they are because of their ineffectiveness at encouraging people to go off and get lots of work experience as quickly as possible.

So if you have read this wondering what to do next, the answer is work experience and keep getting as much as possible. Consider it a short term investment for long term gain.  If you carry on working at B&Q on a weekend and progress to Deputy Store Manager this will have absolutely no effect on your future career prospects as a lawyer. If you keep working as a barmaid because it pays well and all your friends are barmaids, again in 10 years’ time you will look back and wonder what on earth you were doing.

You have to make a decision now and you have to go and do it no matter how embarrassing, awkward and difficult it may seem.

There is nothing to stop anyone going off to get work experience, and this is what you must be doing as quickly as possible.

Apart from this, have a few weeks off, enjoy yourself because as soon as the next stage of your training and qualifications starts you will not have a break for at least 2-3 years and even then it is difficult because you will have a mortgage and other overheads and liabilities.

These months are your last few months of freedom, so if you are not using them productively to get work experience, go and enjoy yourself if you can.

Jonathan Fagan is Managing Director of Ten Percent Legal Recruitment and a Specialist Career Coach. You can contact him at cv@ten-percent.co.uk.

Jonathan Fagan

Jonathan Fagan LLM FIRP is Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment. He has been recruiting solicitors and legal support staff for law firms and in house legal departments for over 17 years and handles roles from junior fee earners through to partners and law firm sales/purchases. A non-practising solicitor on the Roll since 2000, he is also the author of a number of legal career books, which are available at www.legalcareercoaching.co.uk. You can contact Jonathan at cv@ten-percent.co.uk