To Be A UK Lawyer: The Backdoor Approach

The final step - Step 3 - which for the majority is the most difficult, requires persuading a firm of solicitors, or barristers to grant a training contract. Obtaining a training contract is a Law Society/Bar Council requirement. It is only after completing a 2 year training contract that the Law Society or Bar Council will grant a student the right to practice as a UK solicitor or barrister.

The problem is that there are far more graduates seeking a training contract than there are solicitor or barrister training contracts available.

To a lawyer providing a training contract is looked upon as making an investment. The lawyer invests his time, money and energy training up a new lawyer with the hope of recuperating a profit on that investment when the new lawyer qualifies and becomes a fee earner for that firm/chambers.

The math is simple, the younger the newly qualified lawyer is the longer he/she can bring money into the business through the fees charged. Equally, the older the newly qualified lawyer is lessens the time he/she will be able to earn profits for the business.

Other factors that impact on the lawyer's investment choice is the caliber of the applicant, i.e. what university did he/she qualify from, what is their social status, what is the likely hood that on qualifying he/she won't just get up and go (nationality/ethnicity/gender) all these and more factor in the lawyer's calculations, remember it is an investment not a matter of sentiment or kindness.

The only time when sentiments may come into play is when the 'its who you know card is played' and a lawyer is swayed to grant a training contract to the son of a friend for example.

Probably due to these, and, other factors, over 75% of those that start out by studying for a law degree (Step 1) with a view to becoming a UK practicing lawyer (Step 3), end up working in non law fields.

The purpose of these observations is not to put you off studying law with a view to becoming a UK lawyer but to make you look at things realistically. Universities and colleges will gladly take your money because Step 3, the final and most important step is not their business.

If, however, you are determined to try to become a UK lawyer, then may be another approach might be worth considering. Accepting that there are far more law degree holders seeking a training contract than there are training contracts available (to verify this contact the Law Society and ask them), why not try the back door approach to becoming a lawyer, especially if you are 30+.

Work from inside a law firm as a legal assistant/clerk/paralegal or from inside a legal department (e.g. as well as large corporations there are many legal departments in government and local government). A law firm or a legal department is more likely to give a training contract to one of their own (if that person shows exceptional ability) than an unknown.

Getting work as a legal assistant/clerk/paralegal is far far easier than getting a training contract. However, the level of a legal assistant/clerk/paralegal can vary, therefore, if you want to use the backdoor approach to reach your goal of becoming a practicing lawyer in the UK you will need to enter at a fairly high level - a position with a significant level of responsibility.

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