Applying for a vacation scheme or training contract can seem an intimidating process. For applicants from a non-law background this feeling can be even more potent – especially when opportunities tend to come towards the end of the degree course and it can seem harder to obtain informal work experience to confirm your ambitions to work as a lawyer.
This blog sets out some useful tips for those applicants from a non-law background and makes some suggestions for a successful training contract application.
Regardless of your original degree subject, the skills you acquire are transferrable – to a trainee role and eventually a qualified lawyer.
As a History undergraduate, the skill of writing to persuade and argue underpinned my degree. I was encouraged to put my view across and to promote an overarching idea. When, in my first seat, I was involved in a large number of contentious construction matters I fell back on these skills – whether this was drafting a position statement for mediation or corresponding with parties in respect of a dispute.
These skills remain invaluable in my current seat in Contentious Probate and, arguably, I overlooked their importance when applying for training contracts. I would encourage all prospective applicants to review the skills they have acquired over the course of their degrees and to not be afraid of stating the obvious when it comes to skills that different degree subjects nurture.
Lots of universities run societies for non-law students looking to learn more about the legal sector. These are great societies to be involved in – offering opportunities to attend open days as well as hosting talks and commercial awareness workshops. Such events are an effective way of demonstrating your commitment and ambition in applications. They are also very informative and allow you to learn more about what working as a lawyer is like.
It might be the case that your university doesn’t yet have such a society. If so, then it’s a great opportunity to approach your respective student union to start one yourself. This would demonstrate a host of additional skills invaluable in the legal sector such as leadership, team work, networking, and organisation.
As I’ve said, the application process can seem daunting when applying from a non-law background. From my experience it’s easy to overlook the valuable skills you have gained over your degree and focus instead on the gaps in your knowledge in comparison to law students.
This need not be the case. Assessment days and vacation schemes usually involve tasks that do not prejudice law students over non-law students. For instance, a legal research-advice task will often involve a novel topic to most law students.
In addition, as a non-law student there is no expectation that you will have legal knowledge. This allows you to approach the topic freely, without a narrow mind set, and make the most of the opportunity to showcase your research and analytical skills.
Consider your non-law degree as an asset in training contract applications and throughout your career. Studying a different degree subject equips you with invaluable skills that can be transferred successfully to the legal sector. Not only this, but there remains scope for non-law undergraduates to build a strong CV by making the most of opportunities offered by university societies aimed at non-lawyers.