Trainee Blog: Top Tips for Postgraduate Legal Study
As routes into the profession widen, the journey toward qualifying as a solicitor can look different for everyone. Here at Michelmores, we offer a host of career pathways in addition to the traditional training contract route (detailed below). However, it remains that no matter the path, some level of postgraduate study will be involved. With this in mind, here are my top tips for postgraduate legal study.
Put in the hours
Your tutors aren't being over the top when they say you should treat your study as a full-time job. Although I found the LPC generally less intellectually challenging than my law degree, it was the sheer volume of reading that posed a real challenge. So the advice that I had for the future trainees joining Michelmores the year after me, was: "You will be fine, so long as you put the hours in."
Though you may be tempted to embrace the flexible student schedule (which does work for some), I found that working core hours of Monday to Friday, nine to five was the best way to get those hours under my belt, whilst also preserving some leisure time.
Work out what's important
Given the likely volume of reading, it won't be possible to take detailed notes on everything - and you don't need to. Much of the reading is there for background knowledge. The key is identifying those vital topics and tricky concepts that are likely to be examined in depth. Pay attention to the following, which will point you in the right direction:
- the "learning outcomes" or "objectives" of your workshops or lectures;
- the focus of, and tasks conducted in, your workshops or lectures;
- past exam questions; and
- indications from your tutor as to what is and isn't examinable.
Taking this approach, you should get better at identifying which parts of the reading need only be skim read; which parts might be compiled into high level topic overviews; and which parts require detailed note taking.
Michelmores puts collaborative working at the heart of its culture, for good reason. The nature of law is such that it is easy for any individual, no matter how conscientious, to fall behind. Support your course mates when they find themselves in this position, by sharing your notes or catching them up over a coffee. You never know when you'll need them to repay the favour - chances are you'll be studying (depending on your location) with future trainees across a spread of local firms.
Look after your wellbeing
Postgraduate legal study will invariably require perseverance, with countless deadlines and exams, holidays spent revising and the need to juggle your workload with personal commitments.
Here at Michelmores, we recognise that resilience is fundamental to success. But resilience is not just about pushing through. Rather, Michelmores promotes "sustainable working": recognising when you need to look after yourself, in order to optimise your performance.
As exam season approaches, this suggestion might seem increasingly unrealistic. However, I found that building small bits of leisure time into my daily routine helped significantly. What this looks like in practice will be different for everyone. For some, it means carving out time for a morning gym session. For me, it meant popping on a podcast on my 40-minute walk home from the library; and watching an episode of mind-numbing reality TV before bed.
So, what form of postgraduate study will you be undertaking?
This will of course depend on your chosen route into the profession. If you opt for the training contract route, you'll need to complete the Legal Practice Certificate or the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (depending on your year of entry and your future firm's preference).
As for other routes into the profession, here's an overview of some of the opportunities we offer here at Michelmores, and the postgraduate study that will be involved:
Graduate Solicitor Apprenticeship
This is designed for students with university degrees.
It is a two-and-a-half to three-year apprenticeship which will require you to rotate around the business, before qualifying as a solicitor. You will be on a set apprenticeship programme where your seats and qualification area are outlined from the beginning. You will spend one day a week studying at the University of Law for your Solicitors Qualifying Exam.
We would recommend this for anyone with paralegal or legal experience; those who are confident of the area they wish to qualify into; and those who wish to work and study at the same time.
School Leaver Apprenticeship
This is designed for students who have completed their A-Levels.
It is a six-and-a-half-year programme. Following an 18-month paralegal apprenticeship and an internal assessment, a selection of candidates will be sponsored to complete their five-year Solicitor apprenticeship, so as to qualify as a solicitor. Should you take this route, you will spend one day a week studying at the University of Law for your Solicitors Qualifying Exam.
This is another great option for those who wish to work and study at the same time.
As part of our partnership with Exeter University, those students in their third year of an Exeter University "sandwich" law degree can join us to gain a year's work experience, before returning to their final year of university.
Placement students will spend a year within one of our teams, in an administrative/paralegal role.
This poses a valuable opportunity to build your network, find out whether this career is for you, and perhaps open up the doors to a training contract.