Mainstream and Alternative Routes to Board the Legal Career Train

Whilst some people may have started studying their law degree out of pure interest, most students will have taken the LLB in order to start a career in the legal industry. Not all will complete the LLB, and even those who do may decide that a legal career is not for them. However, taking the right approach to extra-curricular activities during your studies can open many doors after you graduate, that you may not otherwise have the key for.

Choosing your route

Most post-graduate law students take one of two routes; to be a barrister or a solicitor. After completing the LLB (or GDL if coming from another degree), potential barristers choose the more expensive route of completing a BPTC (Bar Professional Training Course) then completing ‘pupillage’ at a barristers’ chambers, and aspiring solicitors take the LPC (Legal Practice Course) followed by two years of training at a law firm. All in all, there are a lot of hoops to jump through and a lot of qualifications to gain in order to practise law. There are, however, alternative measures that can be considered. Lynne Johnson, OU career adviser with the Student Services Team for Undergaduate Business and Management & Law, recommends students to look into the CILEX route, acting as a ‘back route’ into becoming a solicitor. Lynne also recommends that degree apprenticeships are just being launched, which entail full employment by a law firm which not only provides primary financial benefits, but also pays for your training, including undergraduate and postgraduate courses (details about the scheme can be found HERE). This could be something that you may advise friends who are yet to start their LLB, to do.

If you quite fancy a change of scenery, a very viable option that I, myself, am researching heavily is the option of passing a State Bar exam (the most notable New York Bar exam, has now changed to the Universal Bar Exam) in the USA, which can effectively cut the amount of time you spend studying in half. In the USA, law students must complete the equivalent of 6 years studying in order to sit the State Bar exam (a similar length of time to the UK route), however the UK LLB is accepted as an ‘equivalent level of international study’ (in most cases), sufficient to entitle UK LLB graduates to sit the State Bar exam, to become qualified to practise law in that state. Although not widely advertised in the UK, this route can offer the advantage of not only qualifying to practise law in the USA in just over 3 years (3 year LLB, and then a few months intensive studying to pass the State Bar exam), but it also ties a very fancy looking ribbon on your CV if you are having trouble obtaining LPC sponsorship or/and a training contract in the UK. Furthermore, upon qualifying as a New York attorney, you can cross-qualify as a solicitor in the UK by sitting the QLTS (Qualifying Lawyer’s Transfer Test). There are various distance learning establishments whom provide State Bar training courses, both in the UK and USA, such as BARBRI, Pieper and Kaplan.

Ticking all the extra-curricular boxes

Whilst most students with an LLB qualify to take the Universal Bar Exam with just their LLB, only the most intensive studying will prepare you, therefore a recommended option would be to complete a 1 year LL.M in the USA. Whilst American law schools are notoriously expensive, previous OULS Chair Amy Woolfson managed to gain a Kennedy Scholarship to pay for all of her LL.M fees at Harvard, as well as living expenses. Whilst many of us may think that this is not something that they would ever be able to achieve, Amy is proof that a little hard work is all it takes. She completed her LLB in 4 years, working full time throughout, managing to find time to fit in an incredible 9 mini-pupillages, as well as chairing the OULS. Amy believes that networking was crucial to her success, advising that you don’t need to be an insider, you just need to take an interest in the people you meet and ask thoughtful questions. Attending events that the OULS and OU put on can be great opportunities to network, in order to gain mini-pupillages, judge shadowing days and law firm work experience.

“You will be Googled”

Friend of the OULS Catherine (Cat) Flint provides a fantastic example of an OU student and OULS member who overcame the odds of working full-time as an advocate for young offenders when she stated her LLB, and then continued to study almost full-time simultaneously (4 years) whilst pregnant. One of Cat’s proudest moments was when she made a TMA deadline only days after she gave birth. She took extended maternity leave to complete W300 and W301 simultaneously, followed by a 30 point module in family law to round everything off. During her studies Cat was a key contributor to the mooting scene (get involved HERE), winning her first ever moot alongside OULS Vice Chair for 2015/16 Fathi Tarada with the OULS. Whilst on maternity leave, Cat’s feet rarely touched the ground, volunteering for the Witness Service which provided invaluable experience in terms of exposure of the Criminal Justice System, and Cat also took part in essay competitions and attended other events hosted by the OULS to help her networking skills. Cat highly recommends all LLB students to partake in mooting and an area of extra-curricular activity such as volunteering, as not only does it provide you with a fun experience, but it also looks very good on your CV. Cat’s charisma for law shows just what sort of mind-set is needed to outshine your counterparts. The examples provided demonstrate extra-curricular activities that should be undertaken if you want to open post-graduate doors into a law career. Said satirically but with a lot of truth, one of Cat’s final pieces of advice was for all students to take their public identity seriously. “Be careful what you post on social media. You WILL be googled” says Cat!

What next?

If you feel excited at the thought of life after your LLB, then why not take a leading role in the OULS by nominating yourself to run for a seat on the OULS committee? We all have a lot of fun, it can take up however much or little amount of time you can provide, and looks fantastic on your CV! If you would like to nominate yourself, or have someone in mind who you think would be suitable, please see HERE:

If you would like some help regarding your future, career prospects or just fancy a chat with someone who cares and can provide support regarding your studies and career, please feel free to contact the Career Advisers (such as Lynn Johnson) at http://www2.open.ac.uk/students/careers/careers-consultation, or speak to the OULS Careers Coordinator Sophie Terrington at careers@ouls.org.

Thanks go to Lynne Johnson, Amy Woolfson and Catherine Flint for providing help and advise.

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