By Swati Mistry, Graduate Recruitment Officer and Jacqui Bernuzzi, Graduate Recruitment Manager at Baker McKenzie
Navigating any graduate recruitment process can feel like a very daunting experience. This article aims to debunk some of the common myths about the recruitment process to become a lawyer and also give some insight into what law firms are looking for in candidates.
1. You must have a Law degree to consider a career in Law.
This is probably the most common myth as the reality is that you don't have to study a Law degree to become a lawyer. You can study any subject that interests you and that you are passionate about and then convert your degree at a later stage. Recruiters are increasingly looking for well-rounded candidates who can use their previous experiences to demonstrate transferable skills and also their motivation and commitment to law. A sizable number of non-law graduates get offered training contracts and go on to qualify as lawyers.
Non-law graduates are able to convert their degree by taking the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). This is a one year course which covers all the academic legal knowledge that law graduates gain from their degree. Then, similar to law graduates they must then study the Legal Practice Course (LPC), which is a vocational course that focuses on applying the law to real-life situations and begins to develop an understanding of to work most effectively with clients.
2. If you don't meet the academic requirements then it’s an automatic reject.
The most commonly applied minimum academic requirement for law firms is 340 UCAS point (or equivalent) at A level and a 2.1 degree. At Baker McKenzie we understand that not every candidate’s achievements look the same on paper – and we want to recruit the best people, from every background. We do look for 340 UCAS points (or equivalent) but as we use a contextualised recruitment system we have the ability to understand your achievements in the context in which they have been gained. This allows us to, where appropriate, apply some flexibility and consider candidates who fall slightly short of our criteria and who demonstrate potential.
3. Law work experience is essential.
Whilst we absolutely encourage aspiring lawyers to obtain some type of legal work experience (especially if they are applying for a training contract), working in retail, hospitality, admin office roles or teaching children in a gap year will provide you with some of the transferable skills for a career as a lawyer.
Participating in Vacation Schemes and Open Days are also really great ways to build your legal work experience and gain real insight into that Firm and the career more generally.
4. You must complete a Vacation Scheme at a Firm to obtain a Training contract with them.
A high percentage of students who take part in vacation schemes are likely to be offered a training contract at that firm. However a vacation scheme is by no means a pre requisite for securing a training contract. Remember, candidates can take part in multiple vacation schemes - but they can only complete one training contract.
Vacation schemes are highly regarded by recruiters. The insights and experience you take away from a vacation scheme can be valuable; you develop a sense of what it is like to work in a City firm. But a vacation scheme at the specific firm you want to train with is not the "be all and end all", it is possible to gain similar insights and experience through other types of work experience - or indeed, through vacation schemes at other firms.
5. You must be an expert in Commercial awareness
We don’t expect candidates to have an in-depth understanding of all commercial issues, but Firms will expect you to demonstrate the ability to view situations from a commercial or business perspective. You need have a grasp of current business issues and understand how they might impact a law firm and it's clients. There isn't a 'one size fits all' on how you can become commercially aware. Use whatever medium works best for you and this includes watching television, surfing the web, reading newspapers or listening to the radio. There are also some simple tools and techniques that you can apply to help understand the wider environment in which an organisation operates. A SWOT analysis looks at the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that apply to an organisation and a STEEPLE analysis looks at the Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, Political, Legal and Ethical factors that may affect an individual organisation. These tools are particularly helpful to use during interviews and other elements of an assessment day.
Baker McKenzie is a leading global law firm based in over 75 locations in nearly 50 countries. The firm strives to enable trainees to be the best they can be. We are looking for trainees who are stimulated by intellectual challenge and respect and enjoy the diversity of cultural, social and academic backgrounds found in the firm. If you consider yourself to have a disability or a health condition, we want to reassure you that any information you share with us will be treated in the strictest confidence. Our aim is to provide you with as much help and support as possible. Read more about opportunities and support available here.