Securing a training contract with a non-law degree

If your first degree is a non-law degree, will it affect your chances of securing that elusive training contract? The short answer is no! Current trainee solicitor Isobel Cairns and non-law graduate offers her top tips how to stand out during applications and interviews with your transferable skills.

“When I was considering which subject to read at University I was given an excellent piece of advice from my careers advisor, “study a subject you enjoy and your career will follow”.  I think what my advisor meant by this is you will gain so many new skills that these can be transferred to any future career.

Having then gone on to study a non law degree, I have taken what is known as the ‘alternative route’ into law.

While I drafted my training contract application for Royds Withy King I didn’t consider my non-law background to be a hindrance.  I saw the positives of having so many transferable skills that I could apply in practice. This was coupled with the many extracurricular activities I participated in at school and university.

The trainee application process is a level playing field for law and non-law graduates, firms recognise the many different skills we can bring to our training contracts. At Royds Withy King there are as many trainees with a GDL as there are with an LLB. It is important to remember that academic knowledge of the law is only one part of being a solicitor. If you haven’t completed a law degree, you will need to focus more on what other skills you can offer to your prospective employer. Below are my top tips for how you can do this:

Know what skills a good lawyer needs

Know what skills a good lawyer needs and have examples of when you have used them. This goes for any applicant, regardless of what degree they have done. However, as a non-law graduate, you have access to a far more varied range of experiences than a law graduate. Not only does your non-law degree require different academic skills, but it also means you are involved with different people and different activities during your time at university.

Focus on your ‘transferable skills’

These can be gained from your undergraduate degree, part time jobs, sports team you are a member of or any volunteering you have done. Sociology graduates often have very impressive research skills, whilst those who studied  sciences often have extremely analytical minds and give attention to detail. These are skills which are essential to being a solicitor and are skills which a law graduate might not have had as much chance to develop.

Balancing a part time job while studying shows excellent time management skills. Playing in sports teams shows you can work in a team, have good communication skills and can take decisions in a range of situations. Volunteering demonstrates you take part in meaningful activities in your spare time as well as showing you’re a well rounded individual with some interesting life experience.

Highlight your diverse interests

Interviewers will interview many applicants during the recruitment process. To stand out from the crowd, you need to evidence everything that makes you an excellent candidate. Firms are looking for more than just academic prowess; they want trainees that can really contribute to the firm’s vision. A law student has to rely on extra-curricular activities, whereas you have a deep knowledge of a topic most interviewers probably know little about. You can also highlight your extra-curricular activities.

I have volunteered with the Scout Association as a leader and kayaking instructor since I was 18 years old and, during the final stage of the Royds Withy King interview process, I did a presentation on my Queen’s Scout Award as it evidenced all my transferable skills. I knew I wanted to be remembered having been the first candidate for the day so I taught the panel how to tie a friendship knot with their own branded ‘Scout Knecker’ which I had made.  Being able to talk passionately about something other than the law makes you a really interesting candidate.

Show commitment to a career in law.

You might hear this phrase quite a bit throughout your applications and interviews. If you’ve studied three years of law and signed up for the LPC, it’s much easier to show than a non-law graduate. To turn this around, you need to put the hard work in yourself and there are lots of things you can do. Apply for work experience placements, join a “Law for non-law society” at university , attended legal lectures organised by your local junior lawyers division and attend law fairs to get your name known to the recruiters in person. This not only shows you’ve done your research, but shows a lot of initiative – something else recruiters will like.

I hope this blog has given you a few ideas on how to stand out as a non-law graduate when applying for training contracts. To conclude, recruiters like interesting candidates who can bring a wide range of skills to the role. A non-law degree develops these skills and provides opportunities which can help you stand out from the large number of other candidates.

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