The search for a training contract can be a long and difficult journey to embark upon for the majority of graduates and career changers. Tamasin Dorosti investigates.
In October 2012, the JLD held the bi-annual LPC Forum Day at the Law Society in London. This is a free event with talks and presentations by trainees, recruitment staff and qualified solicitors, with the opportunity to network, ask questions and give your CV a good going over. Equally valuable for both those with or without the elusive training contract.
Our stats show the majority of those in attendance have not yet secured training contracts, (specifically 96%) which is a clear demonstration of how fierce the competition is out there. The event is primarily aimed at LPC students, with 96% in attendance having either completed the LPC or currently on the course.
This article will analyse a section of the results to specific questions answered in a survey of the Forum Day with a view to giving aspiring trainees some guidance on how to approach their chosen career path from the very beginning and generally a sharing of views and opinions for those already on their way there.
Personally, I don’t believe it could ever be totally accurate, mainly because if it was, I imagine a significantly lower portion of students would willingly part with the thousands of pounds required for the LPC. When I chose my LPC provider, there was nothing but positivism about the prospects of a training contract and I was brainwashed with the idea that almost everyone had secured one by the time they left. I only found out from my own research that this was far from a reality.
Years later, it hasn’t changed and it is clear that the harsh realities haven’t been cascaded down to each new intake of hopefuls. Similar views were held by students at the Forum Day who said ‘to be honest I think they are more concerned on gaining fees’ and, ‘I don’t think enough emphasis is placed on how difficult it will be to secure a training contract before we commence the LPC’.
The jury is still out on this with only 26 out of 50 saying no they don’t think law schools provide accurate information in relation to careers and job prospects before students sign up for courses. However, most of the ‘yes’ responses were not totally confident and their answers were followed with a ‘but’; ‘Yes, but they can do more’, ‘yes but this information needs to be qualified and broken down to small digestible pieces’, ‘yes, but since there is no real selection process, it is difficult to gauge how well suited you might be’, ‘yes but it is really up to the individual to assess and analyse then conclude’.
The conclusion I draw from this and my own experience is that individuals have to use the information provided by law schools and carry out their own research in addition to this. Considering one source of information is just not reliable.
But if LPC providers are in fact failing to provide the information students need, then should the SRA be stepping in?
There was little debate amongst results that the answer to this is a ‘yes’. Ultimately the power lies with the SRA and for positive changes to happen, their backing is needed. As regulator one of their priorities should be ensuring those entering the profession are as well-informed about it as they can be. The general consensus was that students would like to see more guidance, careers events (like the LPC Forum Day), seminars, information services, statistical tables and information on the current market being provided by the SRA and an increase in publicity of these.
So, the SRA should be more proactive in considering the interests of students.
This is even more important in the context of our current economic climate, which the next question will discuss.
A resounding ‘yes’-and if we weren’t there would be something seriously wrong!
Anyone wanting to break into the profession will have seen in various legal publications that firms are reducing their trainee intake, deferring trainees, retaining less and some firms even doing away with the direct training contract application route altogether. Still, the numbers of students going to university has decreased which is something, for as long as law graduates are being pumped out the system competition will continue to be fierce. As one student nicely puts it, ‘it’s a dog eat dog world’.
Although it is impacting, this doesn’t mean you won’t get one. It just means you have to work harder to set yourself apart and demonstrate why they should invest in you. What do you have to offer that no one else can? Yes- don’t let this effect you! Assess your options, look at the pros and cons, learn to sell yourself whatever work experience you’ve got.
While it is useful to listen to the views of others, avoid letting them dictate what you do. Do what you feel is right for you. What are your main concerns as an LPC/post LPC student? Unsurprisingly the outstanding answer to this was training contracts. The difficulty in securing one is a challenge you will come up against if you pursue a career in law.
What now? There is never too much research to be done, there are continuous developments and changes being made to the legal profession which you need to be aware of. This awareness will give you confidence for interviews and impress recruiters. Know what your opinion is on issues and why. Don’t be afraid to big yourself up and focus on what makes you the right candidate for the job and learn to sell yourself. It’s not just about work experience, it’s about whether you have the skills they are looking for so whether it’s legal or not, it’s all relevant.
As a parting note, some Q and A (not all from the same person!), that captured my attention. If you’re considering the LPC-it might also be worth considering how you would answer these questions…
Why did you choose your LPC Provider? Open book exams.
How are you financing the course?
My husband paid for me on his credit card
How much debt do you think you will or will have accumulated from the start of your degree course to the end of your LPC?
Do you have a training contract?
Had one but was retracted due to the recession.
How many firms have you applied to for a training contract so far?
None, I had no awareness of the fact you needed to apply two to three years before you graduate from the LPC.
Tamasin Dorosti, JLD executive, 2012-2103