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Where to start  

For a comprehensive description of the role of a solicitor, as well as a broad career framework, see Prospects and the Beginner’s Guide to a Career in Law. To start to identify law firms which may be of interest use, and Student Chambers. And to gain additional insights into some popular firms against a useful list of assessment criteria (which you can adapt for yourself) use Lex100.

For those who would like to add to their career options having an interest in law but who decide not to qualify the Handshake Resource Guide to Alternative Legal Careers details options inside and outside law firms, in international organisations and those carrying alternative legal professional qualifications

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How to know if you’re suited to this sector

To do the work you’ll need to be analytical, with a natural attention to detail and an ability to stay focussed. You’ll want to know how a process or procedure works and the rules involved.

To work within a team, you’ll need to know how to participate pro-actively and contribute effectively. As well as leaders, teams need people who will take responsibility for achieving important outcomes or goals.

Be clear about what aspect of the work interests you the most. Is it specific content (eg human rights or finance) or the nature of the work generically (eg complex problem solving)? Reflect on how this matches your natural strengths.

How to get the experience to be credible

There are formal schemes (a proportion of which have migrated to virtual delivery). Most will apply to both law and non-law students although the timing available may vary. There are Insight schemes (which will be short) for pre-penultimate year students and vacation schemes in summer and winter (usually 1–3 weeks in duration). It is also recommended that you approach law firms local to you for unsolicited work experience.

In addition to work experience directly in a legal context, work undertaken that is legalistic is also well regarded. Legalistic work requires attention to detail, with formal documents or routines. You may be researching a complicated problem and delivering an outcome where you explain or highlight something to somebody else.

Recruiters will also look positively at transferable skills from a student environment. Society roles such as Secretary or Treasurer can be very useful where they involve paperwork and responsibility for a formal process. Find out more in our Volunteering page

Further study or certification required

Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which lays down the process by which all students qualify. For those starting the process after September 2021, the process has become the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE).

How to find employers or training courses

There are many sources that list law firms, although no single one is comprehensive. The most available and popular are LawCareers.Net, Student Chambers, and TargetLaw.

All those qualifying will need to study further, funded by either law firm sponsorship or personal sources. Course providers are based in London but also have important centres in several major cities such as Birmingham, Bristol, York and Nottingham. The only one based in Cambridge is BPP. The course providers are University of Law, BPP Law School, and some University Law departments (not Cambridge) such as City Law School at the University of London.

Tips for succeeding in the application or selection process

Demonstrate your certainty (and confidence) through thorough research. Be able to rank different law firms by their level of appropriateness for you. Use the press, websites, and alumni contacts to provide personal insights validating your choice.

Match the requirements of the role to the skills, interests and values demonstrated by your experiences, and be able to describe these connections persuasively.

Wherever possible practice the assessment process in advance. The Careers Service provides you with access to all the tools you’ll need, including mock interviews.

The Allaboutlaw Academy has useful resources.

What Cambridge offers to help with this career

There are vocational law student societies in nearly all colleges, as well as a highly effective and proactive Cambridge University Law Society (CULS). There is an extensive alumni network to draw on with access provided by colleges, Handshake, and LinkedIn.

Hear lawyers share insights, advice and knowledge on this diverse career in the Careers Service YouTube channel.

Here are some resources on Handshake to help you get recruitment ready for legal careers.

Other things you should know

It is vitally important to keep up to date with knowledge which demonstrates an interest in the work. This will primarily cover commercial awareness, but also may include developments in any area in which you claim a specific interest (eg cybersecurity, environmental law, family law, and real estate). You can easily find law blogs online which will keep you up-to-date, even on niche topics.

There are several high-profile third-party agencies which partner with law firms to support students from diversity backgrounds in making successful applications. If you are within one of those groups, engaging with the third party may well help you save time in the application process. They include Aspiring Solicitors, SEO London, and Rare, as well as mentoring initiatives set up by young lawyers in large UK law firms.

What to do next

Now you have looked at this page, think about your next steps. Everyone's journey is different. There are many ways to move forward. Here are some actions you could take now: