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The factors that made you decide to pursue a career in law will be different for all of you. Some of you may always dreamt about becoming a lawyer, for others it may have been something you almost stumbled into. For me, it was the case of flicking through the UCAS book at the various courses run at the University of Leeds; I wanted to go to a ‘red brick’ university but equally important to me was the city’s reputation as the party place for students in ’98! When I started my studies, I never really gave too much thought as to which area of law I ultimately wanted to qualify into and it wasn’t really something the university went into in any great detail. I suppose I’d imagined becoming a litigator, having had my perception of lawyers moulded by films and programmes such as Ally McBeal and A Few Good Men, but when it came down to it, I realised I had a passion for property and qualified into that area.
It is difficult to decide which area to qualify into and although not impossible to switch disciplines post qualification, it can be challenging, so here are a few points for consideration:
- Which seat did you enjoy the work in the most during your training contract? Don’t be swayed here by a great team as that can always change.
- Which seat did you get the best appraisals in? It may be that you are particularly good and have a natural flair in a particular area of law.
- Consider your future prospects; qualifying into an area where there are a shortage of lawyers will ensure that there are always plenty of options for you as you progress through your career. Qualifying into an area where there is less competition may also mean that you work your way up the career ladder quickly
- What is really important to you? Do you love corporate work but not the unsociable and often unpredictable hours? If so, a role within a steadier discipline may be better suited to your lifestyle, particularly if you have family commitments
- Consider growth areas; for example commercial is really busy at the moment, particularly in the IT and Energy sectors – these fast growing areas should provide stability for the future
- How flexible are you? Would you relocate for your career?
As specialist legal recruiters we are able to advise you on the market conditions. For example, you might want to know which areas have a lack of suitably qualified lawyers; given the recession these are the areas which few lawyers qualified into between 2008 and 2012; corporate, banking, commercial and commercial property. If you decide to pursue your career in any of these areas then you should have a number of options open to you. There is also always a shortage of good tax and pensions lawyers so again good areas to qualify into (provided you have a genuine interest in them!).
If you don’t secure a role with your training firm then outside opportunities in employment, family, private client or commercial litigation are probably the most scarce so if these are areas of particular interest to you then a back-up plan would be recommended.
If you do end up having to qualify into an area that isn’t your first choice, ensure that the skills you gain in that area will compliment your preferred area so that the option to refocus your experience later on is open to you. For example, if you want to specialise in banking but can’t find a position, consider corporate roles where the transactional experience you gain will transfer well to a banking role.
Everyone’s situation will be unique and there are no hard and fast rules which is why we’d always recommend you speak to a specialist legal recruiter well in advance of your qualification date. Firms are already accepting applications from trainee solicitors qualifying this September so the time to act is now! Here at BCL Legal we have a large team of legal recruiters who can manage your job search no matter what geographical location or discipline you are considering.
Angharad Warren specialises in the recruitment of lawyers into the leading city centre firms in Birmingham.