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It is a fact universally acknowledged that many talented LLB Graduates, even after obtaining excellent academics, undertaking work placements and vacation schemes, dedicating themselves to years of hard work and filling out probably hundreds of (dull and time consuming) applications will still struggle to secure a Training Contract each year.
Each year brings with it a new batch of hopeful graduates wanting to secure a very limited number of places, leaving the previous year’s graduates at even more of a disadvantage. In the meantime candidates take to Legal Secretary or Paralegal work hoping to gain as much experience as possible whilst continuing to apply elsewhere or spending a fortune undertaking the LPC with no guarantee of a career afterwards.
Recent statistics promoted by Universities show that rates of employment for recent graduates are around 93.3% 6 months after graduating with a degree in Law. However, it’s also worth noting that these are the rates of law graduates in any job at all, not those who have secured roles within the legal profession or indeed the minimal percentage of those who have secured a Training contract. And also that these rates have also dropped for the sixth year in a row.
So what are the alternatives? The CILEx route to qualifying certainly provides a much more certain career path, with the additional benefit of being able to gain practical experience whilst working and seeing career progression from day one, rather than having to ‘pay your dues’ in a role you probably would have been able to do without a law degree – a position many candidates find themselves in after graduating.
The CILEx route also provides a much more realistic chance of sponsorship and financial support throughout the qualification process than with traditional routes, making it more appealing from a financial perspective. There are also much greater advantages to employers in taking CILEx trainees, rather than Paralegals, who as candidates are prone to leaving jobs for a Training Contract 6 months into a role. Firms are also able to reap the benefits of having candidates who are working and learning at the same time, providing them with employees who are keen to develop and are constantly gaining new skills.
Finally, a huge number of the clients we work with are always on the lookout for what are known as ‘Career Paralegals’. Why is this? Candidates who do not wish to qualify at all are actually very valuable in the legal recruitment market, they have greater longevity in each role as experience is their key selling point, they tend to have specialised in one particular area of law and can provide a certain level of expertise for a much lower cost than an Associate. They are also able to bridge the gap between Paralegals and Associates; freeing up more senior hands to do the work they are best at. The benefits to the candidate themselves can also be very appealing, as I previously mentioned, the work tends to be more interesting and less menial than most would expect, there are good opportunities for progression and additional responsibilities (e.g. team management and the chance to work very autonomously), the salaries can often rival that of a newly qualified solicitor if you are an expert in your field , not to mention the huge savings in LPC costs and the fact that you can start straight out of University.
Overall, I’m sure there are many candidates whose ambition and determination to qualify through the traditional Training Contract route will remain undeterred, and of course there will always be a certain level of prestige and recognition to go hand in hand with securing a Training Contract. However, there are definitely other options open to the aspiring legal professional, which can be as rewarding both professionally and financially and certainly worth considering if you are soon to enter the legal job market.