Angharad Warren
Angharad Warren
Associate Director

Articles From the Team

Which area of law should I qualify into?

As we approach NQ season, many of you second year trainees will be thinking about which area of law you want to qualify into.  Some of you may already be going through the internal application process at your training firms and will likely find out whether or not there is a suitable role for you at your firm in the next month or two.  For others, that process may not be completed for a little while longer but regardless, before applying for roles internally or externally you need to decide which practice area you want to qualify into.

The factors that made you want to pursue a career in law will be different for all of you.  You may have always known that this was your dream career, for others it may have been something you almost stumbled into.  For me, it was the case of flicking through the UCAS book and looking at what courses the University of Leeds had to offer.  I’d decided on the university before the course!  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 the late nineties! This may explain why I ended up leaving my legal career and moving into legal recruitment!

When I started my LL.B, I never really gave too much thought as to which area of law I ultimately wanted to qualify into.  I suppose I’d probably imagined becoming a litigator, having had my perception of lawyers moulded by programmes like Ally McBeal (think Suits for anyone who isn’t familiar!).  When it came down to it, I realised I had a passion for property; I love buildings, residential and commercial, that property is tangible and I was interested in property investment (an area I did a lot of work in during my training contract) and so I qualified into that area.  

While it isn’t impossible to switch disciplines post qualification, it can be challenging and it isn’t ideal so if you can, it’s best to get the decision right first time.

Here are a few pointers for consideration:

  1. Which seat did you enjoy the most during your training contract?  Focus on the work and don't be swayed by a great team fit and people as these factors can always change.  Team fit and personalities may have a little less sway this year given that you have likely spent very little physical time with your colleagues.
  2. Which supervisor gave you the best appraisals? It may be that you are particularly good and have a natural flair in a particular area of law.
  3. Think about what the future prospects in a particular area of law look like; 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 (any budding construction lawyers out there??). Qualifying into an area where there is less competition may also mean that you work your way up the career ladder faster.
  4. What is really important to you?  Do you love the buzz of corporate work but not the unsociable and often unpredictable hours?  If so, what is more important to you, the work or the lifestyle?  If the latter, then a role within a steadier discipline may be better suited to you.
  5. Consider growth areas; tech and energy are two fast growing areas that are set to get even busier in the future.
  6. How flexible are you? Would you relocate to secure a role in your preferred area of law if you can’t find one locally?

As specialist legal recruiters we are able to advise you on market conditions and active vacancies. 

The market has bounced back remarkably since March of last year when the pandemic really took hold and we are now busier than we were pre Covid-19 so this is good news for NQs!  We are busy in most practice areas but if for any reason 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 complement 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 so we'd always recommend you speak to a specialist legal recruiter well in advance of your qualification date (from six months prior).  We are happy to have informal conversations with you whether or not you ultimately look externally for NQ roles so never feel like you can’t get in touch if you don’t know whether or not you will require our assistance in actually finding a job.  Our focus is on building long term relationships with you and to be on hand as a trusted advisor throughout your career.

Firms are already accepting applications from trainee solicitors qualifying this September so if you don’t know whether you have a position secured at your training firm, then the time to get in touch is now! 

Here at BCL Legal we have a large team of legal recruiters who can assist you whether you are making applications internally or otherwise needing to consider options externally.

If you are looking at options outside of your training firm then we can manage your job search no matter what geographical location or discipline you are considering given our nationwide coverage, so give us a call or drop us an email and we’ll get in touch.

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