Friday, October 26, 2007

Entering the legal profession without a law degree

26.10.07 Whether to give law a go with a 2.1 business degree and average A Levels

I am thinking of going back to uni to do a GDL and work towards a career in law. The problem is I have pretty average A Level results, B,C,D and a 2:1 in business from an ex-poly. ( I think have always been capable, just not really motivated during A Levels.) I really want to be a lawyer but what are my chances of getting a TC? Do I have a realistic shot? Or should I spend my time and money on something else?


We often get people coming to see us for careers consultations with similar situations and wanting to know definitively whether they will get a training contract.

I think the first question to ask is "why do I want to be a lawyer", not whether he will get a training contract. The reason for this is because the response to the first question will usually result in the answer to the second. If there is a genuine reason for wanting to be a lawyer, backed up by sound evidence, Dan will already be halfway there in any event - he will have experience of what exactly a solicitor does in practice (ie he will have work experience in a private practice firm or other environment), he will be aware of what a barrister does and hence why he is looking for a training contract as opposed pupillage, and he will understand what the study of law is all about at GDL level.

He will also have read our guide to finding a training contract

http://www.ten-percent.co.uk/Advice_for_Law_Students_and_Graduates_looking_for_a_Training_Contract.pdf

And will have researched the cost of the GDL and the LPC, and the average starting salary of a trainee solicitor outside the magic circle firms.

Once he has done all of this, then he needs to think about his A levels and degree.

His A levels are not bad at all, and should not be a bar to getting a training contract with a provincial or high street firm. It is very likely he would struggle to get interviews at magic circle and firms in central London attracting 5000 applicants per training contract, as unfortunately firms do have to benchmark, and the best way to do this for legal recruitment is to use former academic results.

However a 2.1 at business studies and average A levels are not a bar to a successful legal careers. If you look at our website and go to the careers centre,

http://www.ten-percent.co.uk/careersadvice.htm

You will see on the right hand side testimony from someone who got a 3rd class degree and very low a level results, who is just completing her training contract. Its all in the mind - progressing at law is about getting your foot in the right door at the right time if you are not a conventional AAA, 2.1 red brick Uni, nice school straight into 300 partner central London practice!

Author: Jonathan Fagan MREC Cert RP LLM Solicitor (non-practising) - Managing Director of Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment (www.ten-percent.co.uk) - save time, skip the legal job boards and register with us! www.ten-percent.co.uk/register.htm Jonathan Fagan is a specialist legal recruitment consultant, author of the Complete Guide to Writing a Legal CV and the Guide to Interviews for Lawyers. He has recruited for law firms across the UK and overseas in all shapes and sizes. If you have any questions that we have not covered above, please email us at cv@tenpercent.co.uk

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Employing a solicitor in a MDP

17.10.07 Employing a solicitor in a multi-disciplinary partnership

Every year since I started back in 2000, ten-percent have been approached by a range of people wanting to set up and run a solicitors firm. I have known financial advisers, claims management companies, accountants, estate agents, businessmen, all wanting a piece of the pie! I think that some of the other professions see what a solicitor does, see how much they bill and how little they seem to actually do, and see pound signs flashing before their eyes!
The harsh reality is that there is so much red tape and so many issues such as indemnity insurance, that in fact it is not worth employing solicitors in house to provide a service to the general public, which of course is the point at which you need to be a solicitors firm. I have known some of the large service companies set up their own firms - we once had dealings with Capita and a law firm they had established which was directly linked to the plc.
Once the new Legal Services Bill comes into being (or whatever it is now called), there is the possibility for multi-disciplinary partnerships, and it is at that time I think that the whole area will become more open. At present though, there isnt much scope there for employing solicitors to work with the general public and provide a service, unless you want to go through the same rigmarole a solicitors firm does, and in which case you could probably pay the same money and use an external law firm.
In the meantime, if you want to set up a legal service, the first port of call should be the Law Society - www.lawsociety.org.uk - they should be able to advise whether your plans are viable or not. We have assisted an estate agency who set up a linked law firm, and undertook all the conveyancing coming through their doors on an in house basis. They had two solicitors running the whole operation including the estate agency, which must have made a big difference.

Jonathan Fagan MREC Cert RP LLM Solicitor (non-practising) - Managing Director of Ten-Percent.co.uk Limited - online legal recruitment consultants

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Locuming for a career

11.10.07 Locuming as an alternative career for solicitors

Doing locum work as opposed to permanent:
At some stage in a solicitors career, this conundrum will almost always arise. It usually follows the stint of a locum in a firm for a longer period of a few weeks, and someone in the firm discovering that the locum is getting paid more than one of the junior partners for doing a much lower role within the organisation.
Locum work is something of a legend in law. It is said that locums can be millionaires, and that they are constantly in demand, jumping from one post to another, generating vast amounts of income on £60 per hour rate.
The reality of the situation is somewhat different, although there is some truth that locum work is quite rewarding financially.
Most locums I come across fall into one of the following categories:
a) they want to find a permanent job, but havent been able to.
b) they are professional locums, just taking assignments to book up their year as wanted.
c) they have other interests - eg wanting to ski for 4 months each year, and work the other 8 months to pay for this.
Every year as well we get enquiries from candidates who have got a bit despondent in their current post, and then speak to a locum as above, finding out the vast rewards available to them.
Usually on the high streets of England and Wales the locum rates fall between £18 per hour and £45 per hour, dependent on the length of assignment, the type of law and level of seniority. I have locums working in commercial property at the top end, and I have locums in housing law at the bottom end. If an assignment has the potential of going permanent the salary is usually a lot lower, and also if it is long term - eg 6, 9 or 12 months, the money tends to be less.
Short term assignments tend to attract higher monetary reward, as they usually mean a firm is desperate for someone to cover so it is more of a suppliers market. As a consultancy, we tend to avoid the day or week locum assignments, and concentrate on the 1-12 month ranges.
Most of the professional locums work on a rule of thumb that they will probably get about 8 months locum work in every 12 months. Locums have to be a certain type of person - there is no security in the work - and sometimes what is billed as a 12 month assignment ends up a 3 day contract due to other factors. Locums get no notice, and have been known to leave firms at lunchtime because the senior partner has changed his mind on their appointment.
If you want to have a regular income and be able to pay your mortgage and outgoings every month from a set amount, this particular career path is definitely not for you.

Jonathan Fagan MREC Cert RP LLM Solicitor (non-practising) - Managing Director of Ten-Percent.co.uk Limited - online legal recruitment consultants

Ten-Percent Legal Recruitment - no.1 online legal recruitment agency - save time, skip the legal job boards and register with us! www.ten-percent.co.uk/register.htm 

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Lecturing is very hard!

Lecturing and LPC students

Looking back on my years as a student, I must say that I probably had the same attitude of most others, in that i always thought that my lecturers were failed solicitors and barristers, and could never understand how half of them had the cheek to think they could lecture to me about law when they had failed to cut it, and ended up lecturers.

Having spent the last few years lecturing at University for a couple of days, I can safely say that this view was considerably misguided.

By the end of a 3-4 hour stint, I am completely exhausted! I feel like collapsing in a heap, and actually start to feel a bit lightheaded. I know that my one off day is somewhat different to the majority of lecturer's experiences, but to be stood before a group of students talking away is something not to be taken to be easy!

Some of the groups you talk to show no sign of any interest in what you have to say - most just stare blankly back, and it is very hard to tell who is interested and who is just there because they have to be. I watch as some people look fairly engrossed, others look under the table, and others yawn and stare over your shoulder.

In actual fact I reckon that the whole practice of being a lecturer is probably harder work than being a solicitor in practice, but probably easier than being a barrister, where one not only has to constantly be on one's feet, but also be able to improvise constantly.

I'll stick to recruitment - probably relatively stressful, but not in the same way!

Jonathan Fagan MREC Cert RP LLM Solicitor (non-practising) - Managing Director of Ten-Percent.co.uk Limited - online legal recruitment consultants

Skills Sections on CVs - waste of time

09.10.07 Skills Section on a CV

One thing that crops up a lot in recruitment is the use of Skills Sections on CVs.

These are the bane of every recruiter's working life (whether HR people in firms/companies or recruitment agents) - even solicitors with 10 years PQE still write them down.

An example would be:

"good interpersonal skills, able to communicate effectively and use transferable skills in a way to benefit the firm. Punctual, generous and with a good sense of humour."

I have read CV's with pages of this stuff on them, and can never understand why anyone with any common sense would not realise that there is absolutely no point including any of it on the CV.

According to many students I have spoken to over the years, careers advisers at various universities and colleges have said that this is the way you do your CV, and this is the sort of thing that employers want to see.

I must say that our approach (and that of other recruitment consultants I have spoken to) has always been that a CV should contain factual information only. I see many CVs prepared each week from some of the big agencies such as Badenoch & Clark and Michael Page, and they spend considerable time and effort on organising and structuring their cvs, probably more so than smaller agents. Every single one I have been sent over the years by candidates contains streams of factual information setting out numbers of files, caseloads, billing levels, types of law, any technical issues dealt with, anyone worked with on particular cases etc. I have never seen a prepared cv containing the sort of waffle I see on CVs from universities regularly.

A CV should contain objective information, not subjective. How do you know whether you have a good sense of humour? Who says you have good communication skills? This is partly why you attend interviews, so that the interviewer can gauge for themselves who you are, where you are coming from and whether you will fit in at that firm or company.

I am thinking of writing a letter to all the careers advisers in universities to ask them to consider this point, as i think it is so important - it can throw an employer off the scent and prevent them from seeing something really interesting and important.

So if you are writing a cv and reading this - I would not use bulletpointed lists or paragraphs of information about your skills set - I am not interested as an employer - I never read them - I could probably send a good one out myself saying that I have a good sense of humour, but this would be a complete lie!

For further details on CVs - we do actually sell a book called the "Complete Guide to Writing a Legal CV" which can be purchased on our website at www.ten-percent.co.uk/cv.html