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You are here:   Ultimate Law Guide > Articles > Make Your Mark

Make Your Mark

Here is some practical advice on how to improve your chances of securing a training contract and other alternative careers in law.

 

While completing your legal studies, there are a number of avenues available to you that will help you to secure that all-important training contract. You can, for example, gain experience as a paralegal, start training to become a legal executive or consider working as a company secretary. It is important to keep all your options open. Ensure you can differentiate yourself from your peers by making sure you can provide evidence of your capability and potential with practical examples.

 

Making your mark

Time and thought need to go into CVs and application forms – these are so often your shop window and the route to secure an interview stage. Be sure to (succinctly) include all relevant commercial and legal experience – both paid and unpaid – as well as any other skills you may have, for example language proficiency. Keep your CV to two pages in length, ensure that formatting is consistent throughout and carefully check for any spelling or grammatical mistakes. Beware of blind spots – get a friend to read over the completed CV or form. Under no circumstance should you be tempted to fabricate less than favourable information – take this on the chin and instead be prepared to demonstrate how you overcame any challenges you had to face.

 

Preparing for interview

Interviews can be daunting but as long as you have prepared carefully and view it as an opportunity to showcase yourself rather than as a test laden with obstacles. Remember the old adage – ‘Fail to Prepare and Prepare to Fail’ – it applies. Have you thoroughly researched the firm and read any relevant articles in the press and online? Have you spoken to any trainees or contacts? Can you comfortably discuss the latest current affairs topics? You will also need to think about potential questions and have examples ready to evidence sought after competencies, such as commercial awareness, teamwork, prioritisation etc.

 

On the day itself, first impressions matter, so ensure you arrive early and that you look the part. Convey your knowledge and enthusiasm throughout, establish the format of the next stage and always ask for feedback, as this will help you for future occasions. And finally, persevere and try to obtain any feedback available – it might just help to secure the next position.

 

Alternative career paths

The role of the career paralegal has evolved significantly in recent years and UK firms are now providing a structured career path, enabling paralegals to assume similar responsibilities to junior lawyers. Opportunities exist across a range of practice areas, although mainly for corporate and litigation paralegal work. An increasingly popular alternative for paralegals is to move in-house, where some companies recruiting for junior lawyers at the 0-2 year level will consider applications from a non-qualified person, provided they have the requisite experience. Securing a position is not easy in the current market, therefore it is important for individuals to gain as much commercial experience as possible.

 

Another option is to apply for a position as a Legal Executive as a way of gaining further valuable commercial exposure, whether in private practice, local government or in house. The responsibilities of the role are often not dissimilar to those of a solicitor and you will be studying towards the Institute of Legal Exexutives (ILEX) professional exams, which are highly recognised qualifications in their own right.

 

The position of Company Secretary has risen in profile and provides an interface between a company and its shareholders. Company Secretaries fulfil an increasingly important function, acting as the ‘conscience’ of the board, ensuring that directors act in accordance with the Combined Code of Conduct. The focus on strengthening corporate governance and the introduction of the new Companies Act [2006] are both part of the role’s remit. Company Secretaries are often the main point of contact for investor relations, board meetings and corporate transactions. The role is extremely varied and wide ranging, requiring an in-depth understanding of corporate governance, company law, board evaluation techniques and the ability to negotiate and influence at the highest level. Professional qualifications, achieved through the Institute of Chartered Secretaries & Administrators (ICSA), are generally required and law graduates or holders of the LPC are granted exemptions from all but the last four examinations. The majority of employers (especially FTSE 350 companies) will provide comprehensive study support. A career as a company secretary is both challenging and rewarding and will appeal to professionals from a legal background. Competition for opportunities is intense, so a high degree of self-motivation and determination are essential.

 

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