Has the pandemic affected my chances of securing a training contract?

Words by Student Ambassador, Paige Glaoui

A common myth is that students must complete a training contract with a law firm to become a solicitor in England and Wales; this is not the case. With the introduction of the SQE and the gradual phasing of the LPC, there are alternative ways to qualify. The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX) professional qualification allows students to qualify for specific departments instead of going through the traditional route of training for two years.

Contrary to popular belief, the pandemic has created opportunities for students. However, it has required that aspiring solicitors change their strategy. In 2020, following results day, law firms began to alter their application criteria lowering A-Level requirements considering the unforeseen circumstances. I remeber being anxious before this development as I believed my grades would affect my chances of becoming a solicitor.

The pandemic and the issues surrounding results day led firms to realise that as important as grades are, they can no longer be a determining factor when deciding the potential of a future trainee. Covid forced through a crucial and welcome change; Students who previously did not meet entry requirements now have more options of firms to apply to and can increase their chances of securing a TC.

Even though many lost out on previous opportunities, even job offers and graduation dates, firms were quick to adapt. As events and activities moved to the digital space, aspiring lawyers, especially those from low socio-economic backgrounds, could access activities and networks they otherwise may not have due to geographical restrictions, competition and costs.

"If the world never went into lockdown, I wouldn’t have been able to attend as many events as I did over the past year."

Virtual law fairs have become very popular and are here to stay. During lockdown, digital platforms offered an opportunity for prospective lawyers to network, join webinars and meet trainees, associates, and partners in firms, from anywhere in the world. The graduate recruitment team at a Macfarlanes open day i attended advised me that all these events could be added to my CV and the work experience section of my applications, as it shows dedication and determination. If the world never went into lockdown, I would not have been able to attend as many events as I did over the past year. Legal platforms such as Law City gave invaluable experience through virtual insight days and internship experiences.

The process of obtaining a training contract has always been difficult. For many aspiring lawyers, the initial response is rejection, however rejection is inevitable when competing in the legal industry. There are thousands more law students than there are roles available, even more so at the most competitive firms.

Instead of abandoning your dreams of qualifying as a lawyer, every rejection is an opportunity to get to know yourself more and understand what you truly want to achieve. It is simply an indication that you need to change your strategy. A successful strategy which has worked for many is to apply for a paralegal or legal assistance role in a company or law firm, many of whom do not ask for extensive legal experience.

In terms of gaining experience, I found the Legal Cheek and All about Law virtual events particularly beneficial and accessible as there were no time-consuming application forms. Platforms like Legal Cheek partner with many firms, from magic circle to regional and city law firms which is always useful for attendees.

Overall, the pandemic has created more opportunities for students and has made the process of qualifying seemingly more accessible.