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Legal services

Statue of Lady Justice

Discover other sectors

This sector not for you?  Don't worry, there are plenty of others to explore.

Law is a popular and competitive sector for graduates. As well as being a solicitor or barrister, there are other roles to consider, such as:

  • Patent examiner, patent attorney or trade mark attorney
  • Chartered legal executive
  • Licensed conveyancer
  • Barristers’ clerk
  • Paralegal.

Find out about legal services

Key resources

Research the sector and keep up with current issues by reading law news, careers advice and guides to firms, chambers and qualifications from Legal Cheek.

What skills do I need?

Many jobs in legal services involve long hours and heavy workloads. On top of this, you’ll be expected to have these skills:

  • business/commercial awareness
  • analytical
  • problem-solving
  • communication
  • accuracy
  • time management
  • organisation
  • interpersonal/people skills
  • integrity and an ethical approach

Think about how you can demonstrate these skills, using examples from your own experience. If you feel you need to develop any of these skills, go the What can Ido at York? section on this page.

Do I need a law degree?

You don’t need an undergraduate degree in law to become a solicitor or barrister, but you will need to complete a law conversion course after you graduate, known as a graduate diploma in law (GDL). This takes one year to complete. After this, you have the same level of law qualification as someone who studied an undergraduate degree in law.

To become a solicitor you will then have to:

  • complete a legal practice course (one year)
  • undertake a two-year training contract with a firm, or gain the equivalent legal experience (for example, by working as a paralegal) - training contracts are advertised two years in advance, and many firms pay the costs of the legal practice course if you are accepted. If you're studying a non-law degree, you need to consider applying for contracts in your final year of your undergraduate degree.

From 2021, the way you become a qualified solicitor is changing. Read more about the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) from The change to the new route will be gradual, with more firms likely to adopt the new route in 2022. Research both the current route and the SQE to see which is better for you, and contact the firms you are most interested in to check their preference.

To become a barrister after your law degree or conversion course you have to:

  • complete the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) (one year)
  • complete a pupillage in a barristers’ chambers (one year).

It can cost a lot to become a qualified lawyer - read about ways to fund your studies. Some law firms will sponsor your training, and qualifying Masters courses may be eligible for the government's postgraduate student loan.

Routes into other legal careers are less structured and don’t normally require a law degree, but it is likely you’ll have to undertake further qualifications on the job:

  • Chartered legal executives have to complete CILEx qualifications
  • Licensed conveyancers have to take a Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) qualification
  • Patent attorneys usually study a STEM subject, and need to pass professional examinations to be accepted on the UK Register of Patent Attorneys, see IP Careers for more information
  • Barristers’ clerks do not need a degree, but may be encouraged to study for a BTEC in chambers and administration for barristers’ clerks

Work experience

If you’re interested in becoming a solicitor or barrister, gaining work experience through these routes will help you:

  • Open/insight days - run by most large firms, insight days give you a chance to find out about the work a firm does. Employers also use them to screen students for vacation schemes and future jobs, so it’s important to prepare
  • Vacation schemes - work placement schemes run over Christmas, Easter and summer, allowing you to develop your skills and impress potential employers. LawCareers.Net has a useful list of application deadlines. Law firms recruit a large number of trainees from their vacation schemes
  • Vacation scheme insiders - get a sense of what different firms' schemes are really like
  • Government Legal Profession HQ - highlights current opportunities across government organisations
  • Mini pupillages - short (typically between 1 and 5 days) work experience placements in chambers for aspiring barristers. Some are assessed. They are essential if you want to become a barrister
  • Virtual work experience - a number of law firms are now offering virtual work experience and an online learning programme, a great way to gain an insight into law and something you can include in your applications and CV. Find examples on Forage and the Lawyer Portal
  • Volunteering - consider pro bono work and volunteering for advice services such as Citizens Advice
  • Law firms are interested in all work experience, so don't forget to talk about your experiences outside of the legal sector when you apply

If you’re interested in another area of legal services, also consider:

  • making speculative work experience applications to local legal firms specialising in the area you’re interested in

There are a number of reources and schemes in place to support students from backgrounds that are underrepresented in the sector.


Finding jobs

Aspiring solicitors can find training contracts on:

Aspiring barristers can find pupillages on:

Students wanting to build up legal sector experience through paralegal work can find jobs and careers advice on:

Use specialist job websites to find vacancies in specific sectors:

Recruitment process

Recruitment with a large legal firm may include any or all of the following:

  • Online application
  • Telephone/video interview
  • Face-to-face interview
  • Assessment centre

See the Apply for jobs pages for further information.

Pupillage recruitment is usually more traditional, with a single or multi-stage interview process and an assessed task on the day. Read TARGETJobs’ How to ace your pupillage interview.

What can I do at York?

There are many things you can do while studying at York to prepare for a career in legal services:

More resources: networks and blogs

Networks, accounts to follow and blogs

Find out more about the sector from theses multimedia resources.

Connect with York graduates on York Profiles and Mentors

Other law professionals' profiles

Blogs and podcasts

Videos: careers in intellectual property

supplied by Withers & Rogers LLP

Practice interviews

You can use Shortlist.Me to prepare for job interviews. Try these interviews with employers working in legal services:

Find out more about interview prep on the Apply for jobs pages.