Careers: Meet the Transformers

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  • Try not having a first degree and convincing firms that a certificate of academic standing (for exceptional professional experience) from the Law Society is a 'degree in life' worth having.

    A distance learning PgDL and LPC look positively normal from where I'm standing and while I use the principles learned, the specific knowledge is either forgotten or irrelevant in practice. As are the 1984 A levels and grades I was recently asked about when applying for a new role!

    Still, I made the transition from music producer to employment solicitor; so I'm still the middle man between the client and their dreams ;-)

    Please don't think that (age) discrimination isn't rife in the recruitment of trainees or solicitors; it is, as it's a basic psychological fact that employers tend (whether they know it or not) to recruit in their own image (which, by definition means from the educational mainstream and standard age profiles).

    However, mature entrants and applicants need to use the lawyerly skills of guile, creativity and dogged determination to make it through; the same skills that they will need to represent their clients' best interests when they finally do, so it all comes out in the wash...

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  • I don't have a law degree, but got into a major law firm via PGDL. UpNorth seems to think that only LLB-holder should become lawyers. Well and good to that - provided it is clear that they should not be allowed to become anything other than lawyers.

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  • I am a Fellow of CILEx and entered law when I was over 40. I have a first BSc(hons) & a MSc. When i was looking for my first job in law, Jan 2007 I was interviewed by Clyde & co, so some very big firms look at the person and not where they got the degree. I qualified in 2010 and am well respectd locally. As I have life skills, which graduates straight from Uni don't have, I bought varied, useful skills to the job. The judges dont look down on me because I dont have a law degree. The degree should not matter, being able to talk with your client, analyse the problem and give an effective answer should be what matters.

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  • I am surprised to read a lot of negative comments towards lawyers who did the GDL and with some who say that they are inferior lawyers to those who did a traditional law degree.

    My degree was in computer science. After working in the IT industry, I did the GDL. I trained at a US firm and I now specialise in IT and IP law. As a side-note, many said it would be impossible for me to get a training contract as I am i) non-white, ii) mature, and iii) without an Oxford/Cambridge degree. However, hard work as a paralegal, demonstrating knowledge of the law and perseverance paid off.

    Does an IT degree and GDL make me a better lawyer than those who did a straight law degree? I have no idea as there are some excellent IT lawyers who did a straight law degree. However, numerous partners have appreciated my technical knowledge on IT matters when going through agreements and advising on regulatory issues. I was also asked to write articles regarding legal issues to do with the internet as I was the only one in the department who understood the architecture of the internet.

    To suggest that I fudged becoming a lawyer by not studying a law degree is unfair and misses the point. With the technical knowledge gained during my IT degree, I am able to communicate well with clients and understand what they are talking about which in turn enables me to advise appropriately. At the end of the day isn't that what a client wants - someone who understands their problems/issues and comes up with creative solutions?

    Looking at this debate, should I be denied the opportunity of doing the GDL and becoming an IT lawyer by virtue of having an IT degree instead of a law degree?

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  • I’m afraid Up North is wrong to suggest that an undertaking the LLB will make someone a better lawyer than taking the GDL as there is so much more to being a successful lawyer than knowing the Law. As many of the comments made on this article so far suggest, much depends on the kind of lawyer you want to be as some areas of law require significant non-legal knowledge if a lawyer is to meet the needs of their clients; be that, for example technological understanding, medical knowledge or an understanding of the particular industry sector in which the client operates. Some people decide to enter the profession with this knowledge in place through previous study or work experience and then learn to be a lawyer; others learn to be a lawyer and then develop the specialist knowledge they need in their area of interest.

    In addition, even if you are not intending to work as a lawyer dealing with commercial matters or in-house for a commercial organisation, lawyers also need to understand how a business operates as law firms and chambers, even those dealing with publicly funded legal work, are businesses and without an understanding of the needs of a business a lawyer won’t be in private practice very long. Lawyers also need good interpersonal skills, the ability to present arguments orally and in writing, attention to detail and a myriad other skills all of which can be just as easily developed in academic disciplines other than Law or through employment both within and outside of the legal sector.

    It should also be taken into consideration that the academic stage of the qualification process is just step one. Barristers and solicitors then have to complete the BPTC and LPC respectively before going on to their “on the job” training in the form of a pupillage or training contract. Even then the learning process isn’t complete as a good lawyer will continue to learn more about their area of expertise throughout their legal career, particularly given that what constitutes the Law changes regularly and, in some practice areas, often.
    I’ve met many fine lawyers who have studied the GDL and just as many who came through having completed a Law degree. My argument isn’t that one is better than the other just that an LLB doesn’t necessarily correlate with being a good lawyer any more than having undertaken the GDL correlates with being a bad lawyer and, as Mark | 29-Aug-2013 8:35pm quite rightly points out in his comment above, none of this takes any account of people who become excellent lawyers through CILEX.

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  • I appreciate solicitors with a law degree might be aggrieved that those who don't get the same treatment but I have to say Chartered Legal Executives get a real raw deal on the job front considering they have the equivalent of a law degree and often much more practical training and experience than many solicitors let alone converts. I do get irritated that in this day and age job adverts through agencies only target solicitors when CILEX individuals are even eligible to be on the judge circuit. The recruitment industry needs to come out of the dark ages and educate itself in the various qualifications and what they actually mean and offer to the profession!

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  • Cards on the table - LLB Graduate, wanted to be a lawyer since the age of 12, trained with a City law firm, now an in-house NQ (after deciding in-house life was more for me during a TC secondment).

    Actually I totally disagree with the other LLB graduates on here - being an LLB graduate doesn't make you a better lawyer.

    I studied the LLB because I already wanted to be a lawyer and it was the course that sounded the most interesting the same way that my friends that read history thought that about their course.

    In my trainee cohort we had a ten year age range (roughly 23-33 at the start) and a variety of LLB and GDL. It did not make any difference or make any particular trainee a better lawyer.

    You learn almost everything you need to be a good trainee on the job, its about other skills - communication, organisation, professionalism, flexibility - these are transferable skills that you can learn from any degree and its about how well you apply them when you are put in the real life situation of a training contract.

    So I'm going to step away from the rest of the LLB graduates and say that despite being one I don't think it should be necessary for everyone to be one. I think you should study whatever interests you at university as then you will get the most out of your experience and gain the best skills. You should, however, do work experience, as there is no comparison for actually experiencing life in a law firm...but then maybe I just don't have a GDL sized chip on my shoulder because I'm an LLB graduate who secured a TC?

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