The view from campus: law students contemplate a bleak future as jobs dry up

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  • The situation must be dire indeed when a university careers adviser suggests that law graduates should work as law firm receptionists in the faint hope that this might lead to paralegal work and then perhaps a training contract.

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  • Receptionist to paralegal to trainee? What planet is he living on?

    How is someone going to prove their ability as a receptionist, doing a good job on putting a caller through to voicemail?

    The Lawyer does seem to love bad news too, the competition's definitely tough but there are training contracts out there. At the same time, taking a year out isn't a bad idea either as it gives you more opportunities to take vacation schemes, get some work experience (legal or otherwise) and pay off a bit of the student debt as self funding wouldn't be easy with heavy existing debts.

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  • It needs to pointed out that there are plenty of legal Receptionists out there that have been made redundant, even if the firm would consider a law grad on Reception (most wouldn't) competition would be strong! If there is one thing that gets up the nose of recruiters and legal HR Departments is law grads that think they can wiggle their way into a training contract from a support role! Most do not understand that firms want candidates that are career focused in one area rather than trying to use the role as a springboard to something else. There are thousands of legal support staff on the market at the moment who wish to pursue a career in their given field whether that be Marketing, HR, Finance or Facilities. I think what a lot people forget is that there are a whole raft of career options open within today’s larger law firms that don't involve being a Lawyer. It is undoubtedly very tough for law grads chasing training contracts, it is misguided and irresponsible for this "careers advisor" to say this. The reason we have so many law grads or come to think of it grads of all disciplines is because of fools like this chap. Not everyone can be a high flier and as the old adage goes, the world always needs Road Sweepers.

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  • When I graduated, I had not secured a training contract. To enhance my CV, I worked as a Legal Secretary for a year at a large, international firm.

    This was the best thing I could have done. I met many useful contacts, from Partners to trainees, who were all happy to give their time and wisdom when I was going through the horrific process of completing training contract applications. I was even invited along to the graduate recruitment director's presentation on securing a training contract, which resulted in my scoring 100% on that application form.

    The legal world is a small place and sometimes, it really is about 'who you know.' if you impress someone, either as a secretary or a receptionist, and get your name known, you can go far. Everyone has to start somewhere, sometimes at the bottom.

    Many students (including me at the time) come out of University thinking that they should just be able to walk into a high-flying job because they have been to University for 3 years. If you can, you are lucky but in the current economic climate, you need to prove yourself in other ways.

    This addition to my CV resulted in a much higher success rate when it came to completing training contract applications and I have now qualified as a Solicitor. My advice to law graduates - don't be too snobby about taking on jobs, such as a Receptionist. You never know where this may lead.

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  • I came out of law school in 1996, a time when it was fairly tough to get a training contract. I had no connections within the legal field and, through necessity, took a job as a legal secretary. I did a year as a secretary, a year as a paralegal and then started my training contract, all at the same firm. It does happen and sometimes swallowing your pride and taking every bit of experience from every situation pays off. I also found that, by the time I qualified, I had a much wider outlook than many others and a bit of real life experience that stood me in good stead for NQ jobs.

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  • A legal secretary position is much different to a receptionist as solicitors will be relying on you, which can allow you to demonstrate your legal ability and that you would be a useful addition to the firm.

    A receptionist, from my experience, though is only expected to take calls and most people in the firm very rarely see them.

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