Legal & law internships, work experience and vacation schemes 2022:

expert law careers advice, training contracts and an insight into the UK law industry

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Find the best vacation schemes, internships and work experience with the biggest legal and law firms in the UK.

If you're interested in working in the exciting, fast-paced law industry, we've got all the information you need and the jobs to get your successful career started.

What can you do with a law degree?

If you're a university student wondering "what can I do with my law degree?", don't worry – it's a perfectly valid question. In truth, you can do an awful lot with your legal degree once you've graduated from university.

You can pursue a career as a solicitor, barrister, legal executive or paralegal, or you can choose to use your law qualification to chase a job in another sector, like business or finance, that requires many of the same qualities.

As a student, it's important to give serious consideration to what kind of legal professional, or 'lawyer', you want to be early on in your studies and career.

How can you do this? Well, for a start, consider what kind of environment you'd rather be in.

Solicitors often work in teams, whether small or large, within legal firms, whereas working as a barrister is, in many ways, a more independent role (though they do meet with other barristers and solicitors often).

Careers in UK Law

Solicitors

Legal & law internships

Solicitors are members of the legal sector who offer advice and assistance, often acting as the initial point of contact for those asking for representation.

These professionals can work in law firms, government departments, or companies' in-house legal departments.

The job itself often revolves around speaking to clients, explaining how they can help, researching and understanding the law, offering a plan of action and creating legal documents.

Career progression often involves entering the UK law sector as a newly-qualified solicitor and working your way up to associate or partner level (e.g. in a law firm).

Barristers

Legal & law vacation schemes

The role of barrister differs quite a lot to that of solicitor, though there are of course shared aspects too. These legal professionals advise clients and also represent them in court.

They work closely with solicitors – in fact solicitors often help them gather relevant information. Rather than working in a law firm as such, these legal experts do something called 'working in chambers'.

It's here that they prepare case arguments, which they later present in court.

Barristers are similar to solicitors in regards to supporting clients, but differ in the fact that they then represent clients in court, question witnesses and even occasionally negotiate settlements.

Can non law students work in law?

Non-law undergraduates can absolutely break their way into the UK legal sector. In fact, in some cases coming from a non-law background can actually be an advantage, as law firms look for people with a range of skills.

While it's not required for undergraduates interested in law to have studied a course in the subject, non-law graduates will have to undertake either the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) or Common Professional Examination (CPE) at some stage. These are otherwise known as law conversion courses.

Legal employers also like the fact that non-law graduates can make well-rounded employees and bring varied experience into the mix.

The GDL is essentially an in-depth postgraduate qualification that helps you learn a lot of crucial legal foundational knowledge in one year, including seven core subjects, namely: equity and trusts, EU, contract, tort, property, public and criminal law.

Once you've passed the GDL or CPE, you'll be on the same level as other law graduates.

This allows you to move on to undertake either the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), and at a later stage get involved in a law firm training contract or pupillage in chambers.

Why should you work in the law industry?

"What can I do with my law degree UK?" is a question many graduates ask themselves, but the truth is that there are many reasons to work in the law profession.

You get to develop key skills that you'll use for the rest of your career, such as professional resilience, an understanding of how best to work in teams, fantastic communication skills, keen commercial awareness and the ability to lead and manage others, while you'll also appreciate the value of accuracy.

You'll also be working in a challenging and motivating role, as each case is different and requires you to work to the best of your ability.

How can graduates find jobs in law firms?

Law training contracts

Many law firms promote their training contract jobs online, so to be clear about which companies you want to apply to and potentially work for, do plenty of research and make a list of the ones that appeal to you.

The big thing about legal training contracts is that they're advertised years in advance.

What this means is that, unlike other graduate jobs that you may be able to apply to once you've finished university, with law training contracts you'll need to apply while you're still an undergraduate.

Often in legal recruitment, it's a case of "what can you do with my law degree in the UK?", as there are various stages that students and graduates need to go through in order to secure training contracts.

These include work experience and vacation schemes (which you can read more about below), the LPC (or conversion courses and the LPC for non-law students) and pupillages.

Keep reading to find out more about these different stages.

What are the typical paths to law careers?

If you want to become a solicitor, you need to be aware of the standard path that you need to follow, as well as the entry requirements.

Broadly-speaking, UK legal firms will look for people who have or are on-track for a 2:1 degree in law or any other subject.

As well as your degree qualification, law employers also look for candidates who have good A levels and GCSEs, while your level of extra-curricular activity may also be considered.

Regardless of how strong your academic skills are, all applicants need to do a Legal Practice Course (LPC) before starting work as a trainee solicitor on a training contract.

These periods of training are used by firms across the industry, allowing you to work in different departments and develop your awareness.

It's also common for trainee solicitors to undertake a Professional Skills Course (PSC) in order to develop their skills further.

The path to becoming a barrister is the same in many ways, expect for the fact that this career requires applicants to complete the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).

After that comes a pupillage, which lasts for 12 months (two six month periods). After completing that, it's possible to start taking on court cases and representing clients.

What is criminal law?

Legal professionals who specialise in criminal law may represent their clients in court and defend them against charges, which could include anything from speeding to theft to murder.

What is commercial law / corporate law?

People working in the commercial or corporate legal sector can offer their clients advice on everything from transactions to mergers, and can work with a wide range of different businesses.

Salaries in careers in law

There are lots of reasons to go into law, and yes, the potential to earn a great salary right from the off is one of them.

According to the High Fliers: The Graduate Market in 2021 report, the average starting salary for a law graduate in 2021 was £46,000, a figure topped only by the salaries offered by investment banks.

Furthermore, the leading law firms increased the salaries for trainee solicitors for the fourth time in four years, so there's good reason to believe it will continue to rise in the future. High Fliers: The Graduate Market in 2021

Legal and law work experience

Law work experience

It's essential that you get involved in some kind of relevant work experience if you're hoping to make it into the legal industry.

Competition for places on training contracts is tough, so the more experience you have and the earlier you gain it, the better.

Why is work experience in law important?

It's important because it shows that you're serious about chasing a career in the sector, while it also allows you to see what legal professionals do on a daily basis and what's required from you in order to be successful.

Is work experience for law students only?

No, you don't just have to be an undergraduate studying towards a law degree in order to get involved – work experience law opportunities are open to students from all disciplines.

Having said that, remember that competition for work experience places is tough, so if you're a non-law student you'll have to show your prospective employer why law interests you and that you're serious about entering the industry once you've graduated.

Do law placements exist?

The UK legal sector is an interesting one, because a lot of the terminology used is unique to the sector. For example, a period of work experience isn't generally referred to as a 'law placement'.

While placements do exist in many other industries, work experience for law generally centres around vacation schemes, so it's these you should be looking for.

Legal work experience

Do companies offer in-house legal work experience?

Of course, law firms aren't the only places where you can find relevant experience. Many companies, especially those who operate on a large scale and employ thousands of people, will have in-house legal teams and departments.

By working as a placement student or intern in one of these legal departments, you can gain a great insight in specific issues like employment law and how it impacts human resources (HR), licensing agreements, commercial fraud, bankruptcy, legal compliance and infrastructures.

Benefits of summer legal work experience

The benefit of undertaking law work experience in the summer is that you get to dip your toe into the industry and find out what it's like to work with real clients on real cases, all in a short amount of time.

This means it's not long enough to eat into your studies, but it is long enough to give you a real idea of what it's like to work in a law firm and see just what's involved in the job.

You'll also get to make industry connections (which is incredibly important) and benefit from training and supervision, while many UK law firms also use their summer law schemes as an in-depth pre-training contract interview.

Legal work experience placements: a brief guide to terminology

As we mentioned earlier, law placements aren't really a thing. Rather, work experience programmes in the legal sector are often referred to as vacation schemes, although even this varies depending on the company.

We've seen them called vacation schemes, summer vacation schemes, summer schemes, vacation placements and summer vacation placements, so as you can see it really does vary from firm to firm!

This is why it's particularly important to have a good look at what's out there and search early, because each programme is different and you don't want to miss out on your ideal work experience just because you didn't search thoroughly.

Law work experience in London

What's life like on law firm work experience in London?

Legal work experience in London offers you the chance to experience life with a top law firm and gain an insight that you simply can't get from your university studies alone.

For example, previous students who've interned with London firms have been able to get involved in things like negotiation exercises, training sessions, networking events, presentations and work in legal chambers.

Simply being in this professional environment and seeing other legal professionals in action will help you learn.

View law internships in London

Work experience law firms London opportunities for non law students

Remember, many law firms are happy to take on non-law undergraduates, while some even run specific schemes that are aimed at non-law students.

It's important to take into account though that non-law students who wish to get involved in work experience may be required to apply during their final year of university.


“Day to day, you could draft documents, attend team and client meetings, do legal research and, where applicable, attend court. It's hands-on learning complemented by interactive workshops, training sessions, discussions and fun social events. By the end of your scheme, you’ll have built up an in-depth understanding of life as a trainee, developed invaluable skills, and actively contributed to the firm’s progress.” Hogan Lovells Vacation Scheme (2021)

Law firm work experience

What can work experience in a law firm teach me?

Law firm work experience

Work experience at a law firm can help you develop crucial skills, mainly because you'll be getting involved in the same sorts of projects that graduate trainees do.

For example, this could include carrying out research into relevant legal aspects, preparing papers for court, drafting legal documents and arranging and attending client meetings.

This will not only let you see what the day-to-day job involves, but it will also help you to develop key soft skills that every lawyer needs, such as great communication skills, the ability to manage and organise your own workload and also analyse important information.

What companies offer work experience for law students?

Law firms offering work experience that made it into our 2021/2022 Best Student Employers guide include:

Click to find out more about these companies and why they made it into our Best Student Employers Guide.

We've seen them called vacation schemes, summer vacation schemes, summer schemes, vacation placements and summer vacation placements, so as you can see it really does vary from firm to firm!

This is why it's particularly important to have a good look at what's out there and search early, because each programme is different and you don't want to miss out on your ideal work experience just because you didn't search thoroughly.

Practical aspects of work experience at law firms

On work experience in law firms you can benefit from visiting courts and seeing the legal system in action, as well as moving between departments in order to get a taste for what it's like to work in different parts of a legal firm.

You'll get to understand more about the culture of a law firm, as well as how to work within a team and contribute to projects.

You also practically benefit from having support while you're on your programme, as colleagues are often supportive, while it's also likely that you'll be assigned a mentor or manager who you can meet with and ask for guidance.

Where can you find lawyer work experience?

We advertise jobs for top UK law firms, so it's always worth taking a look at our live jobs in order to see what work experience law firms are offering opportunities.

We also host thousands of company reviews online, which have been written by previous years' legal interns and provide an authentic, honest insight into what it's like to work for work experience law firms London and elsewhere.

Therefore, if you need to do research into what it's like to work for a UK legal firm, make sure you check out our reviews too!

Law internships

What is a law internship?

An internship is a short period of time that you'll spend working for either a law firm, or in a company's legal department.

Law firm internships are often run in the summer months, in order to allow undergraduates to take part in them between academic years.

Benefits of law summer internships

Benefits of law internships London include the fact that you get a first-hand appreciation of what's required to work in a legal career.

You also get great experience to include on your CV, as well as the fact that many law firms will use their legal summer internships to screen potential new recruits.

In fact, one of the best ways to earn yourself a place on a legal training contract is to do well on your summer work experience.


“Our Summer Vacation Schemes offer a taste of life in commercial law at a global firm. You'll be involved in real deals, sit with a Principal, work hard and enjoy an active social life. You'll also attend professional development sessions. These offer a broader understanding of our global business strategy and practice areas, and help you to develop essential skills like negotiation and pitching. And after attending the Vacation Scheme, we'll automatically offer you a final interview for our Training Contract with one of our Partners.” Linklaters Vacation Scheme (2021)

Law internships abroad

It is possible to find legal work programmes abroad, in areas like human rights law internships, which can provide you with an incredible experience.

This not only gives you the chance to test your skills to the limit, but it also shows how committed you are to a career in law.

As many law firms look for candidates who stand out from the crowd, adorning your CV with foreign legal work experience will go a long way towards helping you achieve this!

Legal internships

When should you apply for a legal internship?

If you want to give yourself a good chance of being a legal intern London, you really need to know when to apply.

One thing you definitely want to do is apply early, because places fill up fast and law firms often make offers to students well advance – you only have to look at the fact that applications for training contracts open two or three years in advance as evidence of this!

Legal internships in the UK often open for applications towards the end of the year, running between October and January, though some may close sooner than this so make sure you keep an eye out.

Benefits of legal internships in London

The benefit of doing a legal internship London is that you can test your skills and learn what you need to improve upon, as well as receiving feedback from your manager.

You may also get to try your hand at quite a few different things during your time with the company, such as drafting contracts, attending court proceedings, proofreading contracts and legal documents and reviewing agreements, while you can also make a good impression by asking colleagues if they need any help with their work.

View legal & law internships

Vacation schemes

What are vacation schemes?

A vac scheme is a period of time that you'll spend working for the company, on which you'll be given the chance to get involved in training workshops, attend seminars and perform some of the tasks that a trainee law graduate would be expected to work on.


“As part of the vacation scheme, you’ll gain real and valuable experience from day one, working alongside our lawyers on live deals and cases. There are a plethora of events and presentations to attend where you’ll learn about key elements of our practice while developing the skills you need to be a successful international commercial lawyer.” Allen & Overy Vacation Schemes 2021)

Why should you do a vacation scheme?

Vacation schemes are designed to test your ability and see if you're cut out for a legal career.

You'll get to work with passionate and experienced legal professionals, attend court hearings and learn about the legal system first-hand, get involved in research tasks that test your analytical abilities, and also in some cases produce work that may be shown to clients.

If you want to find a vacation scheme 2022, why not take a look at our job pages to see what's available?

View vacation schemes

What is a training contract?

Training contracts are, as the name suggests, periods of practical training that graduates must undertake before they can be called a fully-fledged solicitor.

They are essentially the final stage that you must complete, requiring you to demonstrate what you've learned and show you have the skills necessary to work in law.

Once you've gained the relevant qualifications, you'll be qualified to undertake a training contract with a law firm.

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In conclusion

The legal industry is one of most competitive in the UK, but there are opportunities around there to get your foot in the door – you just have to be on the ball.

We'd recommend doing some research and looking through the thousands of peer-to-peer law firm reviews on our reviews pages, in order to gain an insight into what legal work experience is like.

Once you have a good idea of what's required and which companies you'd like to work for, check out our jobs pages to see which law firms are currently advertising. Jobs come and go all the time so make sure you check regularly!