We kick off our “Dear Law Student” series today. This series will give more of an honest insight into the lives and journeys of a variety of different individuals at different stages of their legal career.
Dear Law Student,
Life is too short, time is too precious, and the stakes are too high to dwell on what might have been. These are the words that ring in my head when I reflect on the timing of my decision to embark on the LPC.
My LPC journey began in January 2019, a few months after completing mandatory youth service and practical legal training at Law School in Nigeria. Embarking on the LPC was never part of the plan; I always wanted to obtain a masters degree after gaining admittance into the Nigerian Bar. However, my ambition to be qualified as a solicitor in two jurisdictions was the drive behind commencing my LPC.
The route to becoming a solicitor in the UK is by possessing a qualifying law degree, completing the LPC and then securing a training contract. However, as an international student embarking on the LPC, it is important to be adequately prepared for the potential hurdles in securing a training contract.
Firstly, time is of the essence. You do not have the luxury of time that home students may have in securing a training contract because you are on a study visa with an expiration date.
APPLY for training contracts, vacation schemes or work placements right before you leave your home country. This was something I wish I knew or did before embarking on the LPC.
Secondly, find opportunities to gain meaningful work experience while in your home country, ensure you gain them even if they are unpaid. This will make your CV stand out and also help in securing that training contract or paralegal role. I came into the UK with some legal work experience from my home country but that wasn’t enough. While on the LPC, I had to embark on various legal work experience in the UK. I would definitely advise all international students to do the same.
It wasn’t an easy task juggling my studies with pro-bono legal work; I was competing for the same position with other students who had the right to work so I needed to find a way to stand out from my peers. This may sound daunting but the reward outweighs any difficulty it may pose.
Most of the pro-bono jobs I did were a replica of some of the modules I took on the LPC. For instance, working at the Personal Support Unit at the Crown Court helped improve my drafting and interviewing skills. As an international student, I would advise you to take advantage of any work experience organised by your University or locate a pro-bono clinic at any CourtHouse in your city.
I emphasise the importance of networking events. I attended a lot of networking events organised by either my University or by Professional bodies.
I vividly remember attending a networking event on a cold Friday evening at The Lowry; it was a Black Solicitors event filled with like-minded professionals. There I was, spilling out all my credentials to whoever cared to listen. A met a woman who had dual qualification both in Nigeria and the UK. I remember asking her how she was able to break through, seeing as I had similar prospects and all she could offer me was sympathy. She narrated how she struggled in her early years but eventually she was lucky to find someone who believed in her and gave her an opportunity. This one experience fuelled my desire to gain my qualifications in the UK.
However, please be informed that some firms may try to exploit your desperation as an international student by offering you a sponsored job without any pay. I had a lady friend who was offered a training contract but without pay. My candid advice is to refuse such offers. Believe in your abilities and keep striving to secure that job that reflects the value you bring to that firm.
After completing the LPC I still could not secure a training contract or a vacation scheme, I almost gave up. Alas, I found out about the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) (which will replace the existing routes to qualification in 2021). This exam helps practicing lawyers in their home country to practice in the UK. This only applies to legal practitioners qualified in their home country and have embarked on the LPC.
Once I am admitted as a solicitor in England, I plan on using all the experiences gained during the LPC and the network of people I encountered while attending networking events to help in my pursuit.
With the proposed two years post study visa sought to be introduced this year, future LPC candidates are in a better position as they now have two years post study to try and secure that dream job.
I encourage you to join professional bodies as well. As a member of various legal bodies that align with my area of specialisation, I can attest to the advantage this network has helped in ensuring my CV stands out. Do not limit yourself due to age, social background or finances. Make sacrifices in your youth and be rest assured the results will be worth it.
LPC LLM Graduate, University of Law
Enthusiastic about Sports Law, Intellectual Property and Media Communications Law.