As a non-lawyer, who wants to go into the commercial bar, mini-pupillages are almost impossible to find which don’t require one to have begun the GDL. To circumvent this lack of experience, I’ve been jumping head first into Solicitors Vacation Scheme applications, and every other event the Warwick Law Society has had to offer. The best for anyone thinking of the years ahead would be the Aspiring Solicitors competition, where through the hard work of Stefny Mary and Vera Cai, we’re now into the quarter finals. The amount of exposure to LawTech the competition has given us has been exceptional. I’ve been fortunate enough to be offered coding courses within my masters, which has meant I can claim more than just a superficial knowledge of what will be a game-changing transformation of the legal process in the years to come.
Tip 1 if you’re not a lawyer: take a coding course. (See Richard Susskind, Professor of Law, Oxford University)
As the concept of ‘behavioural insights’ has seeped into almost every private or public sector imaginable, one of the last redoubts has been Law. Ironically, considering litigation’s focus on wayward commercial behaviour, it still seems taken as granted that both clients and judges act rationally, even whilst the body regulating Solicitors (the Solicitors Regulatory Authority) have now adopted Behavioural Science practices to transform the legal industry. One way I’ve been trying to answer the question ‘Why Behavioural Economics’ is through looking at Prison sentencing reform and the digitisation of Small Claims Courts. It looks like the concept of ‘strict’ and ‘lenient’ judges might well be true, even whilst Sentencing Guidelines, and judicial training courses have attempted to control for such variability. Additionally, the attempt to remove the need for solicitors, judges, and court rooms from basic civil proceedings is causing a revolution in the way individuals interact with the judicial system. Much work is still being done by the Ministry of Justice on how to simplify and guide individuals without a background in Law…. or A levels, through the new process. These two areas will be likely what you will find me doing hunched over my laptop in mid-August on campus.
Tip 2: Find any link to what you’ve studied and see how far you can cram it into law: you’d be surprised.
Being at the same age where someone following the usual Law career path would be qualifying as an Associate, I’ve been aiming my vacation scheme applications at the boutique American law firms without established training contracts. The responsibility, pay and early specialism within such firms mean that from almost day one is acting as an Associate. I’ve focused my applications on International arbitration/litigation-dominant firms (which would still provide the opportunity to appear in court if Pupillage fails to materialise). The Vacation scheme applications were therefore aimed at: Gibson Dunn, Vinson & Elkins, Covington, Skadden, and Debevoise Plimpton, all of whom are ranked in the top 10 in this area.
Tip 3: For those not interested in these areas, decide:
- Your preferred area of law,
- Level of early responsibility/pressure
- How long to stay in the office (a lower hours mean lower salary)
- How important training is to you.
There doesn’t appear to be any right answer to those questions, and it would be impossible to find a firm which could give you the most of all 4, but, It suddenly becomes a lot simpler writing multiple applications when you can see what differentiates the 5% of all say, large, transaction-focused Britain-centric solicitors firms have from the rest of the market, and only applying to those.
One must acknowledge that grades matter most for the Bar, which one must fit in alongside the the debating and mooting competitions you will have won by the time you apply for pupillage deadline in January. Even for the Commercial Bar, a degree of engagement with current political and social issues is expected to stand apart from the other identically excellent applicants. The greater freedom a Masters provides has led to time for me spent on assistant roles with Law professors and human rights firms in London. As a potential advocate, self-confidence are two assumed traits, which I would highly recommend using now:
Tip 4: If you see a legal opportunity which you’re:
- vastly under-qualified for, or
- Doubt anyone of a similar background will be there
Then that is the best place to build contacts. If that feels you with dread, the Commercial Solicitors route is a very rewarding option.
By Joe Kelen, Warwick Law Society Postgraduate Representative