I've been planning on applying this year to do a history degree. However i ultimately want to go into law as i feel this is a career that would would suit me and that i would ultimately enjoy and i understand that to do this a conversion course is required at the end of the completed history degree. What i would really like to know is how easy it is to get a placement in a law firm afterwards. There are just a few questions i really need answering right now as i am panicing that i may be making a wrong descision in taking history although it is the course that i feel most passionate about.
First of all, do i have more chance of being successful through this route than going through a law degree or doesn't it make much of a difference?
I understand that getting involved with a firm after the conversion course is very competitive, so what are the chances of being succesful?
Is there anything i can do now to give myself a better chance of succeding in becoming a lawyer?
Thanks for any help anyone could give me.
I don't think people should always assess things in terms of how easy they are going to be, rather, you should assess them on whether or not it is something you really want to do. If it's something you're passionate about and that you want to do, then it doesn't matter how hard it is, you will get there if you put your mind to it. It is that passion that will sustain you through those long dark nights of studying/job application rejections and so forth.
I think any path that you take in life is going to have its pitfalls and hurdles so you might as well opt for the one thing that you want to do, regardless of how 'easier' your Plan B is.
If you really want to be a solicitor, then it would save you time and money to do a Law degree. If you really enjoy History though and want to play it safe, and you're prepared to take a job in a History related area if Law doesn't work out, then go for History.
If your ultimate aim is to be a solicitor, I don't think it makes a great deal of difference if you do a History or Law degree, but as I say, it will save you time and money to do a Law degree. Law is very competitive and your chances of being successful depend on alot of things. If you get a good degree classification (1st or a 2.1) and if you can obtain relevant legal work experience, then you will be in a good position.
Going back to my earlier point, even if you struggle to obtain a 2.1 or higher, and have difficulty obtaining work experience, if it's something you really want to do in life, then go for it. I'm sure there are examples out there of people who haven't done so well but have still managed to make it against all the odds. And if there isn't? well, you can be the first to set the trend.
The best advice I can give on improving your chances is get a good degree classification and try to get relevant work experience.
One piece of advice I will give you if you choose to study Law at university (I've got a Law degree), is to do as much research as possible. Apply for vacation schemes at Law firms, in a bid to get experience, and aim for the highest grades that you can get.
Make full use of the careers service at university, go to the CV and interview workshops, they're free and invaluable resources. Even if you think your CV is up to standard, just go anyway to make sure. This was something that I never did and I regret it.
If you want to be a solicitor then you will have to do the Legal Practice Course after your Law degree. If you do the History degree first though, you will have to do the Conversion Course AND the Legal Practice Course, so it saves time and money to do a Law degree.
I would also think ahead to the funding of the Legal Practice Course. Unless you're from a rich family or have some savings, you will either have to get a bank loan to fund it or a scholarship/bursary if you're lucky. Your best best though is to get a training contract at a Law firm that funds the LPC for you. I think you need to apply for training contracts in your penultimate year at University so again, do your research and apply early. (Something else I failed to do!) You've always got to be thinking ahead.
I recently bought a book from Amazon called the 'Gherkin Guide to securing a training contract', I would recommend buying it. Alot of the information is old hat for Law students who will be familiar with the application process/necessity of work experience and so forth, but there are some useful bits of advice and information in there, particularly the example interview questions, and tips on developing commercial awareness. Moreover, if you are a beginner to the area, then it's an ideal introductory text.
Definitely don't do a law degree if you'd rather do your undergrad in History. I'm on the conversion course at the moment having done Classics undergrad, and although I am certainly enjoying studying law it has made me realise that I could never have done it as an undergrad - I just wouldn't have been interested it in quite the same kind of way as I was in Classics.
Also, I couldn't imagine not knowing about anything other than law.
I know a few people who started their degrees knowing full well that they would do the conversion course at the end.
In terms of TCs, there is perhaps a slight preference for people with law degrees, but to be honest non-law graduates have other skills which law graduates don't which they have gained from studying other subjects, so as long as you sell yourself properly you should not be at a disadvantage.
Lastly, doing a non-law degree keeps your options open. You might change your mind about doing the conversion course once you have finished given the huge expense (a factor you should bear in mind when making your decision - there are no LEA grants for the GDL).
Once you have done a non-law degree you can then do the conversion course, whereas if you do a law degree and later regret doing a degree in say, history, you can't do a history conversion course.
Beth (Trainee Solicitor)
If you get a training contract it's likely that the firm will pay your GDL and LPC fees for you, plus a grant for maintenace/living costs. Don't let the cost put you off if its what you truly want to do.
Also, alot of firms employ equal amounts of law and non-law graduates, especially the bigger City firms (some firms are 60% non law 40% law!)