As published in Guardian Careers and Guardian Law last week
Days are getting shorter, colder and wetter; the training contract application process reopens its doors during this time of year. For some it spells a season of opportunity, excitement and progress; for others, another year of doubt and hard graft. What is relevant to most if not all jobless law graduates is that now is a time of uncertainty; one in which confidence is strained and sacrifice is crucial.
In the increasingly limited pool of graduate destinations the law enjoys elite status as one of the most fiercely sought after professions in the country. As much "for the people" as "for big business" (and despite the former being under threat) the magnetism of the industry remains unquestioned, promising those tenacious and lucky enough to gain access all the kudos and job-satisfaction they could hope for.
solicitors is in obtaining a training contract – a two-year traineeship with a law firm. The more time you spend searching for one, the more unattainable it can seem – a feeling only compounded when you look at the facts: in 2009-10 there were 11,370 full-time and 3,140 part-time LPC places compared to just 4,874 newly registered training contracts – and these numbers do not account for the hordes of previous years' applicants still vying for their big break. The statistics serve to disarm and motivate in equal measure; they highlight a perturbing level of competition, yet somehow still croon a tantalising "you can make it" verse.
The challenge now is as much about finding the right opportunity as bolstering the CV and improving application strategy. Weighing up firms I didn't before think to consider is common-sense to me now; besides, keeping my options open at the early stages seems like a good idea regardless of the economic climate.
As competition for training contracts intensifies, so too does the rush for almost-as-elusive vacation placements and dwindling work experience opportunities. Still, the right experiences – both formal and informal – remain the most fulfilling aspect of the pre-interview effort. Today, the training contract application appears more commonly in glorious online form, making it perhaps the most irksome stage of the whole process. Each application entails hours of researching, brainstorming, drafting, redrafting and proofreading. And without the right grades, the right university name, a scrupulous eye for detail and an appreciation for what the firm is looking for, all this can amount to little or nothing.
I started the Legal Practice Course without having bagged a training contract; a decision often labelled misguided and/or uninformed. But for me, and possibly the countless others who do the same, it was instead an unwavering belief that I can do it which carried me into a self-funded LPC, and further still into a relentlessly rocky job market. If rather than looking at this decision with regretful eyes I keep this belief alive, I can only continue to feel that I will indeed in the end be successful.