How I got a training contract as a non-law student

Rebecca Dilks

Rebecca Dilks graduated from Philosophy and Politics at the University of Leeds in 2014 and is nearing completion of her training contract with Gateley Plc.  In this post she shares her experiences of pursuing law from a non-law undergraduate degree and her tips for other students seeking training contracts.

As any law student will know Training Contracts are like gold dust. A privileged few will be lucky enough to secure the dream of a training contract during their academic studies but for a non-law student this is not always possible as you may decide to embark on a career in law later or you may not be aware of the urgency of applying!

I studied a degree in Philosophy and Politics at the University of Leeds and graduated in 2014. I had decided that I wanted to be a lawyer after 2 weeks spent working at the Sheffield Combined Courts when I was 16 but had studied Philosophy and Politics to gain different experiences and develop broader skills beyond law.

During my third year, my eyes were opened to the competitive nature of Training Contracts. I graduated at a time where there was a backlog of students and a shortage of training contracts. I attended law fairs, law for non-law society events and careers lectures’ on law but what held me back was a lack of legal experience. The brief time I had spent at court, an additional period at the Worksop County Court and subsequent holidays spent at a small local law firm were insufficient to ensure that my CV was competitive.

Following Graduation, I enrolled on a GDL course at the University of Sheffield; it was during this year, that I was successful in obtaining my current position as a trainee at Gateley Plc. This was the second year I had applied to the firm after previously being turned down following a half day assessment. The assessment involved spending a day at the head office in Birmingham completing “apprentice-style” activities, including: a written assessment, interview and negotiation exercise.

The vacation scheme enabled me to experience two weeks at Gateley, primarily within the Residential Development Department. During the scheme, I reported on the IP rights of an insolvent company, drafted a legal report for a housebuilder, assisted with a ground rent sale and completed legal research tasks. I was also invited to attend a site visit with a house builder client and enjoyed both social and CSR events within the office. A vacation placement is invaluable to both you and the firm as it provides you with an insight to the people, work, ethos and values of the firm whilst simultaneously allowing them to see who you are and how you work. Even if you are unsuccessful in obtaining a training contract from that particular firm, it will be an asset to your CV and provides opportunity for the development of transferrable skills.

I was fortunate to become the firms second “Leeds-trainee” and was supported through the LPC at the University of Law. During the LPC, I attended the firm’s office in Birmingham once a week to meet with other trainees to complete the mergers and acquisitions module.

September 2016 soon came round and I began life as a trainee. After a two week induction completing PSC modules, I joined the Residential Development Team to work on the Ground Rent Project. After 2 months, I moved to Real Estate to finish my “Property seat” and I experienced the sale, purchase and leasing of commercial property. My second seat was Corporate which afforded me experience of sales, purchases and investments in companies both in the UK and internationally. Currently I am in Litigation where I am experiencing a mix of CDR, construction and regulatory. Right from the start, I have been given great experience and exposure to legal work and clients. In addition to work, I have also worked on the CSR committee, organised office socials and seen the governance of the firm first hand. As I now begin to reach the final stretch of my training contract I hope to remain at Gateley as an NQ because I feel the firm has truly invested in me and I am thoroughly enjoying the training contract, thanks to the people, work, clients and ethos of the firm. I would wholeheartedly recommend applying to Gateley for 2020 training contracts and beyond.

My advice to help you get a training contract, whether it’s at Gateley or elsewhere, would be:

  1. Do your research both to find a firm that is right for you and to allow you to personalise your application;
  2. Seek to enhance your CV with work experience, life experiences and hobbies to ensure it represents you and displays all of your skills;
  3. Visit law fairs and talk to representatives of any firm you are interested in to allow you to gain information beyond the firms website and graduate recruitment brochure;
  4. Apply for vacation schemes to enhance your experience and to increase the likelihood of your recruitment (this year Gateley is only recruiting from its vacation schemes); and
  5. If at first you don’t succeed, try again. Don’t give up!

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Filed under Advice, Getting into..., How I got my job

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