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Twitter Q&A with Jonathan White

National Accident Helpline’s Legal Director Jonathan White recently hosted a Twitter Q&A to provide first-hand careers advice to prospective and current students and job-seekers.

Here we list the main questions we received and the responses given by Jonathan during a lively Q&A session.

What's the best way to decide what sort of career in law is going to suit you? At what stage do you 'specialise', or does it not really work like that?
I’d recommend that you try several different specialist areas through your studies and work experience before you decide that you want to focus on one particular area. You shouldn’t make any career decisions until you’ve got all the information you need, and it’s important to get practical experience in areas you think might interest you.

Even once you have specialised in one area, there’s nothing to say that you can’t later change your focus or specialise elsewhere.

I have found training contracts hard to come by. Do you think that will improve this year due to a stable economy?
Competition for training contracts will remain fierce. My impression is that there is. an oversupply of graduates per training contract. I don’t know that the stability of the economy has a profound impact here. It’s tough to get a training contract but that shouldn’t put people off going into the law. It’s a very valid qualification even if you decide not to pursue a career as a solicitor or barrister.

I would always advise candidates to do their best to stand out in a crowded marketplace by making their CV as strong as possible, both with outstanding grades and extra-curricular activities. Being able to demonstrate that you can make things happen – that you are proactive – makes people stand out.

Have rising tuition fees reduced the number of candidates enrolling on legal courses? And have they affected the volume of job applications you receive?
Tuition fees apply to all degrees. My understanding is that demand for law degrees is as high as it ever has been and hasn’t been diminished by the introduction of tuition fees.

We receive applications from both qualified and non-qualified applicants and we haven't seen a change due to recent rises in tuition fees.

If I go on to do this degree in Scotland, will I be able to later practise law in the rest of the UK/the world and if so, how difficult will it be for me to make this transition?
Good question. In order to practise in England and Wales you’ll need to satisfy the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s academic requirements and you should check with them directly.

For candidates in England wishing to pursue a career in Scotland, you’ll need to get in touch with the Law Society of Scotland.

I got/I expect to get a 2.2 at university. Do you think I can still get a job as a solicitor?
It’s going to be tough because law firms may sift out anything below a 2.1 to help them manage the volume of applications they receive. Unless there’s an exceptional reason to look at your CV, they won’t. You need to do something special and make sure that your extra-curricular side really stands out.

What extra-curricular activities do you think would help benefit my CV?
Anything that shows you have get-up-and-go, teamwork skills and people skills. Charity work, student politics, committee positions and participation in sports all show that you are a well-rounded person with interests outside just your degree course.

I studied a law degree, but I’m not sure I want to become a lawyer. Do you think that might count against me?
Absolutely not. Possessing a law degree demonstrates a lot of qualities and that you have an analytical mind. Many people studied law before going on to work at very high levels in other fields. Likewise many outstanding members of the legal community didn’t originally study law, but chose to enrol on a conversion course further down the line.