Five routes into law for the debt-averse student

The best route into law will almost always be the one that guarantees a job with as little debt as possible.

Following recent changes made to the Solicitors Regulation Authority's training contract guidelines, there are an increasing number of routes into higher positions in law that are more affordable and attainable.

If you're in a dilemma about whether or not to start a course in law, make sure you've considered all the options available to guarantee that vital job. Here are five suggestions to help you on your way:

1) Combining part-time study and a paralegal job

Having enough work experience – including non-legal work – and a variety of skills to offer future employers will give you a better chance than a qualification alone, especially if you're applying for a training contract where there is a whole section dedicated to work experience.

Having a job whilst studying allows you to gain extra skills, enables networking opportunities and provides you with income to support yourself during your study period.

While it may be difficult to combine the two, future employers will be impressed at your juggling skills and if the course doesn't work out, you'll still have a job.

2) Train with the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx)

CILEx offers a range of different legal training options that can lead to becoming a qualified lawyer and fee earner. Many people go down this route because of affordability – according to their website, "48% of members say that they chose the CILEx route as they couldn't afford either uni or the GDL/LPC/BVC routes".

There is a requirement to undertake work placements as part of the training, so a large number of trainees retain work in the legal sector over a long period of time.

3) Qualify as a cost lawyer at the Association of Costs Lawyers (ACL)

Following the Jackson reforms and the Legal Services Act 2007, more students are realising their potential for legal work by qualifying as costs lawyers.

This involves dealing with all aspects of legal costs such as solicitor-client costs, legal aid and costs between parties.

The ACL recently launched a new online training course to fit around working life, so trainees can apply their academic learning during their work-based supervised practice.

4) Get onto a funded programme and get work experience before university

If you're in year 12, at a state school or college and from a less privileged background, you might be eligible to apply to your local university for the Pathways to Law two-year programme.

Run by the Sutton Trust, the programme offers 400 places a year to students from under-represented backgrounds, giving them the opportunity to get into law while studying for their A-levels.

If you're interested in this, think about also getting some work experience by taking advantage of what is on offer through Prime, which aims to broaden access to the legal profession.

5) Other legal work, such as alternative business structures (ABS)

Alternative business structures, in which both lawyers and non-lawyers can share the management of the business, were allowed to start operating in 2011, following the Legal Services Act 2007. This has opened up new work for legal graduates, including the roles of legal project managers and legal analysts.

ABSs are arguably more productive, with a higher turnover per fee earner compared to other providers. Different ABSs may target certain skills but in general, trainees who can demonstrate excellent commercial awareness, analysis and communication skills will have an advantage. Therefore, having proof of these attributes on your CV is important.

(Source: TheGuardian)


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