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Archive for the ‘Commentary’ Category

Is a Law Degree Worthless?

In Commentary on April 4, 2013 at 3:14 pm

Unfortunately, maybe.

There has been a recent shift in the legal recruitment market in favour of graduates from non-law backgrounds. It seems that law firms are now targeting candidates who can show specialist skills and a range of abilities outside of the traditional gambit of a law graduate. The question is: is this fair?

In my humble opinion OF COURSE IT’S NOT! This is obviously a response to the overwhelming number of law graduates streaming out of universities with a respectable 2:1 every year, but it is still questionable. It makes it seem as if recruiters have decided that instead of spending time on differentiating between candidates who have very similar backgrounds, they may as well remove such candidates from the equation all together. They are then left free to choose between an increasingly diverse set of candidates who can show skills such as lateral thinking, problem solving and in-depth analysis, all of which are necessary in legal practice. The problem is however, that if these are the skills needed to become a successful lawyer, then they should very much be possessed by legal graduates already. So is there scope to suggest that perhaps it is the content of law degrees that is at fault in failing to deliver well-rounded candidates? Or is it simply that this is a mechanism being used to handle the over-abundance of law graduates with nowhere to go? These sorts of questions have the potential to call in the relevance of a law degree, where it offers you no advantage in actually becoming a lawyer.

 

Even more disturbingly, the above linked article suggests that volunteering at your local Citizens Advice Bureau is akin to three/ four years of studying towards a law degree in showing your commitment to the subject. As someone who has wanted to study law from young age, and has tailored their studies accordingly, I find it slightly insulting that a recruiter may equate my passion for law to someone who has completed their degree in any subject and decided later on that law might just be for them. Now I wouldn’t go as far as to blame such candidates; they are entitled to take up any profession they want, and have still worked hard towards gaining their degree. I do however take issue with any recruiter who grants such candidates preference over those who can display the same sought-after skills with the added bonus of being able to do so in a legal context.

 

So in answer to the question of whether a law degree is worthless, I would submit that it very possibly could be so. The legal recruitment market, it would seem, is very much anybody’s ball game.

 

As always, comments are welcome.

Grad Expectations: Why finishing university has made me feel like a character from a Dickens novel. One of the unwashed ones. Running around the dark underbelly of London with an inexplicably Cockney, but not quite Cockney, accent. Also, an exercise in whether people will read long article titles.

In Commentary on January 4, 2013 at 8:30 am

Over the last 6 months, I have undergone an incredible journey. By journey I mean a metaphorical journey. I haven’t actually physically moved that much. Come to think of it, it hasn’t really been that incredible. Let’s start again.

For the last three years I’ve been wondering what lay on the other side of that mystical curtain known as Graduation. Now that I’m on the other side of said curtain, I sort of wish I had spent my time wondering about something else. How exactly do they manage to fit an entire forest into a can of pine fresh air freshener for example…

Seriously though, I sailed through my undergraduate degree thinking that it would be easy to find a job at the end of it. Oh how wrong I was. I mean, it was obviously wrong to have a sense of entitlement simply because I had gained a degree, but 6 months later and I’m still looking for work. That just ain’t sitting pretty with me.  I’m not alone either. Youth unemployment is at an all-time high. The question is; what can one do to get that all important job?

I would say that the first, and possibly one of the most important things, is to not get disheartened. Yes, it may feel like you’re embarking on a never ending shame spiral of daytime TV and snack foods that under any other circumstances would seem disgusting but somehow now seem appropriate, but you have to remember that the only way to succeed is to maintain a positive outlook. This may be difficult if you’re surrounded by friends who are out buying iPads and going on expensive holidays, especially if you’ve always though they’re not as intelligent as you in a their-degree-is-complete-twaddle-compared-to-mine-so-they’ll-never-get-a-real-job-but-I-won’t-say-that-to-them-because-they’ll-probably-get-offended sort of way. Still, chin up. iPads are so awesome I want to cry stupid anyway.

As part of this staying positive approach, you may want to consider working on the range of skills you have to offer prospective employers. The obvious go-to activity would be volunteering. As someone who has been volunteering in the interim, I can say truthfully that it is a very good thing to do. It is a great way to build up your skills, and who doesn’t want to give something back to the community? Volunteering is popular with employers as they like someone who does something constructive with their time. So if you haven’t already, check with your local charities whether they have any vacancies and get to it. You won’t regret it. And if you do, you’re probably doing it wrong.

It’s also worthwhile thinking outside the box and honing any other skills you might have lying about. Employers love people who are creative because it shows that you have the sort of mind that we be able to attack a problem from more directions than a game of Twister. They especially love it if you can demonstrate how you managed to turn a hobby into viable business idea/ product. Tap into your inner Apprentice and see what you can make with what you’ve got, Blue Peter style. The sky is literally the limit, unless your hobby is aerospace, in which case you’re on your own.  Handy with a needle and thread? You could sell your creations at craft fairs. If music is more your thing you could look at uploading your pieces on t’internet and selling them for commercial use. Why, you could even start a humorous yet informative blog.

Before finishing up, I think it’s important to point out that whilst you should be doing everything you can to make yourself seem more appealing to recruiters, employers themselves also have a responsibility to treat candidates fairly. Now I know that it comes down to there only being a limited number of jobs available and such, but I think its preposterous that recruiters are still refusing to give feedback to rejected candidates. I’m sorry Mr Recruiter, but if you expect me to spend hours researching your business in order to fill out an application with abstract questions asking me how the colour scheme of your logo is going to affect your shareholder dividends over the next quarter, the least you can do is to explain why my answers weren’t good enough. Receiving the irritating ‘there were just too many candidates of a high quality this year’ is bad enough, but NO REPLY AT ALL? WHY? WHY MUST YOU TREAT ME SO??

Again, I understand that it comes down a lack of time on the recruiter’s part to be able to provide detailed feedback to each and every candidate, but surely some effort can be made. How can job-seekers be expected to improve if they don’t know what they need to improve on? Perhaps people should be specifically employed just to provide such feedback. They could be given a cool name like Refuted Aspirant Liaison Technicians (if these positions get created as a result of this article I call dibs on Head Refuted Aspirant Liaison Technician).

To wrap up then, stay positive, do something useful and I really want an iPad.

As always, comments are welcome. iPads are even more welcome.

Fresh-faced and eager to learn

In Commentary on August 18, 2012 at 10:00 am

No, the above isn’t the name of the latest X-Factor winning boy-band, but a description of the many students who got their A-Level results this week. First of all, well done to all of you!

Some books because I’ve read that every blog post should have a picture. You’re welcome.

The aim of this article is to provide some insight into the sorts of things I wish had been told when I started at university. it’s aimed mainly at fellow law students, but can be pretty much generalised to any other subject.

Herein lie the pearls of wisdom.

1) Be that annoying swot who asks questions. Mainly in tutorials. No one likes the guy that puts his hand up in a lecture. No one.

2) Read every case on the ‘compulsory’ reading list, and a few from the ‘further reading’ list. You don’t  have to read each case in full, but being able to lay down a few facts from an obscure case will be the legal equivalent of the sort of name dropping that gets you into the hippest of clubs. People are still using ‘hip’ right?

3) Do not think that simply diving into the nearest text-book will guarantee you success. You’ll do well at university, but if you want to make a career out of law, you’ll need to capitalise on all the experiences that university has to offer.

4) Examples of said experiences: taking part in events/ competitions organised by the university law society. Joining a few other societies that relate to your hobbies and interests – if you can’t find one that does, start your own and you’ll gain the sort of leadership experience that you can use to pad out your CV for years to come

5) Don’t think that the recommended text for your course will be your only lifeline. If you’re struggling with it because it seems dense or even badly written, find another book on the same subject that’s more suited to you.

6) Try and cram in as much work experience in your holidays as you can, but don’t limit yourself to just the legal sector. Other professions such as accountancy and insurance utilise many of the same skills, and employers are increasingly looking for candidates with non-traditional backgrounds.

7) Try and do some charity work, whether its volunteering at your local Citizens Advice Bureau or even an old people’s home. People like people who help other people.

8) Organise your notes as you go along. Nothing is worse than reaching that point a month before your exams start where you’re trying to peel crumpled lecture handouts off of crisp packets from the bottom of your bag.

9) Be smart and revise with someone. This doesn’t mean you should memorize exactly the same stuff, but you can bounce ideas off of each other if you work with someone who revises at the same pace as you.

10) Finally, ENJOY IT WHILE IT LASTS. It may seem like the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do but believe me, it’s a veritable mardi gras compared the graduate race for employment.

I hope that helps and hasn’t completely put you off studying law at university. Feel free to add any of your tips in the comments section.