Every year approximately 800,000 students graduate, and many leave university unsure of their next steps. For others who do have a clear idea of what they want to do, some want to become a solicitor, but struggle to secure the training contract they need. Amanda Smith, HR Director at DMH Stallard explores the options
The pathway to becoming a solicitor in the United Kingdom is highly competitive; it requires academic excellence, perseverance, financial commitment, and the ability to thrive in a competitive and exacting environment.
In 2021, 6,981 individuals were admitted to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) roll and 21,650 UK students were accepted onto law courses, so the competition to become a solicitor is high*. The number of training contracts available in the UK does not meet demand and an increasing number of determined students are looking for alternative routes to enter a career in law.
Are office services roles an alternative route into a career in law?
Alex Robinson joined DMH Stallard in January 2022, and worked in office services for eight months prior to moving to our Family Team, London in August 2022. She secured her training contract in April 2023. Alex worked within the firm as an Office Services Assistant, working across all locations. She said: “Ultimately, I wanted to become a paralegal and eventually qualify, but I felt a role in office services would be a great first step into law.
“I had graduated with an LL.B Law degree, and I knew that I wanted to qualify as a solicitor in the future. However, I did not feel that my CV was strong enough to apply directly for paralegal roles nor training contracts. I had no experience of working in a law firm before and I felt that my application would not stand out against other applicants”.
Amelia Mahraj, joined DMH Stallard in August 2022 as an Office Services Assistant, working in one office and now she works as a paralegal. She said, “I took the office service position to get a foot in the door and I have no regrets as I have thoroughly enjoyed working with my colleagues and have learnt so much. It gave me insights into specialist areas of the law that I would not have had the chance to be involved in, had I not taken that initial position”.
“My advice for someone who is in a similar situation is that sometimes taking a step back enables you to take several steps ahead in the future. Do not let rejection stop you from believing in yourself and achieving your goals”.
Why is a role in office services of value to aspiring solicitors?
It provides the opportunity to visit different offices, often working in 2-3 different locations per week. This variety keeps things interesting and allows the post holder to build a network of colleagues across the firm. They gain first-hand experience of how a law firm functions, all areas of law, and will become conversant with workplace terminology and processes, such as case management systems. This is invaluable experience and allows you to stand out when applying for training contracts or paralegal roles, and helps you decide what area of law might be of interest to you.
What is the career progression route?
For committed candidates, this role can provide a springboard to becoming a lawyer. You can apply to be a paralegal in an area that interests you and then apply for a training contract. Alternatively, you may apply directly for a training contract, knowing that you can show you have the experience and communication skills needed from your time in an office services role.
How do I know that this is a good route into law?
Not all law firms are the same. Some recruit from the graduate pool and fill their training quota traditionally, other firms offer less conventional routes. It is important that any candidate with aspirations to become a solicitor does their research and, if they secure an interview, are transparent about their ambitions.
Amanda Smith, HR Director said, “I would encourage all aspiring lawyers to think about joining the firm in one of our office services roles; it will help build confidence and skills to help you standout from the crowd when you apply for training contracts. It will demonstrate your commitment and determination to succeed and, of course, at DMH Stallard, we try to fill all our training contracts internally.”
DMH Stallard has a history of helping motivated graduates from all backgrounds to fulfil their ambitions. Enthusiasm, a commercial outlook, good communication skills and adaptability are all essential skills and usually all of our trainees are recruited from the internal pool of paralegals.
* Source: SRA