How to get into law if you can't get a training contract

A run-down of some routes into a legal career that you may not have considered
Law school and training contracts

Getting a training contract at a commercial law firm is not your only route into commercial law - there are other ways you can start a career in commercial law as a graduate.

Here's a run down of some of your options.

Legal executive

There's a common misconception that legal executives aren't actually lawyers. However, this couldn't be further from the truth.

Legal executives are fully-trained, qualified lawyers and, since 2007, there's been very little difference between their job responsibilities and those of a solicitor.

They have the same opportunities for career progression as solicitors. For instance, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX) recently celebrated the fact that 100 of their members had become partners of law firms, and that one had even become a judge.

ILEX also provides a fast-track option for candidates with an accredited law degree or Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). Candidates simply have to study two units of the ILEX Professional Higher Diploma in Law and Practice that are relevant to their law degree and one other module - Client Care Skills - in order to become a qualified legal executive.

For those legal executives that still have their heart set on becoming a solicitor, there's the option to become a solicitor further down the line.


Many students unable to get training contracts decide to go into paralegal work. Consequently, becoming a paralegal is getting competitive too.

However, if you manage to get a position, paralegaling can be a fantastic way to immerse yourself in the world of law and take on a range of important legal responsibilities.

Although paralegals aren't qualified lawyers, they often carry out many of the same tasks, such as interviewing witnesses, preparing legal documents and writing case summaries. Paralegals are integral to legal proceedings and in many instances work without supervision on incredibly important aspects of cases.

Many paralegals choose to continue working in this role and eventually specialise in a particular area of legal practice. However, many others study part-time while working and are eventually able to secure training contracts and qualify as solicitors.

Outdoor clerk

Many law firms are keen to hire Legal Practice Course (LPC) or Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) graduates as freelance outdoor clerks.

Outdoor clerks provide vital assistance to solicitors during court proceedings, by conducting research, processing witness statements and carrying out general administrative duties.

It can be a brilliant way to gain legal work experience as you continue to apply for training contracts.

Legal secretary

The role of a legal secretary mainly involves carrying out administrative duties in a legal environment, but it's a good way to get an extended period of work experience at a law firm.

You'll be given an insight into the inner workings of the firm, and it's a great opportunity to network and make some important contacts.

Regular working hours mean you'll have the chance to apply for training contracts on the side.