Updated: May 24, 2019
No matter where you are in the world, think of the world as your oyster.
This is one of the many words of wisdom from Kachi Tila-Adesina in her session during our law month series, in March. Kachi holds first class degrees from the University of Ibadan and the Nigerian Law School. She worked as a Corporate Associate in the firm of Aluko & Oyebode in Lagos, and obtained an LLM in Commercial Law as a Commonwealth scholar at the University of Cambridge. She completed a training contract at a City Law Firm in London and is qualified as a UK Corporate Solicitor. She currently works an in-house legal counsel advising on a wide range of corporate and commercial transactions.
PART 1- General advice for anyone considering practicing Law in the United Kingdom
Kachi's session was filled with many gems, here are a few we think you will find interesting and informative if you are considering practicing Law in the United Kingdom.
Know your selling point
She pointed that if you want to work in the UK, (especially without obtaining a UK master’s degree), you must have something to leverage on. She advised that you evaluate yourself; skills, achievements e.t.c and position yourself as a candidate that would interest your prospective employer. She also advised that you research areas of focus or specialty of the law firms you are applying to and tailor your Curriculum Vitae (“CV”) to align with these areas.
Be strategic about where you choose to work
Kachi noted that for opportunities such as internships and NYSC, you cannot afford to be careless or go to a random firm. Be intentional about the places you choose to work as this will eventually make it to your CV and may be the deciding factor when you apply for jobs.
Your background could be an asset!
This heading may sound weird, but, if you are interested in working with a firm in the UK, you may capitalize on the fact that you are African. Research top firms focused on doing African work, most of these firms are looking to diversify and one way to do this is by employing lawyers who have experience working in African law firms. Beyond being African, you may also capitalize on the fact that you have worked in an African law firm and leverage on your experience to get a job. With this, you may be able to avoid the process of getting qualified to practice law in the UK. She provided a number of platforms to check, including:
Aspiring solicitors: https://aspiringsolicitors.co.uk
Black solicitors network: https://blacksolicitorsnetwork.co.uk
Use your school’s career service
This point has been emphasized by most of the law month speakers. Kachi also mentioned the importance of utilizing your school’s career service in reviewing your CV, preparing job applications, job hunting etc.
Make hay while the sun shines
If you plan to work in the UK after your Master’s, you must start applying for jobs and summer internships immediately you get your admission or you will miss out, Kachi advised.
Acquire soft skills and networking skills
Another point that has surfaced in virtually every session is the need to network. While it is important to have technical skills, they are not enough, Kachi noted. You must also acquire soft skills and networking skills. In applying for some positions, there are various stages of the interviews which are devised to test your soft skills. Without these soft skills, you are not likely to be recruited for such positions.
Be prepared to work hard
Hard work is required in whatever any one decides to do with their life, you should be ready to do the work and never take no for an answer, Kachi advised.
PART 2- The different routes to getting qualified to practice law in the UK
Kachi also shared with us the various routes available to get qualified to practice as a solicitor in the UK. See below a summary of each.
Route 1: The Legal Practice Course (“LPC”)
This is the traditional route to getting qualified to practice law in the UK. It is akin to the Law School in the Nigerian legal education system. This is the route followed by those who obtained their LLB in the UK. Upon getting an LLB, they would be required to apply to a law firm to admit them for a training contract, which is for a duration of two (2) years. If the application is successful, the law firm will give the applicant a training contract. During this 2 year period, the law graduate will undergo a process of rotation in four (4) departments in the law firm, after which he/she will be qualified to work as a lawyer in one of the departments.
Route 2: The Graduate Diploma in Law (“GDL”)
A unique thing about the UK’s legal system is that law practice is not limited to only people with law degrees. A person who does not have a law degree may take the GDL route. The GDL is a conversion course which is required of all graduates who studied a non-law subject, to impart them with all the legal knowledge needed to transition to a law career. After this, they take the LPC and then do a training contract.
Route 3: This route is for those who studied law outside of the UK.
This is the route Kachi herself took. She was able to apply to the UK Bar Council to be exempted from GDL courses that she had taken during her undergraduate studies in Nigeria. Consequently, she had to write only half of the GDL exams, (which she was able to write from Nigeria), and then she proceeded to do the LPC and then the training contract.
Route 4: the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS)
The QLTS is for anyone who is a qualified lawyer from a Commonwealth jurisdiction. The QLTS can be self-studied and self-funded. Upon writing and passing it, the candidate is automatically admitted and qualified as a solicitor. However, it is important to note that many City Law Firms are not so keen to recruit lawyers who follow the QLTS route because they prefer to employ lawyers they have trained and who are conversant with their practices.
To become qualified as a Barrister, on the other hand, apart from having a law degree, a Nigerian would have to take a conversion course; either the GDL or the Common Professional Examination (CPE). After this, they would have to take the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). The final step would be to undergo pupillage (ideally for a period of 12 months) with a qualified Barrister, after which the applicant would be qualified as a Barrister.
To conclude, Kachi advised that anyone seeking to practice law in the UK should chart their own course. She pointed that she is yet to meet anyone who had taken the route to getting qualified as a Solicitor in the UK as she did, and she gave examples of people who had taken different routes to get qualified to practice in the UK. Her final words were - be fearless and hardworking and never take no for an answer.
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