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third year undergraduate tips
01 November 2022

3rd year undergraduates: Steps you can take to progress your legal career

Published on 01 November 2022

3rd year undergraduates: Steps you can take to progress your legal career

In this article, we offer information and guidance for 3rd year undergraduates to help you to progress your legal career on the way to becoming a solicitor. Before you read this article, you might like to reflect on our article for 2nd year undergraduates, that gives you a few pointers to prepare for your 3rd year.

Much of the activity is similar in the 3rd year to that in your 2nd year, but the reality has probably set in, considering your likelihood of success with securing a training contract. The most important focus in your 3rd year goes without saying - you need to focus on your studies. For many SQE preparation courses and Masters Programmes, you will need a 2:2 and for certain roles at firms, a 2:1. Here are some other areas to look at throughout your third year.

Deepen your knowledge of the legal sector and solicitor profession

Continue to deepen your understanding of and exposure to, the legal sector. The array of opportunities continues for third years, and you can refine your understanding of which firms you would like to work for and what type of solicitor you would like to be.

Opportunities include:

  • Work Experience: Develop your experiences in the legal sector - any legal work that you can secure in your holidays and whilst you are studying, will strengthen your applications for roles after you graduate.
  • Third year placements, modules and networking opportunities: will help you enrichen your knowledge, of course research and prepare for each one as much as you can.
  • University and local career events: Career events are on the rise, Law Schools and Societies are starting to do more and more to supporting students with both skills development and understanding of application processes can give their members the edge, beyond social events. Make the most of them!
  • Strengthen your network: Use LinkedIn to find contacts and alumni, look for friends of friends who are in the legal profession and make contact with other peers and firms who attend career fairs and events.
  • Find a mentor: There are lots of schemes such as GROW mentoring and Aspiring Solicitors where you can be matched with a solicitor who can help guide you through the early years of your career.

You will need to draw on all of these experiences in interviews for any role in the legal profession. It is also worth noting that any work experience you gain, if it is legal work rather than administrative is likely to be considered Qualifying Work Experience within the SQE route to qualification.


1. Qualifying Work Experience hub

2. Legal Cheek career events

Apply for the roles that work for your career path

The formal training application processes continues from your 2nd year. If you have been successful, you may have a training contract interview or two by now, but not everyone will be in this position.

The good news is, whilst you may be feeling the pressure, you now have a much broader set of career opportunities available to you. Yes, you have the training contract options, and company funded SQE programmes, but you also have junior administration, paralegal and legal assistant roles that all give you a foot in the door. These opportunities have so much to offer, like most other careers you can simply start work and learn about the profession once you have graduated.

You could consider:

  • Formal training contracts: You will be employed by one firm for up to four years, gaining your qualification as a solicitor and their specified grounding in legal practice, but highly competitive.
  • SQE Training Programmes: Many firms are introducing their SQE programmes, which can be as competitive as training contracts, and in a couple of years, will be the norm. These progressive firms may however give you more choice in terms of which practice areas you would like to specialise in whilst you are studying for the SQE, and you will often gain work experience in the firm earlier than in a traditional training contract route.
  • Entry level legal admin and paralegal roles: More and more, firms are looking to their paralegals as their future trainees. They are on the lookout for talented and committed employees who have already joined their organisation and can demonstrate their worth. Starting a legal administrative or paralegal role does not preclude you from gaining a trainee funded place to take the SQE or LPC in the future, rather it enhances your application. We recommend you start with LinkedIn job search (just make sure your profile is up to date).
  • Contracted work: There are a growing number of recruitment organisations who will offer you contracted work in a range of firms. Some may require you to complete SQE1 prior to starting work, but you can start gaining your Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) from the moment that you start.

Keep in mind that when you are applying to opportunities, you want to sell yourself and the skills you have. Whilst employers will be looking at the direct experience you have, you can further support your application with the bank of transferable skills you have developed at university. Teamwork, communication, organisation and time management – these are all skills you will have developed in University. When looking at applications, think how you can apply these to the desirables and essentials firms are asking for, and apply them to legal circumstances and knowledge where you can.


1. Accutrainee offer contracted work in the legal sector

2. Claim handing entry level roles at Fuse Legal

3. Institute of Paralegals

4. LinkedIn for job searching

Think about the SQE – is it the right route for you?

The SQE route to qualification is designed to be flexible and affordable, and with some preparation training providers it is. Once you have graduated, you’ll have time to decide whether you want to take the SQE route to becoming a solicitor.

As you come to the end of the 3rd year, your ability to pay for training, rent, lifestyle needs will be something top of your mind. Both training for the SQE and the LPC can be completed part-time, if you need to work alongside your studies, and the fees vary considerably across providers, so it is worth doing your research. You can also access Master’s Loans that cover some or all of your study for SQE and the SQE exams.

To help you decide whether the SQE route is for you, you might want to:

The SQE is intended to give you options and help you succeed should you go into work before or after taking the SQE assessments, so you do have it as a fall-back option if you need it after you graduate. Further to this, the SQE offers you the opportunity to complete the two exams over a six year period. You may want to complete SQE1, which encompasses all knowledge you need of Law in England & Wales, and then find a legal professional role and apply the knowledge you have learnt – this could make you more employable to firms and companies.

However, at the College we like to think that the SQE is so much more than that, we believe that this route puts you in the driving seat for your career. You are in control of deciding in which order you want to progress to become a solicitor and you can take the SQE step-by-step and after your graduate.


Find out more about the SQE

What is the SQE?

Published November 2022