Promoting access to the profession through university careers support

by Paul McConnell, Deputy Head of Birmingham Law School, University of Birmingham


Support through Careers Services at Universities

There are now five Universities which offer undergraduate Law degrees in the city of Birmingham alone, as well as numerous others across the country. Research shows that most students commence a Law degree with the intention of qualifying as a lawyer, so how can universities best support students in achieving their career goals in such a competitive legal recruitment market?

Universities have traditionally offered Careers support through a University-wide Careers Service, but there is increasing recognition that more tailored support is needed for Law students. This is particularly the case for students who may not already have links to the legal profession, as is often the position of many students studying Law locally.

Centre for Professional Legal Education & Research (CEPLER)

At Birmingham Law School, we have provided specialist legal careers support through our Centre for Professional Legal Education & Research (CEPLER) for several years, alongside our activities linked to Pro Bono and Advocacy. A particularly enjoyable and rewarding aspect of my role at the University is as Director of Careers & Employability within CEPLER, working with a team of four other Law staff to support our students in achieving their career aspirations. A real highlight of this work is the outstanding support that we receive from the local legal community.

Firstly, we run a focused programme of weekly careers events, which aim to inform students about the legal career options available to them, and prepare them for recruitment processes such as interviews and assessment centres. In 2019/20 alone, we have run over 50 events of this type, many of which involve speakers from local firms. A hugely popular event is always our “Birmingham Law in the City” event, at which 60 of our second year students spend a day at Gowling WLG, hearing from a number of local employers about the legal opportunities available in Birmingham. Browne Jacobson, Shakespeare Martineau and Eversheds Sutherland have also kindly hosted our students for in-house events this year.

Secondly, we offer an exclusive internships programme, which will provide invaluable legal experience to over 100 Birmingham Law School students this year, supported by bursaries from the University. Local employers which are involved in this programme include Bailey Wright & Co, the CPS, Dass Solicitors, FBC Manby Bowdler, Freeths, George Green, Gowling WLG, Hawkins Hatton, HRS Family Law, Pinsent Masons, Shakespeare Martineau and The Wilkes Partnership. We also work closely with No.5 and St Philips Chambers on mini-pupillage opportunities.

It is incredibly rewarding to hear from our students about their career successes, and we are very grateful to the Birmingham legal community for all the support, which makes a real difference for many students, and provides a fantastic foundation for starting their legal careers.