Which route is best?


The Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and approaching law from a non- law discipline

Q: Does it matter whether I studied law at university or not?

A: No.

There is no defined route into law. Whether you study law at university or subsequently at law school you will develop key skills that you will require during your training contact.

Coming from a non-law background has its advantages and disadvantages. You may have a broader range of knowledge, but this is not necessarily legal knowledge. Equally, you may have studied the key areas of law more recently than a law graduate. In either case, you are not going to have complete legal knowledge by the time you start your training contract and it is very likely that certain areas of law will have already changed from when you studied them!

Although legal knowledge is important, it is also important that you possess other attributes such as common sense, commercial awareness and work ethic. A sense of humour also helps along the way! You can develop these skills whether you have studied a law degree or not and you should try to apply them once you put your legal knowledge into practice.

There are a wide range of degrees, law schools and universities amongst the current trainees. Each of these routes is just as viable as the next.

My experience

I studied History at university and then went on to study the GDL and Legal Practice Course with absolutely no prior legal knowledge. The GDL is an intense course but covers the seven key areas of law in one year: contract, public and administrative law, tort, criminal, equity and trusts, land and EU.

I always anticipated that I would want to convert to law at some stage, but I opted to pursue this after university. I do not feel like I have had an easier or more difficult trainee experience as a result.

My training contract has been a learning curve from both a legal and a non-legal perspective. Each department has its own separate training programme which is designed to help trainees settle into the team. There will always be areas of law that you have not experienced before, mainly because law is non-exhaustive and ever changing!

I have found that it is easier to view your academic study and training contract as continuous personal and practice development. This will begin to provide you with increased understanding and experience that you can take with you to qualification and beyond.

Your choice will ultimately depend on personal preference and circumstance – it’s getting there in the end that counts!

This post was edited by Harriet Eales. For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.

Ready to start the LPC?


After finishing university, and possibly the GDL, the LPC may be your last hurdle before entering the world of work. With a wealth of academic experience behind you, many will approach the LPC in a tried and tested way. However, the following are a few top tips aimed to ease your progress through the LPC and help you get the most from the course.

Work! (unsurprisingly)

This first tip shouldn’t be particularly ground breaking, but it is crucial nonetheless. The LPC involves a lot of work, much of which will be new, and it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by it all. The remedy to this is time management.

Some may advocate studying from 9am to 5pm, treating it like a working day. Others may suggest spreading the work out over a longer period with frequent breaks. The key point, however, is that the nature of the LPC will require you to work continuously. The sheer volume of content you will cover means that cramming is impossible; it is a marathon, not a sprint (to borrow the most clichéd analogy in the book). By working steadily throughout the year, the workload becomes comfortably manageable, and the top grades within reach.

Approach it with the right attitude

It is easy to feel impatient with the end in sight. Some of you may just want to go straight into work – but make the most of the LPC!

While not every module that you study will be in an area of law that you envision yourself practising, take what you can from it as it will be good experience for the future.

The breadth of areas covered in the LPC means you may feel the things you deal with on the course barely scratch the surface of what you will do as a trainee. However, many of the skills you will pick up are extremely transferable. Whether it’s familiarity with a particular provision in a share purchase agreement, or drafting tips for when dealing with a lease, any help will be eagerly welcomed in your life as a trainee.

Go for a distinction

It is surprising how many students will say they are working towards a merit, or simply a pass, particularly if they have either a good degree result or a training contract offer already. This is definitely the wrong approach for two very obvious reasons.

Firstly, any number of factors can affect performance on exam day, and the loss of a few marks when aiming for the 50% grade boundary can mean failing an exam. Secondly, an impressive LPC result may be the deciding factor when offering a training contract place, embodying the ‘hardworking’ and ‘high achieving’ buzzwords that fill everyone’s applications.


Whilst it is important to work hard, and focus on your studies, you shouldn’t overlook life outside of the LPC. Aside from providing you with some respite, getting to know your fellow students better can pay dividends in the future. They may end up working on the other side of non-contentious transactions, and knowing them can help ensure a smooth working relationship.

With these tips in mind, the last thing to say is enjoy the LPC. You will definitely look back fondly at it when settling in to the beginning of your training contract!

This post was edited by Matthew Flint. For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.

The Gateley way: our training programme


If you are reading this blog post, chances are you’re considering a career in law. The traditional route to qualification as a solicitor is through the completion of a training contract, and no doubt you will apply for training contracts at multiple firms. Indeed, in the current market, it would be naïve not to. But do you know exactly what you are signing up for? The name may be the same, but every training contract is different. Here is a trainee’s perspective of how we do things at Gateley.

The big picture

My training contract is for two years and it began in September 2013. During the two years I will complete four six month ‘seats’. To describe the concept of ‘seats’ in layman terms, this means spending six months working in four different departments across the firm. In each department I have a designated supervisor, but work with all fee earners in the team.


In each seat I receive two appraisals – halfway through and at the end. Both my supervisor and I complete an appraisal form, which allows us to reflect on my performance in different aspects of the job. By receiving regular appraisals I am able to identify things that I do well, what I need to focus on and the skills I need to develop. Evaluating my progress is crucial for ensuring that I develop over the course of my training contract, and have the skills needed to become a qualified solicitor at the end. 


I have completed two of my mandatory seats – a corporate and a contentious (litigation) seat. I am also required to complete a property seat. The rationale behind this is to encourage trainees to develop into well rounded solicitors who are prepared for qualification. It would be difficult to achieve this by spending all of my time in one niche area of law. I have come to realise that there is huge overlap between seats, so even if I were to qualify into corporate, having a working knowledge of commercial contract law would be hugely beneficial. At the end of my first year I was asked to give my preferences for my seats in my second year, and I am now sitting in my first choice, Corporate Recovery.

Professional Skills Course (PSC)

Information about the ‘PSC’ course is a popular question asked by students at law fairs and incoming trainees. In short, it is a mandatory requirement for qualifying as a solicitor to complete, and builds on the knowledge developed during the LPC. The firm arranges and funds our completion of the course, which we do as a firm-wide trainee intake. PSC sessions are therefore not only informative, but also a great opportunity to catch up with friends from other offices.

Other responsibilities

As a trainee my job certainly does not begin and end at my desk. I am the trainee charity representative for my office, head up the office social club, attend networking and client events and, of course, get involved with social media efforts such as writing this blog!

The skills that can be developed from organising a social or getting out of the office and meeting clients are every bit as important as being technically proficient at legal work. The firm appreciates this, and trainees are encouraged to roll up their sleeves and get stuck in.

This blog was edited by Matthew Lappin. For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.

Trainees and business development


The summer sun may have gone for another year, but the business development (BD) calendar is just beginning to heat up as the run up to the busy Christmas period begins. The BD side of being a trainee is one of the things that gets largely overlooked in the academic setting of university and law school, but is vital to the success of your career in the long run.

What is BD?

Carry out an internet search of the term ‘business development’ and you will get a whole host of complex sounding definitions. This is unsurprising, as it is a whole industry in itself and, at its most complex, an academic discipline. In layman’s terms, BD is about getting out into the marketplace and building relationships with different people and businesses. In turn, it is hoped that they will be a source of business for you and your firm at some point in the future.

Why is it relevant to a trainee?

Trainees are not expected to generate work of their own. Therefore, you may be thinking, what interest does a trainee have in BD?

Firstly, as is always the case with being a trainee, you need to learn the skills behind successful networking, a vital part of BD. Some people feel naturally comfortable walking into a room and talking to a set of complete strangers. For most of us though, it can seem like a daunting task at first. Practice makes perfect, and it is best to learn these skills and build your confidence early on. As a trainee you can develop your skills over time – starting in an easier setting such as networking with other junior lawyers or young professionals, and building right up to talking to senior clients at firm events. You also need to learn how to develop a relationship. Let’s say you’ve struck up a rapport with someone at a networking event – what is your next step? A LinkedIn invite, an email, a coffee? Fear not, we have a dedicated BD team who can help, and you will build an understanding of the correct course of action with experience.

Secondly, the relationships that you start to build now could pay dividends in the future. Remember that just as the trainee solicitors of today are the associates and partners of tomorrow, the same applies to the current crop of junior bankers, surveyors, accountants, insolvency practitioners and so on. Getting to know your peers from other industries now will reap rewards in the future, and facilitate the building of strong relationships.

Thirdly, including junior members of staff such as trainees at certain events can be essential. ‘Team on team’ events are common, where the members of an office or department will have drinks with a team from a client or potential client e.g. a bank. Trainees make up an important part of our offering, and these types of events are a great chance to make connections with both junior and senior professionals in that other team. You may even have an organisational role, helping to ensure that the event runs smoothly.

Finally, networking is fun. The type of events that you can get invited to are varied, ranging from quiz nights, ale trails, white water rafting, drinks, concerts, days at the cricket and just about anything and everything in-between! You also shouldn’t forget that, just because someone is a client, it doesn’t mean they cannot also be a friend and attending events is a great way to expand your personal, as well as professional network.

This post was edited by Matthew Lappin. For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.

Socials insight

Calendar planning concept

Gateley has a reputation for being a very friendly and sociable firm. And having been here for a year now, I have to say it is well-deserved.  Although work is of paramount importance and is naturally the primary focus, there is also a social side to the firm. This can come in many forms and injects a real sense of community into the firm.

Office socials 

Office led socials play a significant role in the firm’s social scene. There is a social committee which is formed of a mix of fee earners; from partners’ to trainees. Being a member of the social committee is a great way to meet and work with colleagues from a number of different disciplines in a more informal setting. It is also rewarding to give back to the rest of your colleagues by helping to plan and execute the events.

The socials take place throughout our English offices. In Birmingham, we recently held a very successful Bingo night where tapas and drinks were also on offer. It was a great way to introduce the new trainees to their colleagues who were all spending their first two weeks in the Birmingham office as part of their induction programme – a few drinks and a game of Bingo was ideal to break the ice and meet the new faces they will be working with.

Past socials have included summer BBQ’s, rounders competitions, quiz nights, and good old fashioned dinner and drinks. A major benefit of having trainees on the social committee is that fresh ideas are suggested with each new trainee cohort, ensuring that no two socials are the same.

Department and client socials 

Departments also hold and organise their own socials. These events are smaller by their nature and will typically involve evening drinks at a local venue or a bite to eat. These social events differ from the larger office socials where invariably you catch up with friends from different departments. Here, the emphasis is building a strong collegiate atmosphere between the colleagues that work together day to day. It keeps the team happy and builds long lasting working relationships.

There will also be client focused socials. These can be either organised by clients or by Gateley for our clients. Recently, I attended a cricket tournament with my supervisor that was organised by a client. This was a great opportunity to meet the clients I had been working closely with and other industry figures too, presenting the opportunity to develop my understanding of the marketplace.

The social scene at Gateley is vibrant and diverse, being a real mix of small and large events. They all serve a purpose, whether it is to build relationships internally or externally, or simply, after a long week in the office to wind down and chat with your colleagues and friends.

This post was edited by James Miller. For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.

From law school to practice – the trainee transition


The move from studying at law school to being a practicing trainee solicitor can be a daunting one. This is particularly true if, like me, when starting your training contract your experience of working at a law firm is limited to vacation schemes. Fear not – help is at hand. Below are some of the things that I have learned and wish I had been told before starting my training contract this time last year.

Focus on getting the little things right

One of the best pieces of advice that I received early on in my training contract was to take my time and make sure that every piece of work I handed to a colleague was completed to the very best of my ability. You might be thinking, that sounds obvious! However, the academic study of law focuses the mind on technical legal knowledge when in fact, early on, it is more practical things like accurate spelling, punctuation, presentation and attention to detail that are more important. Prove that you can be trusted to do the smaller jobs correctly, and bigger things will soon start coming your way.

Thrown in at the deep end?

There is an element of this at the beginning, and indeed throughout, any training contract. You should expect to be taken out of your comfort zone – this is how you learn. Remember, the goal is to come out of the other end a qualified solicitor who has the confidence and is equipped with the skills to do the job. Don’t forget though that as a trainee, you will have a heavy support network behind you, and you should never feel as though you are drowning. If you need help – ask for it. The supervision you receive and the work that you are given will be directly linked to your experience and confidence – don’t be afraid that you will be out of your depth.

Corrections, Corrections, Corrections

If you are aspiring to be a solicitor, then chances are you are used to being a ‘high flyer’ with a string of strong academic results and extracurricular success under your belt. You could be in for a shock though, and find that your time as a trainee is the first time in your life where not everything you do is at an ‘A’ grade standard. Do not panic or become demoralised – this is normal. The important thing for a trainee is to learn from their mistakes. The first time that you write a letter or draft a board minute, a flurry of red pen is inevitable. So long as you take the feedback on board  you will be well on your way to developing into a solicitor.

Enjoy it

It is easy to get caught up in the demands that being a new trainee brings, but you shouldn’t forget to enjoy yourself. This is what you have worked for throughout university. The start of your training contract will open up many new opportunities to get involved in socials, charity fundraising and networking events. Take advantage of these – you are only a first year trainee once! Before you know it, you will be into year two and your mind will suddenly be looking ahead to the next big milestone: qualification.

This blog was edited by Matthew Lappin. For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.

The September shake-up: all change


September is a time of transition for the junior members of the firm. A new intake of trainees will be joining, the current first year trainees will be moving into the second year of their Training Contract and final seat trainees will take up their new roles as newly qualified solicitors.

For the new trainees, years of academic training will finally be put to practical use. It is a daunting time, not only because you realise that learning the theory of law is only half the battle (at best!) but because even simple tasks can be tricky.

I remember the first time someone asked me to paginate a document – I headed straight to Google.

It is also a thoroughly exciting time for a first seat trainee as everything is new. Client meetings, new colleagues, running smaller matters and getting to know the rest of the trainees and team members were all highlights for me. I encourage  new trainees to throw themselves into every opportunity that is presented to them, be it a social event or a piece of work that initially appears beyond their ability.

The transition to a second year trainee brings new challenges. As a second year, you might be expected to manage a first year trainee or paralegal, which means organising your own workload and that of a colleague. It is also thoroughly rewarding when you look back over your first year and realise the progress that you have made and the further progress that can be made in the year to come. Thoughts inevitably turn to qualification and where the best fit may be for you within the Gateley family.

Arguably the step up to a newly qualified solicitor is the biggest jump of all. Although still supervised, the loss of the ‘trainee’ title increases the expectations of others, and yourself, in respect of your abilities.

Overall, September is an exciting time for the firm. New matters start to come in after summer, trainees bring a new dynamic to the teams which they are placed in and socials take place around the firm to welcome new recruits. Whilst everything may be ‘all change’, it is certainly for the better.

This post was edited by Emma Clarke. For more information, email blogs@gateleyuk.com.