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Working your way up to become a legal eagle

Published on Thursday, 02 Aug 2012
Christopher Aukland

I’m a recent law graduate from the United Kingdom and I’ve been studying towards gaining admissions for PCLL (conversions). I have been working as a legal secretary for the past seven months but this is definitely not the career path that I want to go down. I’ve looked into a variety of different jobs but all I really want to be is a lawyer. If this doesn’t happen, then I don’t really have any alternatives as everyone is looking for 2:1 candidates these days. I only gained a 2:2 in my degree but have exceptional circumstances. Jay

The path to becoming a lawyer is not easy and a strong academic background is a real prerequisite to pursue this career. As you rightly point out, having a 2:2 law degree can make it challenging to gain a training contract in Hong Kong.

Based on the information you have provided, my initial suggestion would be to first of all seek as much advice as possible from within the industry and the academic institutions you want to apply to, in order to realistically assess your options as to whether your goal is achievable.

Other positive steps you can take include gaining more experience working as a paralegal instead of as a legal secretary, and get some hands-on and more relevant experience. Your chances of securing a training contract with some paralegal experience under your belt will be much higher. I also recommend targeting smaller Hong Kong-based law firms to begin with, as the vast majority of international law firms do ask for a 2:1 law degree as a minimum requirement.

Another approach is to start with the firm you are already working in and explore whether there are internal opportunities to take on more paralegal duties in your current role, then gradually work your way up to becoming a lawyer, or use this experience to move to another firm.

If you decide a career in the legal sector is not a realistic option, try to identify another career. Seek guidance from your peer group, university careers centres and recruitment consultants to discover your options.

Christopher Aukland is regional director of Michael Page International and Page Personnel in Hong Kong, one of the world’s leading recruitment companies operating in 161 offices in 33 countries worldwide

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