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Accounting for Lawyers – The Road to a Training Contract?
Accounting for Lawyers – The Road to a Training Contract?
02 Nov 2016
The Law Society has published statistics that show that in 2015-16, 17,335 UK students and 23,320 overseas students were accepted to study law courses at undergraduate level in England and Wales.
Now, compare this figure to the 5,457 new training contracts that the Law Society registered for the year ending 31 July 2015, and you see a clear problem for students emerging from law schools up and down the country.
There simply aren’t enough training contracts to go around.
In a period when the number of law students is on the rise, the number of training contracts is falling.
So, it is with this backdrop of increasing competition for training contracts that Orrin Thomas from the ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) visited LSBM today to talk to a group of our second-year law students about one method of enhancing both their chances of getting a training contract and their job prospects in general once they leave the hallowed halls of LSBM.
Differentiation, Transferable Skills and Commercial Awareness
Orrin talked about a qualification called the, ‘Introductory Certificate in Financial and Management Accounting’ which the ACCA offers.
The first question any sensible person studying law might ask is:
‘I am studying law. Why would I want to also study accounting?’
The answer to that question is intrinsically linked to the reason why you are studying law in the first place. Orrin did a quick straw-poll of a selection of law students who attended the talk, and out of the five he asked, 3 were looking at becoming solicitors, 1 had in mind to be a banker, and the last was torn between continuing her studies, becoming a solicitor or getting a job.
For the majority of those students their thoughts will very swiftly need to turn to how to secure a training contract. For the rest it may be a job or further study. But in all cases they are united by a need to stand out from the crowd if they are going to be successful in the midst of so much competition for training contracts, jobs and courses.
The argument that Orrin made was that what law firms are really looking for is people who stand out from the crowd. They have plenty of choice, so they can afford to be picky about who they hire.
This comes down to three factors:
Differentiation – Do you have a special talent? Do you have a particular skill? Do you have contacts that other students don’t?
The fact is that you might not. But you need to try to get some! One of the main reasons that Orrin was recommending that our students consider taking the ‘Introductory Certificate in Financial and Management Accounting’ is because this is a clear differentiator.
Law firms operate in the real-world, not in a vacuum, so if you can show you understand real-world finance you are immediately at an advantage.
Transferable Skills – Do you have skills or knowledge that is in addition to your legal knowledge that can be applied in the workplace?
Understanding the way a business functions is clearly in this category. If you become a solicitor then you will be generally be billed out to clients at an hourly rate. They are making judgements about your worth when they hire you, because they need to generate the money to pay your fees. It is a good idea to understand how that works BEFORE you get into a law firm.
Orrin showed a quote from Hannah Dow, a Solicitor at DWF Law Practice which illustrated that point. Lawyers are really business professionals, and they need to have an appreciation for how business functions in the real-world:
‘As with any business, a law firm needs to keep a careful eye on the bottom line, its profitability and cash flow. Interview panels are keen to hear an appreciation of that from candidates.’
Commercial Awareness – Do you have work experience? If you were asked about your awareness of how a business really works in an interview, what would you say?
Orrin showed a quote from Robert Wilson, Partner at CMS Cameron McKenna to illustrate how much this is appreciated by law firms when they are assessing students:
‘Students who understand the commercial aspects of studying law are impressive… Clients want a confident answer to their legal problems; they may not be too interested in how you reached that answer.’
This may be in the form of:
In other words, having a wide-body of knowledge beyond the legal world is always valuable. It will give you an enhanced skillset that means you can see issues from many different angles, and find solutions that other people wouldn’t.
Introducing the Introductory Certificate in Financial and Management Accounting
In order to assist you to get those three elements, ACCA are offering a 12-week online course called the Introductory Certificate in Financial and Management Accounting that can help you to gain a new qualification that can both give you new knowledge and awareness of how businesses really work, and act to give you more depth to your experience to impress would-be interviewers.
The course itself has two modules as follows:
FA1 Recording Financial Transactions
‘The aim of paper FA1 Recording Financial Transactions is to develop knowledge and understanding of the main types of business transactions and documentation and how these are recorded in an accounting system up to the trial balance stage.’
MA1 Management Information
‘The aim of paper MA1 Management Information is to develop knowledge and understanding of providing basic management information in an organisation to support management in planning and decision-making.’
It typically takes 12 weeks and 3-4 hours a week of study to prepare properly for the introductory certificate. At the end of that time you will be able to take an exam at a dedicated centre in order to get the qualification (the closest one to LSBM is in Shepherd’s Bush).
There are costs involved with this, but the good news is that LSBM has negotiated a special deal for our students, and also offered to pay half of the fee to take the exam (payable after successful completion).
The details of the offer are as follows:
ACCA Registration Fee – Usually £79 (but until 30/11/2016 we have negotiated a rate of £30 for LSBM students)
ACCA-X Platform – Normally £89 (But FREE with this offer!) – This is basically the online learning platform that you will use to engage with the course and learn the material.
Annual Subscription Fee – Normally £85 (But free until the end of December 2017 with this offer!) – This basically means that you will have an entire year in which to study this course (which normally only takes 12 weeks). So you will have plenty of time to absorb the material and make sure that you understand it properly before taking the exam.
ACCA Exam Fees – Normally £120 – With this offer you WILL have to pay out the £120 when you are ready to sit the exam. However, half of this fee (i.e. £60 will be refunded to you by LSBM after you have passed the exam).
So, in practice this means that as an LSBM student, to get access to the comprehensive online training for this course, ACCA’s extensive business resources that it provides to its members, and a whole host of other benefits of ACCA membership, you simply need to pay out £30!
This will give you access to all those resources until 31 December 2017.
Then, if, during that time you study for the 12 weeks (there are generally 4 intakes during each year to allow people to be matched up with a peer-group that they can interact with while studying the material), then you can choose to pay out the £120 to sit the exam for the Certificate in Financial and Management Accounting. After you have taken the exam and passed, then LSBM will refund half of the cost of the exam (£60) to you directly.
We have to stress that this really is a special deal especially for LSBM students!
Orrin himself commented about it:
‘I haven’t come across any other UK University (and I work with 50) who offer this level of support to their students. So this really is a unique situation with LSBM.’
We want you to succeed…
The fact is that LSBM wants you to succeed.
We want you to stand out from the crowd and have the very best chance of getting noticed for training contracts, job and life opportunities.
We want to make sure that you have the best possible preparation we can give you.
This is why we have arranged this offer, and it is why we are recommending it to you.
If you would like to find out more than you can email Ismini Katsadouri, the LSBM Course Leader for LLB (Hons) Law, or Orrin Thomas at the ACCA for further clarification.
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