Deciding on a legal career can be a challenge, especially when there are so many law jobs on offer. To help you make an informed choice here’s a breakdown of available jobs in the sector
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You’ll be a confidential adviser that has direct contact with clients, combining expertise and people skills to provide legal guidance and assistance. Once qualified, you can work in private practice, in-house for a commercial or industrial organisation, in local or central government or in the court service.
If you have a qualifying law degree, you need to do the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and then a training contract. If your undergraduate degree isn’t in law you’ll need to do the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) first. However, in 2021 the way that solicitors qualify is set to change with the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).
Discover the skills you’ll need and what you can earn as a solicitor.
Solicitors and advocates in Scotland have very similar duties to solicitors and barristers in England and Wales. However, Scotland has its own legal system, procedures and terminology. The Scottish legal profession also has its own entry and training arrangements.
The main way to become a solicitor in Scotland is to take the university route, which involves three stages: the LLB degree in Scots Law, the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice, and a two-year traineeship, which is work-based training under the supervision of a practising solicitor.
Find out more about being a solicitor in Scotland.
Passion, dedication and hard work are just three of the qualities needed for a career at the Bar.
From providing specialist legal advice to representing clients in court, your tasks will vary depending on your area of expertise. You’ll advise clients on the law and the strength of their case, hold conferences with clients to discuss their situation and provide legal advice, represent clients in court by presenting the case, examining witnesses and giving reasons why the court should support the case, and negotiate settlements with the other side.
Discover whether life as a barrister is for you.
Also known as practice assistants or assistant practice managers, barristers’ clerks are responsible for running the administration and business activities of a barrister’s chambers. You need to be familiar with court procedures and etiquette and develop an expertise in the type of law undertaken by your chambers.
A successful clerk has commercial acumen, legal knowledge and strong interpersonal skills. You shouldn’t think of this as a route to becoming a barrister, as chambers may not offer a pupillage to someone who has been working for them as a clerk due to a conflict of interest.
Read about the responsibilities of a barristers’ clerk.
Chartered legal executive
As a qualified lawyer you’ll have your own client files and, as a fee-earner in private practice, your work is charged directly to the client. This is an important difference between chartered legal executives and other legal support staff.
Only those who have completed the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) training programme can use the title of chartered legal executive.
The academic course is split into two sections: CILEx Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice, which takes two years and is equivalent to an A-level; and the two-year CILEx Level 6 Professional Higher Diploma in Law and Practice, which is at honours degree level and is the final stage of academic training.
Take a look at what a chartered legal executive does.
You can offer legal services but aren’t qualified as a solicitor, barrister or chartered legal executive. Traditionally, you didn’t need qualifications to refer to yourself as a paralegal, but employers now demand some form of training or qualification.
Paralegals don’t just work for solicitors, but if they do then larger firms expect solid work experience, especially if you haven’t completed a law degree or the LPC. You’ll also need an understanding of the client and sector, good people and networking skills, to be a methodical problem solver and the ability to analyse information and look at possible implications.
Find out more about the role of a paralegal.
These are property law specialists who work on behalf of clients buying or selling property in England and Wales. You’ll deal with all legal matters, administration, finance and queries involved in a property transaction.
This area of work is open to graduates with any degree, but to become a licensed conveyancer in England and Wales, you must pass the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) qualification, which is usually taken while working.
Read about the qualifications that a licensed conveyancer needs.
It’s your job to ensure the office runs smoothly by providing administrative support to solicitors and legal executives. You’ll produce wills and contracts, accompany solicitors to court or police stations or deal with clients.
The ability to type accurately and quickly, a good eye for detail and discretion are skills you’ll need to succeed.
Specially trained in drafting patents and with knowledge of intellectual property law, you’ll lead inventors or companies through the process of obtaining a patent and then act to enforce inventors’ rights if infringed.
You can only use the title ‘patent attorney’ once you’re qualified and on the Register of Patent Attorneys. An understanding of scientific and technological principles and processes, and the ability to explain complex technical ideas clearly and concisely are what you’ll need to do well in this role.
Take a look at the skills you need to become a patent attorney.
Trade mark attorney
A thorough knowledge of trade mark law and practice, as well as excellent communication skills and commercial awareness, are attributes you’ll need to qualify as a registered trade mark attorney.
As a specialist legal professional, you’ll advise clients about protecting and enforcing their trade mark rights. By providing legal support on the registration, use and exploitation of new and existing trade marks, you’ll ensure that companies successfully protect the identity and integrity of their brands.
Discover what else a trade mark attorney does.
You’ll be responsible for ensuring that an organisation complies with standard financial and legal practice and maintains high standards of corporate governance. You can expect a starting salary of around £30,000.
The capability to work with numbers, good analytical and problem-solving skills, a diplomatic approach and the confidence to provide support to high-profile staff and board members are all necessary skills for a successful company secretary.
Find out more about the role of a company secretary.
It’s up to you to control trials and hearings in your courtroom. You need to look at the evidence, interpret the law and make an impartial decision in favour of one of the parties. In criminal cases you’ll also decide what sentence to give a defendant if they’re convicted.
You can’t become a judge straight after graduation as you need significant experience as a solicitor or barrister first. This is followed by some part-time work supervised by an experienced judge.
In charge of preparing the courtroom, ushers check that everyone is present and call defendants and witnesses into court. There are also ‘sworn ushers’ who accompany the jury to and from the courtroom and pass messages between the jury and the judge.
As the first point of contact, you’ll need effective communication and people skills. You’ll also need to be discreet, as a lot of the information you’ll hear is confidential. The ability to follow instructions and an assertive and tactful manner are also important.
Working closely with the police at airports, seaports and the Channel Tunnel, you’ll help to effectively monitor immigration and make sure those entering the UK have the right to do so.
You’ll take fingerprints, check passports and interview those entering the country. Because of this, you’ll need to be able to engage with and relate to a range of people, be firm and fair in abiding by the law, and able to handle high-pressure and challenging situations.
Night, weekend and public holiday shifts will need to be covered. Salaries start at roughly £16,500 for entry-level positions. Extra allowances apply to overtime work and unsocial shifts.
It’s a coroner’s job to investigate deaths where the cause is unknown, such as if the deceased dies in police custody or a medical certificate isn’t available.
You’ll decide a cause of death by looking at available information, talking with medical professionals or conducting a post-mortem. Once the cause of death has been identified, you’ll notify the registrar and write an official report, making recommendations for future cases.
Some enter the profession as former barristers or medical doctors, with five or more years’ experience. Because of this, the role draws high salaries – depending on your location, your starting salary could be as high as £85,000, rising to £115,000 and above for chief coroners.
To succeed as a coroner you’ll need to be tactful, have great attention to detail and be an excellent communicator.
As a mediation specialist it’ll be your job to establish and maintain civil relationships between conflicting parties, solving any disputes with efficiency, tact and patience.
Mediation specialists are impartial third parties who work with a range of people, such as divorcing couples, separated parents, and landlords and tenants. Your tasks will include meeting clients, finding ways to work through their conflicts and involving legal authorities in cases where mediation isn’t working.
Learn more about the role of a mediator.
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Alternative law careers
If you decide that a job in law isn’t for you, you could also work in:
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