A career in law explained
When you hear the word ‘law’, it may conjure up movie scenes of intense court room battles, white-haired men writing wills, or judges wearing ridiculous robes and tatty wigs.
Actually, law is a fabulously varied sector that has a profound impact on every part of your life: starting at the same time as you, with your registration at birth, sticking with you through every other major decision in your life, such as buying a house, and finally settling down with you when you settle your estate.
So before you make the decision to get into law and start applying for graduate law jobs, you should first discover what it’s really all about.
So what can I do with my law degree?
Besides solicitors, barristers and judges, there is a massive array of other lawyer and non-lawyer career paths you can take within this sector, from legal journalists, legal secretaries, typists, human resources personnel, paralegals and legal executives to solicitor advocates, coroners, lecturers and court clerks.
There’s so much variety and there’s certainly something for everyone; whether you decide to take A-levels or Advanced Highers, whether you have graduated from university or whether you decided to leave school at 16, law provides you with a wealth of options.
But the truth is that getting into law is pretty tough. Law is an extremely popular career sector and for lots of good reasons: it’s stimulating, it can be fluid and constantly changing, it’s complex, and it can be lucrative.
Numbers and statistics
When we talk about law, solicitors and barristers are the traditional occupations that come to mind. Either of these routes into law will take upwards of five years (usually five to seven) until qualification and there is a lot of competition.
Let’s put that into context!
- Around 30,000 law students graduate each year
- Approximately 5,500 people are awarded registered solicitor training contracts and start working as trainees
- Roughly 1,800 barristers are admitted to the bar.
Some of you may worry that you aren’t going to be welcome in this sector, with most law firm partners being middle-aged, middle-class white men… but wait, things have changed! You may be pleased to know that over 48% of new lawyers are female, and according to the Bar Council over 34% of those admitted to the Bar are from ethnic minority backgrounds.
Salary is the key draw to many people within this sector and lawyers are generally well remunerated; as are some of the supporting roles. For example, it is not unlikely for a human resources professional in the law sector to earn a salary that exceeds £70,000 a year.
What if I don’t want to take the traditional law route?
Law isn’t just about being a solicitor or barrister. There’s a huge range of other career options available within the industry. Other lesser known types of lawyers have many of the same responsibilities that solicitors and barristers have. For instance, solicitor advocates have the same rights of audience as barristers, and there’s a great amount of overlap between the roles of a legal executive and a solicitor.
There’s also a huge range of professions available within the legal sector that you may not have considered before, such as being a paralegal, a reporter, a member of a law firm’s marketing team, a PR professional or an administrator.
There’s a lot of scope for career progression. You could end up sitting in the Supreme Court, or you may progress from a novice paralegal position to become an associate solicitor. The possibilities are as wide-ranging as the different areas of law you can specialise in.
Careers in the legal sector are well-paid, well-respected and exciting. The rewards can be great, but the hours can be long and it requires many years of sustained effort to get where you want to be. But if you are up for the challenge, it’s definitely worth exploring this sector in a little bit more detail. Whether you head off to university or you want to get stuck in straight after secondary school, you will certainly find something that suits you.
If you’d like to read more about the in’s and out’s of law, head over to our sister site AllAboutLaw.
Neil S - Senior Officer
Neil S is a Senior Prison Officer, currently looking at the next steps in advancing his career in the prison service. He says "I wasn't that great at school. I enjoyed school but I was always Mr Average."
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