When thinking of law careers solicitors or barristers most readily spring to mind but they aren't your only options. There a number of law jobs to choose from
A confidential adviser that has direct contact with clients, you’ll combine 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, the next step is to complete the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), which will effectively replace the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) in September 2021. You’ll then need to complete two years of qualifying legal work experience, most commonly a training contract. If your undergraduate degree isn't in law you'll need to take an SQE preparation course before sitting the examinations.
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.
To become a solicitor in Scotland you'll 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 this legal job.
From providing specialist legal advice to representing clients in court, tasks 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.
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.
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'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.
You'll investigate deaths where the cause is unknown and decide a cause of death by looking at available information, talking with medical professionals or conducting a post-mortem. Once the cause 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.
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.
To become a judge you need significant experience as a solicitor or barrister first. This is followed by some part-time work supervised by an experienced judge.
Lecturer of law
You can use your law degree and experience in the field to teach law at further or higher education level. This will involve additional study to qualify as a teacher or lecturer where you’ll plan lessons, research new topics, take classes explaining the complexities of the legal system, monitor and assess students work and set and mark exams among other duties.
As your career progresses you may move into management or research. Find out more about the roles of further education teachers and higher education lecturers and learn more about the teacher training and education sector.
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.
As a property law specialist working on behalf of clients buying or selling property in England and Wales, you'll deal with legal matters, administration, finance and queries 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 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. Tasks 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.
You can offer legal services but aren't qualified as a solicitor, barrister or chartered legal executive.
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. 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.
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. You'll need an understanding of scientific and technological principles and processes, and the ability to explain complex technical ideas clearly and concisely.
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 trademark attorney.
As a specialist legal professional, you'll advise clients about protecting and enforcing their trademark rights. By providing legal support on the registration, use and exploitation of new and existing trademarks, you'll ensure that companies successfully protect the identity and integrity of their brands.
Discover what else a trade mark attorney does.
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.
Alternative law careers
If you decide that a job in law isn't for you, you could also work in:
- Civil Service Fast Stream
- investment banking
- legal publishing
- management consultancy
- pension scheme management
- the police service
Find out more
- Find out what you can do with a law degree.
- Take a look at how to become a lawyer.
- Learn which 7 skills you'll need for a successful career in law.