Types of Careers in Law That You Can Pursue

Types of Careers in Law That You Can Pursue

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If you enjoy debate, love conducting research, and often get complimented on your reasoning skills, you might be perfect for a career in law. While you might be intimidated by the amount of schooling required to become a solicitor or a barrister, there are plenty of other careers in law that you can pursue. Specialised education is a must for all of these career paths, you can get started with online legislative courses that can help you assess if law is the right field for you.

Why Pursue A Career in Law?

Here are just a few of the reasons why you should consider a career in law.[1]

  1. A fantastic earning potential – Did you know that solicitors are some of the highest-paid professionals in the UK? Of course, your earnings will depend on your practice area and your experience, but salaries are generally very good.
  2. Plenty of intellectual rewards – Do you want to work in a field that allows you to flex your mental muscle, and regularly use analytic and complex reasoning? Law is the industry for you – it truly keeps you on your toes.
  3. An enviable work environment and perks – Most law firms offer their employees a wide array of desirable perks, including gym memberships, catered lunches, subsidised travel, dry cleaning services, childcare, and more. You work hard but get rewarded for your efforts.
  4. Lots of opportunities to help other people – If you want to really feel like you are making a difference, then working as a lawyer is the right career for you. Every day you work tirelessly to defend the public interest, human rights, and the rule of the law. You can really make a difference.

Jobs in Law

While you might instantly think ‘barrister or solicitor,’ there are many different job opportunities in law.[1] Which of these would fit your personality and career goals best?

  • Solicitor – Solicitors are what we normally think of when hearing the term ‘lawyer.’ They usually work for law firms providing legal advice and representing individuals and companies in law courts. If this sounds like the right career for you, you can read our comprehensive guide on how to become a solicitor.
  • Barrister – Barristers are specialists who often provide advice to solicitors on complex areas of law, and sometimes represent clients in court. This is a highly competitive industry- there are only 16,000 barristers in the UK, compared with 140,000 solicitors.
  • Chartered Legal Executive – A Chartered Legal Executive lawyer is able to do all of the work of a solicitor but requires the supervision of a principal. They tend to specialise in one area of law.
  • In-house lawyers – Many big companies (and some areas of the government) hire their own in-house counsel that work specifically on their needs.
  • Mediator – Mediators help two disputing parties come to a mutually acceptable agreement, offering impartial liaison services between both sides. Mediators often have a background in counselling or psychology.[2]
  • Compliance Specialist – Compliance officers ensure that companies are following all external laws and regulatory requirements, preventing them from falling afoul of the law.[3]
  • Chartered Legal Executives – A chartered legal executive is a qualified professional who specialises in specific areas of law and gives advice to clients. You must belong to the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx).
  • Court messenger – Court messengers help court proceedings run smoothly by carrying out specific tasks. This can include running messages, organising papers, and being entrusted with data.
  • Legal Secretary – Legal secretaries provide important administrative support to lawyers, including creating drafts of legal documents, organising work, and scheduling clients. They do not directly advise clients, but they are often the first point of contact with the public.
  • Paralegal – Paralegals work in law firms and carry out a wide array of legal tasks, including preparing legal documents and interacting with clients. While they cannot advise clients directly, their experience and skills are integral to the success of a law firm.
  • Judge – Judges decide the outcome of legal cases in court. You must have been practising as a solicitor or barrister for at least five or seven years to be eligible to be a judge, and it is a very competitive position.

Types of Law Firms

There are many types of law firms in the UK,[4] with many of the largest and most elite found in London.[5]

London: Magic Circle firms

The so-called ‘Magic Circle’ of law firms in London includes firms such as Slaughter and May, Allen & OveryClifford ChanceFreshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, and Linklaters. This is considered the most elite level of international firms, and they pay the salaries and bonuses to match. They offer their solicitors amazing office facilities, extra perks, overseas postings and extensive additional training.

London: Large Commercial firms

The large commercial firms in London include the Magic Circle listed above, but also include the so-called silver circle of AshurstHerbert Smith Freehills, Dentons, and similar. As with above, expect to work long hours and dedicate your life to your career. You’ll be rewarded with prestige, pay, and benefits galore.

London: American firms

Many American firms have set up shop in the UK since the 1970s, and more than 50 of them are currently offering training contracts to young British solicitors. While some of these firms are happy to be considered ‘American,’ they are more likely to consider themselves “International” firms. Working for these firms promises a lot of worldwide travel – are you up for it?

London: Mid-sized commercial firms

The mid-sized firms, like their bigger brothers, are mainly concerned with mid-tier business law and business clients. They still boast a lot of profitability, but you won’t be required to spend as many hours burning the candle at both ends. Some of the most successful mid-sized firms include Macfarlanes and Travers Smith.

London: Smaller commercial firms

If you are willing to trade working fewer hours for a slightly lower paycheque, you should consider one of the smaller commercial firms in London. They offer a better work/life balance while you tackle local projects with lower stakes. These ‘full service” firms include

 Wedlake Bell and Memery Crystal.

Niche firms (throughout the UK)

You’ll find plenty of niche firms throughout the UK that specialise in niche areas of law, often paired with highly local clients. What about fashion law in Edinburgh? Insurance law in Southampton? Maritime law in Norwich? Shipping law in Liverpool? You can find firms that specialise in each of these areas. This can be especially interesting for people who want to specialise in a particular topic that interests them.

Regional firms (throughout the UK)

While many young solicitors think that they need to move to London in order to have a successful career in law, there are plenty of regional firms that offer excellent job opportunities and interesting cases. Don’t be surprised if you have to demonstrate a passionate commitment to the area and its local culture, community, and customs. Competition for the roles with the best regional firms can be just as harsh as for roles with top London firms!

National and multi-site firms (throughout the UK and beyond)

Plenty of multi-site firms are located across the UK, some of which have many different offices throughout the country. For instance, Eversheds Sutherland operates nine branches in England and Wales, as well as many more overseas. If you work for one of these firms, keep in mind that they will likely expect you to move around.

General practice and small firms (throughout the UK)

If you don’t see yourself working with a corporate-minded ‘City’ law firm, you might find yourself more in line with a general practice or small law firm. If you work for a smaller firm, you will actually experience and witness how the law can affect individual people and the communities around the UK.

Is a Law Career Worth It?

In addition to being a well-paid and challenging career that earns the respect and attention of others, law careers are more diverse than ever. According to the Law Society, 67% of those accepted to university law programmes are women, and students from minority ethnic groups account for 37.5% of UK students. A further 21% of students are from oversea countries.[6]

This means that no matter what your background, you will be welcomed into the legal profession in the UK. Are you up for the challenge?

Reference list

All About Law (2019). Types of Law Firm – AllAboutLaw. [online] www.allaboutlaw.co.uk. Available at: https://www.allaboutlaw.co.uk/law-careers/types-of-law-firm [Accessed 18 May 2020].

Bright Network (2019). Why you should consider A Career in Law. [online] Bright Network. Available at: https://www.brightnetwork.co.uk/career-path-guides/commercial-law/five-reasons-consider-career-law/ [Accessed 19 May 2020].

Chambers Law Students (2018). Types of law firm – Chambers Student Guide. [online] www.chambersstudent.co.uk. Available at: https://www.chambersstudent.co.uk/law-firms/types-of-law-firm [Accessed 18 May 2020].

Law Careers (2019). Legal career paths. [online] LawCareers.Net. Available at: https://www.lawcareers.net/Courses/LegalCareerPaths [Accessed 30 May 2019].

Legal Choices (2018). Mediators. [online] Legal Choices. Available at: https://www.legalchoices.org.uk/types-of-lawyers/other-lawyers/mediators [Accessed 18 May 2020].

Prospects (2020). Compliance officer job profile | Prospects.ac.uk. [online] www.prospects.ac.uk. Available at: https://www.prospects.ac.uk/job-profiles/compliance-officer.

Target Careers (2019). What types of jobs and employers are there in law? | TARGETcareers Futurewise. [online] Targetcareers.co.uk. Available at: https://targetcareers.co.uk/career-sectors/law/192-what-types-of-jobs-and-employers-are-there-in-law.

Resources

[1] https://www.brightnetwork.co.uk/career-path-guides/commercial-law/five-reasons-consider-career-law/

[2] https://www.legalchoices.org.uk/types-of-lawyers/other-lawyers/mediators

[3] https://www.prospects.ac.uk/job-profiles/compliance-officer

[4] https://www.allaboutlaw.co.uk/law-careers/types-of-law-firm

[5] https://www.chambersstudent.co.uk/law-firms/types-of-law-firm

[6] https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/law-careers/

Nick Cooper
Nick is NCC's resident blog author and covers a range of subjects, including teaching and health & social care. NCC is an international learning provider with over 20 years’ experience offering learning solutions. To date, NCC has engaged with over 20,000 employers, and delivered quality training to over half a million learners.
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