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Developing your career: Law

Studying law is stimulating in its own right, but it's also a smart career move. A law degree is not only useful if you want to practise law professionally – but it’s also an asset for many careers that are not directly related to law. For instance, roles in finance, human resources, education, local and central government, the voluntary sector or management all benefit from a legal background.

Solicitor walking to meeting

The law is a popular and increasingly competitive area, so for the graduate route a good class of degree is essential if you want to train as a solicitor or barrister and when seeking further training or employment. The recession has affected recruitment to law, both in corporate (City law firms) and smaller practices, particularly those offering legal aid. However these changes have opened up alternative careers in law that you should also consider, including paralegal and legal executive. Overall, law graduates enjoy good employment rates nationally – whether seeking work in the law itself or in related fields.

Moving into a legal career

Solicitors and barristers usually work in private practice, in central or local government, commerce, industry, the armed forces or in professional bodies. To practise as a solicitor or barrister in England and Wales you need to complete three stages of training:

  • Academic – a Qualifying Law Degree (QLD), which could be a degree in law or a conversion course following a degree in another subject
  • Vocational – a Legal Practice Course (LPC) (one year full time or two years part time), designed for solicitors to bridge the gap between academic study and professional training; or the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) for barristers
  • Professional – a training contract for solicitors (two years full time, although increasingly available on a part-time basis) or a one-year ‘pupillage’ for barristers, following a stringent pre-entry test.

While the graduate route is still the most common way to qualify as a solicitor, from 2016 new legal apprenticeships have offered an alternative route to qualification.

For more information about legal careers, follow the links below:

Arrangements in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland are different. You can read a summary, or go to the following national websites for detailed advice:

Law-related jobs

Other relevant jobs include barristers' clerk, legal adviser (e.g. magistrates' courts), employment tribunal caseworker, citizens advice/legal advice worker, Crown Prosecution Service caseworker, mediator, court reporter or administrator, licensed conveyancer, company secretary, human resources manager, social worker, health and safety inspector, immigration officer, tax inspector, trading standards officer, Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) inspector, police officer, prison officer, probation officer, legal recruitment consultant, patent agent, trademark agent, legal publisher, law librarian, teacher, or lecturer in law. For information about what is available and the training routes required, have a look at the Law Careers.Net website.

Jobs in other areas

Studying law gives you skills and knowledge that you can readily put into practice on a daily basis in a wide variety of roles. Law graduates are very marketable in the Civil Service, local government, trade unions, marketing, human resources, personnel and advisory work, the emergency services and health services, general and retail management, merchandising, transport and distribution, imports and exports, business, banking, insurance, finance and accountancy.

Use the Prospects website to explore career options related to law. You can also look at the Law Sector information.

More information

Download our booklet How to get ahead in a legal career (you’ll need your OU computer username and password).

How the OU can help

OU law courses will equip you with high-level employability skills such as:

  • in-depth knowledge of the foundation subjects of law and of the legal system of England and Wales
  • ability to apply legal principles to resolve issues
  • ability to make a reasoned choice between different opinions and solutions and present it to an audience
  • ability to read and discuss complex and technical legal materials
  • competence in the use of basic IT, databases and websites
  • thinking critically about your own learning and performance and taking steps to improve them.

Undergraduate courses

The OU’s Bachelor of Laws with Honours (LLB) (Q79) is the most popular qualification of its kind in the UK. It is recognised by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Bar Standards Board as a Qualifying Law Degree.

See a list of undergraduate law courses

Information about OU law courses for students in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland

Postgraduate courses

The OU offers one taught postgraduate qualification in law, the Master of Laws (F64).

Getting started

If you’re not quite ready for degree-level study, our People, work and society Access module (Y032) could be exactly what you’re looking for. It’s designed to build your confidence and study skills while introducing ideas and debates about children and young people, health, law, management, psychology and social science. By the end of the module, you’ll be well prepared to begin your first full OU course.

More about Access courses

Work experience

Increasingly, once postgraduate studies are over, law students without much hands-on experience are taking work as paralegals before moving on to further training or employment – so it makes sense to gain as much relevant work experience as possible while studying. Open University courses put you at a distinct advantage in this regard, as you’ll be encouraged to apply your learning immediately to your own role, and to build on your experience as a context for developing real-world knowledge and skills. Therefore, if you are considering a career in law then relevant work experience alongside your study is essential to your progression and success. If you would like to receive support with this, please contact our Careers Service to request an appointment to discuss your options.

Law Careers.Net’s Pro Bono initiatives page has a comprehensive list of legal and advisory services where you can volunteer or find internships. You can also explore our voluntary work pages or the following national websites:

FACT: 88% of OU Law graduates are in employment or undertaking further study six months after they graduate.

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