The law is a popular and increasingly competitive area, so 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.
For more information about legal careers, follow the links below:
Arrangements in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Ireland are different. You can read a summary here, or go to the following national websites for detailed advice:
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.
Download our booklet How to get ahead in a legal career (you’ll need your OU computer username and password).