Law Careers Industry Guides

Law Careers

Whether you’re making a career change, looking to enter the world of work or simply want to advance your professional career in your current field, the legal services offer a wide range of opportunities.

What Law Careers Can I Do?

You might be surprised but working in law isn’t all barristers and solicitors, although this is a popular career path, there is a diversity of routes available. Let’s explore some of the different careers within the legal discipline and the qualifications required to enter the role:

Solicitor /Lawyer

Solicitors provide legal advice and guidance to private and commercial clients. Typically, solicitors specialise in one area of the legal system including family, litigation, property or tax.

How to become a lawyer/solicitor: To get into this profession there are a number of routes you can take, these include:

With a degree:

To start a career as a solicitor, you could complete a qualifying law degree which is then followed by the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). This is split into two stages. The first stage tests how you would apply legal knowledge to real-life situations as a solicitor. The second stage covers ‘core legal skills’, and assesses your everyday skills needed to become a solicitor.

This replaced the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) from September 2021 in England and Wales. After that, you will need to undergo two years of qualifying legal work experience. You will then need to pass the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) character and suitability requirements before applying to the register known as the roll of solicitors.

Don’t have a law degree? Don’t worry! You can also become a solicitor via a non-law degree, but you’ll need to complete a Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) preparation course as well before taking your exams.

You can find out more about this and how to keep up to date with the latest information on this here.

Without a degree: If you don’t have a degree then you can become qualified via the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives route (CILEx) while working in the legal profession. This gives you the chance to gain experience as an apprentice in the legal sector while also developing the skills and knowledge to qualify. This can be done through the CILEx Professional Qualification (CPQ).

Paralegal

A paralegal is trained and educated to provide legal assistance and to perform legal duties, however, they are not a qualified solicitor. Did you know that a paralegal is authorised to carry out the majority of activities that a solicitor does, apart from ‘Reserved Activities’?

Reserved activities include the exercise of a right of audience; the conduct of litigation; reserved instrument activities; probate activities; notarial activities; and the administration of oaths.

How to become a paralegal: There are no specific qualifications required to become a paralegal, however, some employers may request the following:

A degree or HNC/HND, a foundation degree in law or a related qualification A legal secretary certificate or diploma A paralegal or legal studies award, certificate (e.g. Paralegal Practising Certificate), diploma or higher diploma

Barrister

A barrister is a legal professional who is responsible for providing specialist legal advice and the representation of their client. Barristers are required to defend and advocate clients, in court or during a tribunal. To do this, they might need to conduct legal research, negotiate settlements, cross-examine witnesses and create documents as supporting evidence within the court.

A Barrister typically specialises in one area of law, for instance:

  • Criminal law
  • Property law
  • Commercial law
  • Company law
  • Family law
  • Employment law

How to become a barrister: To become a barrister, you’ll need to either complete a qualifying law degree, with a degree classification at 2:2 or higher. Alternatively, you will need a 2:2 or higher in any other subject but will need to take a postgraduate Graduate Diploma in Law or a Common Professional Examination.

Once you have completed your degree, you will then need to apply and complete a mini-pupillage, which is a short work placement enabling you to gain insights into working as a barrister through shadowing. You will then need to join the Inns of Court, a professional associations for barristers before sitting your Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) Vocational Training. Once you have passed this you will then be able to commence Vocational Training.

You will then need to apply and complete your final pupillages, which are typically undertaken in the chambers. This is where you will be under the supervision of experienced barristers. Upon completion of this, you will be able to qualify as a barrister and apply for tenancy in chambers.

Mediator

A mediator helps both parties to come to an agreement and does not take sides. They encourage communication and cooperation between two sides so they are able to come to an agreement. They help parties avoid going to court where possible and aim to resolve disputes.

The most common cases for a mediator are:

  • Divorce and separation
  • Unfair dismissal from work
  • Landlord disputes

How to become a mediator: You do not need formal qualifications to become a mediator, however, some may have professional qualifications. Many mediators are members of professional bodies. Professional bodies set standards for members and usually offer training and codes of conduct.

Court Usher A court usher works in a law court. Their job role involves escorting participants to the courtroom, getting them refreshments and ensuring secure transaction of legal documents in the courtroom. They also decide the order of cases.

How to become a court usher: There are no formal qualifications to become a court usher, however, there might be opportunities to work to the following qualifications (NVQs):

  1. Level 2 in court/tribunal administration and court/tribunal operations
  2. Level 3 in court operations
  3. Level 3 in witness care
  4. Legal Secretary

They ensure that the client is kept up to date and informed of how the case is progressing. A legal secretary will also schedule appointments, depositions and arbitration hearings, as well as other meetings. They may also need to produce legal letters and documents as well as ensuring files are organised and archived.

How to become a legal secretary: There are no specific qualifications for becoming a legal secretary. However, administrative experience and skills will help. You could gain this experience by undertaking a course or apprenticeship.

Coroner

A coroner is a judicial office holder, who is appointed directly by the Crown. They investigate the causes of death where this is unknown, where deaths need to go to inquest or where there is reason to believe the death was not due to natural causes. They may need to work alongside doctors, solicitors and barristers as well as coroner officers, who provide administrative support.

How to become a coroner:

To become a coroner, you will typically begin your career as an assistant coroner. You should also have one of the below:

A barrister or solicitor qualification A part of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, with a minimum of 5 years’ qualified experience

Licensed conveyancer

As a licensed conveyancer you will specialise in property law and work with clients looking to buy or sell a property. Some of your responsibilities will include:

  • Processing and agreeing on a mortgage
  • Arranging transfers
  • Organising relevant documentation such as deeds etc
  • Ensuring that the client has signed documentation and providing advice as required

How to become a licensed conveyancer: There are a number of different pathways to becoming a licensed conveyancer, these include:

Technician conveyancer higher apprenticeship Licensed conveyancer degree apprenticeship Diploma in Conveyancing Law and Practice Level 4 Diploma in Conveyancing Law and Practice Level 6

Police Officer

As a police officer, you’ll be responsible for investigating and combating crime.

How to become a police officer: To become a police officer, you will normally be required to have lived in the UK for 3 years and over 18 years old. You will also need to pass background checks and pass physical and medical tests. You can enter the police force via an apprenticeship, or specialist college course/degree, such as College of Policing.

What Skills Do I Need?

There are a range of transferable skills which will come in particularly useful within the legal services, these include:

  • Commercial awareness
  • Research
  • Communication
  • Attention to detail
  • Resilience
  • Problem solving
  • Ability to work from your own initiative
  • Where Could You Work?

You could work in a range of different settings including:

  • Court Room
  • Solicitors
  • Police
  • Government

There is a wide range of employers you could work for including:

  • Mishcon de Reya
  • Hill Dickinson
  • DLA Piper
  • Linklaters
  • Her Majesty’s Prisons
  • Police
  • Clifford Chance
  • Eversheds Sutherland
  • Local solicitors

Useful resources

There are a wide range of useful resources available for people at all stages of their career! Whether you’re seeking a new career, looking to upskill or reskill, these websites are a great starting point for support along the way:

https://www.law.ac.uk/

https://www.cilex.org.uk/

http://www.open.ac.uk/courses/law

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