Legal careersQualified lawyers are much in demand, not only in practice as a solicitor or barrister, but also in the worlds of commerce, finance and government.
Even for those who ultimately choose not to qualify, the intellectual skills and knowledge acquired while studying for a law degree will stand them in good stead in a wide range of potential careers. The skills training provided by the Legal Practice Course and the Bar Professional Training Course is also highly transferable to other areas of employment.
For those who do wish to become practising lawyers, there are many areas to choose from - the details below cover some of the main categories but are by no means exhaustive. Since the majority of barristers work on a self-employed basis most of the categories described below relate to employment as a solicitor, although some do also provide opportunities for qualified barristers.
"Magic circle" Firms
This is the name given to a small group of very large, high-profile law firms who specialise in corporate or financial legal practice and operate in the international arena with branches in a number of countries around the world. They are seen as prestigious employers and are able to provide funding and training contracts on a large scale and to pay high salaries to their recruits. Life in this sort of firm will not be for everyone.
Large Commercial Firms: London & The Regions
These firms are also high-profile, particularly those based in London, and will also tend to specialise in commercial and business-related law, often on an international scale. They are also in a position to offer large numbers of training contracts and to pay good salaries (higher in London than elsewhere) and will demand a great deal from their staff. Working life in the regions is likely to be a bit less frenetic than in a big firm in London.
These are smaller firms with branches in a number of different parts of the UK, often in the major cities. They will cover a wider range of areas of the law.
These are law firms which specialise in a particular area of practice such as entertainment, intellectual property, family law etc.
High Street/General Practice Firms
These will vary in size between small firms with a number of partners and sole practitioners. They will cover a wider range of types of law, most usually family and matrimonial, criminal, landlord and tenant, employment, personal injury, and wills and probate. They may be able to offer a small number of training contracts each year, or just the occasional one if someone leaves.
Working As A Company In-House Lawyer
A number of large companies and banks offer training opportunities for both solicitor and barrister trainees as well as employing fully-qualified lawyers. The work involved will obviously relate closely to the nature of the employer's business and is more likely to provide greater responsibility more quickly because of the smaller size of the legal team.
A sizeable number of solicitors work for local authorities and in some cases training contracts are also available. The work will involve providing legal advice to the range of departments within the local authority and can therefore cover housing, planning and environmental law, childcare, education, prosecution work and so on. This type of work may appeal to those attracted to the public sector and also provides a good base for transfer into other areas later on.
Government legal service
The Government legal service employs a number of trainees each year. The work covers the range of Government departments (for example, Trade and Industry, Health, Environment, the Home Office) and may involve advising Ministers or drafting new legislation as well as litigation.
There are about 60 Law Centres in the UK, operating either as registered charities or not-for-profit organisations, and providing free legal advice to the public. Funding comes from the Government through local government grants and payments from the Legal Services Commission (which also funds a number of training contracts each year). The work will be very socially oriented and will cover areas such as immigration, disability, employment and housing.
The Crown Prosecution Service
The CPS handles criminal cases in the Magistrates' and Crown Courts after investigation by the police service, and advises the police on criminal and evidence law. The work involves interaction with a wide range of people and agencies. The CPS also employs people as caseworkers who help the prosecutors prepare for cases, provide support to witnesses and victims and attend court.