Careers in law and legal services

The legal sector has a breadth of careers on offer. This page explores the various options within law and the steps to take in order to launch a law career. With career paths wide ranging it’s important to identify the different qualification pathways and experience required.

What is a career in law and legal services?

The law impacts on every organisation within every industry. Legal services and advice occupations are increasing in number and these roles deliver a wide range of services in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors. Most law careers involve helping clients deal with legal issues impacting their personal or business interests. 

Traditionally the legal profession is divided into two key areas, the work of solicitors and that of barristers. However, there are also other roles such as chartered legal executives, paralegals, apprentices, legal researchers, legal secretaries, licensed conveyancers, patent and trade mark attorneys. More information on the varied roles can be found further on in this guide and on Prospects and LawCareers

Legal work will vary depending on the practice area. Key specialist areas include commercial, civil litigation dispute resolution, banking and finance, employment law, human rights law and intellectual property law, to name a few. Find out more about practice areas. When studying law it is likely you will specialise in certain areas of law. 

Working in the legal sector demands an ability to analyse and research, alongside strong writing skills, commercial awareness and resilience. You don’t need to have studied law at university to go into the legal professions. 

Where can I work, what can I do, and how can I get there?

Where can I work?

  • Private practice law firms – several directories provide an overview of the specialisms, locations, key contacts etc. of each firm, including The UK Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners. You can also find helpful information on the Chambers Student site. 
  • Chambers – access a list of UK chambers on the Chambers Student site. 
  • Government – the UK government offers the Legal Trainee Scheme, with places in departments including the Government Legal Department (GLD), Commercial Law Group (CLG), HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), National Crime Agency (NCA) and Competitions & Markets Authority (CMA). 
  • Corporate companies – large corporates often offer in-house solicitor training contracts. 
  • Charities and NGOs – some of the larger charities have legal teams and have general in-house roles. It is possible the largest charities might also have specialist lawyers e.g. intellectual property for a medical research charity or real estate for a charity with a lot of shops. There are also a small number of human rights roles at Amnesty International, for example, though these roles are extremely competitive and often require more extensive training. You can find information on the Charity Commission website and on individual charities’ websites too. 

What can I do?

There are many different job roles in this sector. We’ve outlined the ones that are often of interest to LSE students with links to where you can find more information.

  • Solicitor – provides clients with legal advice and services relating to personal issues, e.g. tax or wills, or criminal litigation. Most solicitors will work in law firms but roles can be found in both the public and private sectors, including central or local government and ‘in-house’ in a company’s legal team. Also instructed by commercial businesses seeking advice on complex business transactions or mergers and acquisitions. The Prospects Solicitor job profile provides further details.
  • Barrister – represent their clients in court and advise on specialist legal matters. Requires strong advocacy skills, excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to process large amounts of information quickly. Most barristers are self-employed and work in chambers and receive their work via solicitors. However, opportunities for employment do exist, eg, with the CMA and HMRC, as well as ‘legal counsel’ roles in business. The Prospects Barrister job profile is a useful resource.
  • Paralegal – works in law firms but does not necessarily have to be qualified as a solicitor or barrister.  However, many employers increasingly look for legal or paralegal training. This route can be a good way to increase exposure to the legal sector and improve legal knowledge. Although not a common route, it's possible to use work experience accrued as a paralegal to qualify as a solicitor. The National Association of Licenced Paralegals provides more information.
  • Barrister's clerk – supports the administrative work in chambers. Strong organisational skills are key and good interpersonal skills help when fielding work for barristers. Check out the Prospects Barristers' clerk job profile.
  • Chartered legal executive – similar role to that of a solicitor but with a narrower focus. The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives provides further details.
  • Trade Mark attorney – expert in applying for and obtaining trade marks as well as advising clients who believe their trade mark had been exploited. The Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys is a useful resource.
  • Patent attorney – combines a background in science with law. Helps organisations acquire patents for new inventions or products. Access the Prospects Patent attorney job profile for more information.
  • Judicial assistant – assists in the preparation of appeals for hearings, analyses appeal papers, conducts legal research and drafts case summaries. The Courts and Tribunals Judiciary provides more information.
  • Licensed conveyancer – property law specialist, helps with the buying and selling of property. Check out the Prospects Licensed conveyancer job profile.
  • Company secretary – oversees corporate governance within their organisation, including financial and legal practice and compliance. The Prospects Company secretary job profile will tell you more.

How can I get there?

Roles such as that of a solicitor and barrister require specialist training and qualifications.

You can become a lawyer without a law degree but if you studied an unrelated subject at undergraduate level you'll likely need to complete some sort of law conversion course before taking on the SQE (solicitors) or a Bar course (barristers).

The route to qualify as a solicitor changed in September 2021 with the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE). Most new entrants to the sector will need to take the SQE (with the exception of anyone who completed, started, accepted an offer of a place or paid a non-refundable deposit on or for the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), Legal Practice Course (LPC) or training contract before the SQE was introduced in September 2021, for a time they may be able to choose whether they qualify via the LPC route or the new SQE route). More information on the SQE can be found here and more generally on qualifying as a solicitor here.

To become a barrister there are three components: the academic component, the vocational component and the pupillage or work-based learning component. To start the vocational component of training, you'll need to pass a postgraduate Bar Training course (formerly the BPTC), which tests your aptitude for critical thinking and reasoning. Before you can start the vocational component of qualifying as a barrister, you will also need to join one of the four Inns of Court: Gray’s Inn, Inner Temple, Lincoln’s Inn and Middle Temple. More information on becoming a barrister and understanding the different routes can be found on the Bar Standards Board website.

If you’re looking to gain experience

No matter the specific profession, working in the law and legal sector requires strong academic credentials, alongside a demonstrable interest and commitment to your chosen career. Employers will look for relevant work experience to accompany your academics. If you’re interested in human rights, voluntary work in the charity sector or in legal clinics will be useful. If a career in commercial law beckons, experiences that expose you to financial markets and big business can develop your commercial awareness.

If you’re early on in your career

Many solicitor firms offer Insight Days and vacation schemes. Vacation schemes usually take place in the second year of your law degree (or final year of non-law degree). Smaller firms may not advertise vacation placements, but you might be able to proactively organise your own. Governments, international organisations, courts, charities, and commercial companies frequently offer internships and traineeships related directly or indirectly to law.

Most barristers' chambers offer mini-pupillages. The principle is similar to vacation schemes but they usually last for a few days and are not formally advertised. Instead, students research chambers and apply directly.

While nothing can replace in-person experience, you might also consider virtual work experience and many firms offer this. LSE students can also access the virtual experience platform Forage.

If you have more experience

There are numerous places to gain further work experience, including:

  • Extra-curricular activities: join the LSESU Law Society, take part in mooting, debating etc.
  • Volunteering at Citizens Advice, Legal Centres or Pro Bono Clinics, charities or advocacy organisations
  • Internships at charities or within the private sector
  • Marshalling a judge or sitting/observing court
  • Non-legal work experience – look at our list of examples

If you’re changing career

If you are already qualified as a barrister or solicitor, it is possible to cross qualify into an alternate profession by taking the required exams. Exemptions may be possible. Details can be found on the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Bar Standard Boards websites.

In most cases you will need to qualify in the jurisdiction in which you want to practice. Contact the firm or the national legal regulatory body to establish what qualifications are required. Most international law firms will expect an LLM. 

Where can I find out more about working in this sector?

Interested in finding out more about a career in law and legal services?

Here are some helpful links, including the ways LSE Careers can work with you on your journey.



Jobs and opportunities

Recruitment websites and agencies include:

Internship and work experience opportunities:

How to network with alumni in this sector:

Networking helps you build connections and develop relationships. It’s important for a career in law. It can seem daunting at first but breaking it down can help – do your research and have a plan. Many LSE alumni are happy to share their learnings, so identify a few potential contacts using LinkedIn, or by attending one of the law events held by LSE Careers. Look for alumni working at law firms of interest or doing roles you are interested in. You can read more about networking and what to do when contacting alumni on LSE Careers and also the Chambers Student guide to networking.


We’re here to talk over your career plans with you. It doesn’t matter what stage you’re at, so don’t feel you have to have it all worked out. You can book a one-to-one appointment with a careers consultant on CareerHub.