Careers in Law and Legal Services

 

In brief

The law impacts on every organisation within every industry, meaning career options within the legal sector are numerous and diverse. Lawyers work in both the public and private sectors, from arbitration in international corporate transactions to litigation on behalf of an individual. 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. Instead, you could take a conversion course after finishing your non-law degree.

Where can you work?

There are opportunities to qualify as a solicitor or barrister in both the private and public sectors.

  • 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.
  • Chambers – access a list of UK chambers on the Chambers and Partners 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.

What’s changing in the sector

A recent Chambers Student blog explains how technology is driving change in the corporate legal sector. From the introduction of technology enabled contracting to the rise of legal start-ups, trainees are expected to engage with these technological changes and understand how they generate business growth and support client demand.

Brexit offers challenge and opportunity to the legal market. For an overview, visit the Law Society webpage on Brexit and the legal sector.

Training and qualification routes into the profession are changing. In 2021, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is expected to introduce the Solicitor's Qualifying Examination (SQE), a new method of assessment in England and Wales. Read more about this important change on the LSE's Law site. A list of FAQs can be found on the SRA website.

The Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) is also undergoing consultation and change, but the implications are not as clear at the time of writing. Stay up to date with developments by checking the Bar Standard Board regularly.

Useful Websites  

CareerHub – jobs board targeting LSE students, including events and networking opportunities in Law.

Law Careers.Net – excellent website for general information about training, including training contact and vacation scheme deadlines. 

All About Law – good introduction to the legal sector.

Legal Cheek – good resource for blogs and keeping abreast of trends in the sector.

The Law Society – independent professional body for solicitors.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority – important resource for updates about training.

Bar Standards Board – barristers' regulatory body in England and Wales.

Bar Council – professional body representing barristers.

Chambers Student – great resource for comparing different employers and exploring their training contract or pupillage offers.

Recruitment websites and agencies include: Totally Legal, Chadwick Nott, Taylor Root, Chase Portland, Garfield Robbins

The Lawyer Portal – quizzes, guides and information about different careers in the legal professions.

Internship and work experience opportunities

Anti-Slavery – volunteer placements on a flexible schedule.

Center for International Environmental Law

Environmental Law Foundation

EU Trademarks and Designs Registration Office – 5-month traineeships offered twice a year.

European Data Protection Supervisor – 5-month traineeships available twice a year.

ICC - International Criminal Court – offers both legal and non-legal internships.

International Court of Arbitration – 2 months in length.

JUSTICE – law students can apply for this internship where they will undertake legal research.

Permanent Court of Arbitration – 3-month long internships.

SEO London – offers vacation schemes open to students from ethnic minorities.

Foundation for Human Rights Initiative

Useful Information

Related topics

Routes in

Introduction

The legal services sector can be broken down into regulated and unregulated roles. All regulated roles require further qualification and training. This training is usually undertaken in three stages; academic, vocational and practical.

Strong academic credentials are crucial, 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 looking to gain experience 

Many solicitor firms offer vacation schemes. 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/traineeships related directly or indirectly to law. For links to internship schemes, see Useful Websites.

Most barristers' chambers offer mini-pupillages. Their 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.

There are numerous other places to gain 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 early on in your career 

Solicitors training contracts and barristers pupillages are the main routes in. There is usually a two-year gap between applying for a training contract and starting your training contract at the firm. This allows you to complete your degree and undertake the LPC (and law conversion course if necessary).

Vacation schemes usually take place in the second year of your law degree (or final year of non-law degree) and often feed the training contract graduate intake, though that is not your only route to a training contract. 

If you’re changing career 

If you are already qualified as a barrister or solicitor, it is possible to cross qualify into the 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.

EU registered lawyers who are nationals of an EU member state and qualified to practise as a lawyer may be able to register as a foreign qualified solicitor under the Establishment Directive (98/5/EC). 

Not sure what to do next?  

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. 

Job roles

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. Also instructed by commercial businesses seeking advice on complex business transactions or mergers and acquisitions. The Prospects Solicitor job profile provides further details.
  • Barrister – advises on specific areas of law and represent clients in court. Requires strong advocacy skills, excellent interpersonal skills and the ability to process large amounts of information quickly. Most work is self-employed, however opportunities for employment do exist, e.g. 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 have to be qualified as a solicitor or barrister. 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 trademarks 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.