Thinking of studying law in the UK? There are a number of career paths you can take once you graduate. Some of them you doubtlessly already know about, but others you might not. Here are some of the roles you could be carrying out in the legal profession. Some don’t even require a law degree and are open to graduates in other fields. Please note that legal systems and terminology vary from country to country, and the below is based on career paths available in England and Wales (Scotland has its own distinct legal system). However, many of these roles can be found in a similar form around the world.
As a solicitor, you act as a confidential adviser with direct contact with clients, giving them legal guidance and assistance drawing upon your deep knowledge of the law. Solicitors can work in private practises, in-house for commercial or industrial organisations, in the court service or in local or central government.
To become a solicitor in the UK, if you have a law degree, you need to do a course called the Legal Practise Course (LPC), and then complete a training contract. If your undergraduate degree isn’t in law, you need to first complete a Graduate Diploma in Law.
A barrister provides specialist legal advice and represents clients in court. While a barrister’s role varies depending on their area of expertise, they generally advise clients on the law and the strength of their case, hold conferences with them, present their case in court, examine witnesses, negotiate settlements and attempt to persuade the jury.
Chartered legal executives are qualified lawyers who specialise in particular areas of law. They work in private practises with their own client files. The most common areas in which chartered legal executives specialise are civil and criminal litigation, conveyancing, corporate law, family law and public law. Earning between £35,000 and £55,000, chartered legal executives have many responsibilities. This career gives you the opportunity to eventually become a solicitor or judge too.
With extensive knowledge of tax legislation, you provide advisory and consultancy services to clients to help them benefit from any tax advantages and exemptions. To do this, you need to keep up to date with and understand changes in complicated tax legislation, and be able to explain their implications to your clients in simple language. While any graduate can become a tax adviser, a degree in accountancy, finance, business, economics, law, mathematics or management will make launching a career in tax advising easier.
Paralegals offer legal services but aren’t qualified as a solicitor, barrister or chartered legal executive. They carry out legal research, prepare documents and give legal advice to clients. Unlike other law careers, there are no set entry requirements to become a paralegal, allowing graduates from other fields of study the potential to start working in law without undergoing further study.
With expertise in intellectual property law, patent attorneys lead inventors or companies through the process of obtaining a patent, and then act to enforce the patent holder’s rights if their patent is infringed. To use the title of ‘patent attorney’, you need to be qualified and on the Register of Patent Attorneys. This job will require a scientific and technological aptitude and the ability to explain complex technical ideas in plain language, making this an ideal law career for those with good grades in sciences.
Another career requiring extensive intellectual property law knowledge, trade mark attorneys help clients protect and enforce their trade marks on everything from music, art, photography and literature to brand identities and slogans.
These property law specialists work on behalf of clients who are buying and selling property, dealing with all administration, finance and legal matters involved in a property transaction. Like tax advising, this career is open to graduates with any degree but to become a licensed conveyancer you need to pass the Council for Licensed Conveyancers – CLC Qualification. This is often taken while in work.
Becoming a judge isn’t something you can go into straight from university. Before you can become a judge, you’ll need extensive experience as a solicitor or barrister first, followed by part-time work while supervised by a senior judge. Once you’ve become a judge, you’ll be in charge of controlling trials and hearings. You’ll consider evidence, interpret the law, and make an impartial decision. In a criminal case, you’ll also decide what sentence to give to a defendant if they are found guilty, considering their motives, character, any past convictions or mitigating factors.
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