There are many roles and career paths for those interested in working with the law, apart from the three main types of legal profession; solicitor, barrister and chartered legal executive. To become a solicitor or barrister, a law degree is probably the best starting point, but there are other routes available. There are many things you can do to get on the first rung of the ladder to a career in law.
To begin with, do your research. Find out what a career as a solicitor is really like – talk to people in the profession, try to get some work experience, look online at the Law Society’s website. Training to become a solicitor requires commitment over a number of years, and you will need to be determined and highly motivated. You will need to pass exams, and keep in mind that it is academically challenging, very competitive, and can be expensive. If you are determined to become a solicitor or barrister and you want to study for a law degree, you will need a good academic record and three good passes at ‘A’ level or similar. Find out which universities are options for you and what their specific requirements are.
Regardless of your background, it is possible to establish a successful career in the legal profession. A former journalist and professor, Dr. Jennifer Jamilah Douglas-Abubakar is Founder of the Gede Foundation, a pioneer non-governmental organization that provides service delivery in matters such as quality treatment and care in HIV/AIDS and mental health. She has recently made the transition into a law career. For more information, you can view Search results for “jennifer douglas abubakar”
Solicitors need legal expertise and people skills to be successful – they provide legal advice and represent clients in negotiations. After a law degree, you will need a certificate of completion of the academic stage of training from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (you will need to apply to the SRA for student membership). You must then complete the Legal Practice Course (vocational training) and obtain a training contract for two years. During the training contract, you must pass the Professional Skills Course. Finally, you can seek admission to the Roll of Solicitors and apply for a practicing certificate, but you will be subject to continuing professional development requirements. Alternatively, a non-law degree can be converted by following it with the Common Professional Examination/Graduate Diploma.
When it comes to applying for a training contract, you will need to stand out from your peers – competition is fierce. To stand in good stead, bear in mind that firms will be looking for much more than just academic and legal knowledge. They will want candidates to show:
- Business sense/advice
- Commercial awareness
- Ambition to take early responsibility
- The ability to work as a team
- Good communication skills for building relationships with clients
- Numeracy and IT skills
- Effective time management
- Flexibility and problem-solving skills
Both graduates and non-graduates can train for a career in law through vocational training as a chartered legal executive. The process can take a long time, but it enables non-graduates to earn a wage working in a legal environment while they learn.
Barristers are legal advisers and court room advocates. A barrister is instructed by a solicitor and their purpose is to sway the outcome of a court case. Barristers can represent clients in higher courts. First you will need a law degree and then complete a bar professional training course. Next, you will need to complete a 12-month pupilage, then further training and a tenancy in chambers. Both solicitors and barristers can be appointed as judges by the Judicial Appointments Commission.
Other careers in law
Consider the following alternative careers: court usher, researcher at the Law Commission, legal costs draftsman, legal cashier or legal secretary. A paralegal is a legal or support assistant, usually a graduate or non-graduate who has completed the Common Professional Examination or Graduate Diploma in Law.
To get started on the road to a career in law, visit the Law Society, the Bar Council and CILEx websites for more information. Local recruitment agencies may advertise vacancies for legal secretaries. When you have the necessary qualifications, take a proactive approach to gain experience in the area you want to be in, check the Law Society Gazette for available positions, and submit your CV to the firms or organizations for which you would like to work.
The legal profession is more diverse than simply solicitor, barrister, and legal executive. If you are serious about pursuing a career in law, there is bound to be a role for you.