Working in law: an introduction to careers in the legal profession

Careers in lawWorking in law requires hard work, commitment and attention to detail. To succeed you require a logical and analytical approach, together with excellent verbal and written communication skills. Competition is strong and standards are high but the results can be rewarding and well-paid.

A career in law

A career in law offers many and varied opportunities, depending on the route you choose to take and your area of interest. Legal roles can be found across all employment sectors and areas of business. Our Who’s who in law explains some of the key roles and career pathways in the legal profession, from judges to legal support staff.

Lawyers often choose to specialise, from corporate lawyers negotiating multi-million pound mergers, to employment lawyers handling work-related disputes or media lawyers dealing with rights, sponsorship deals and libels. Where you work presents further choice. You may prefer to work in-house for a business or organisation, or for a private legal practice – be it a global law firm or a high street solicitors. Roles at the Crown Prosecution Service or in a government department offer other career options.

Studying law

The traditional route to becoming a solicitor or barrister involves studying law at university, although it is possible to become a CILEx lawyer without having a degree.

If you want to study a law degree, A-level law is not always necessary – or indeed helpful – in terms of securing a place. Top universities usually require high grades in three academic A-levels, not including General Studies or Critical Thinking. Informed Choices explains how the subjects you study at A-level can determine which degree courses will be open to you in future.

If you’ve got a degree in a subject other than law, you can take a year-long conversion course (the Postgraduate Diploma in Law or PDL), which places you at the same stage of your career path as a law graduate. Who’s who in law explains subsequent training routes.

Other related careers

Studying law can also provide a route to a range of other career paths, some of which are related to law but are outside the legal profession. See What else can I do with law? for ideas and options. The Law Society also has details of alternative legal careers.

Further information and next steps

Separating fact from fiction – is a legal career for me? suggests active ways you can find out more, including hints for getting work experience and making court visits, and our law careers directory lists useful resources and information.

Finally, why not take a look at our real-life video career stories and watch people working in roles from a Partner in Dispute Resolution to a Legal Executive, explain what they do and how they got there.