"I chose to go to law school because I thought that someday, somehow I'd make a difference." -Christopher Darden
Many secondary school students start to prepare for law school at a young age for various reasons. They may have pressure from their parents to become a big shot attorney (just like everyone else in their family), want to make a difference in this troubled world or think that becoming a lawyer means wealth and prominence.
None of the aforementioned reasons are erroneous. Lawyers can choose to work specific cases where their expertise will make an environmental, cultural or social difference. Also, let's state the truth, lawyers are known for driving sports cars, wearing Burberry apparel and earning obscene amounts of money from honest-hearted individuals looking for legal advice.
Let's say you have done all the needed studying and acquired all the mandatory qualifications to graduate law school and receive your law degree, now what?
Recent statistics published on Prospects website shows that 49% of law graduates are employed out of law school, 30.8% of students continue their studies to specialists in their field and 10.5% of grads decide to work and study at the same time.
The sky is the limit! There are so many potential job options and ways to further education for those who have a graduate diploma in law. Superprof is here to introduce to you the options available inside and outside the legal field.
Needed Qualifications to Become a Lawyer in the United Kingdom
Before applying to enrol at the best law schools in the country in order to commence your law studies, it is extremely important to know what qualifications are required and how long the whole process may take.
Secondary School Qualifications
If a career in law has always interested you, it is highly recommended to start preparing while in secondary school. Most law schools demand 3 A-Level and 5 GCSEs subjects with an A (9-7 as of 2017) grade. A-Level subject choices depend on the preferences and skills of the student, however, English, History, Law, Maths and Critical Thinking subjects are suggested by past law students.
These A-level subjects prepare students for essay writing, problem-solving and passing the National Admissions Test for Law (LNAT), all required during law school.
Other Level 3 qualifications such as the BTEC extended diploma in business may be accepted as an alternative to A-Level subjects in some universities across the UK.
Many universities do not accept Photography, Dance or Physical Education as one of the 3 main A-Level subjects.
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Post Secondary Studies
After graduating from secondary school with honours and being accepted by an admissions committee to attend law school you will most likely study a Bachelor of Laws to attain your law degree.
What does this entail?
The Bachelor of Laws (LLB) is a 3-year course providing students with the essential legal and academic skills to be successful at practising law. This skills that students acquire during this course opens the doors to a variety of job opportunities for those wishing to pursue a legal career and for those who seek non-law specific careers in the fields of commerce and finance, healthcare and politics just to name a few.
During the 3 years of study, the necessary core subjects are separated by different years. For example:
- Year 1: students are required to study core subjects such as Legal Systems and Skills, Foundations of Public Law, Foundations of Criminal Law, Contract Law and Practice and Applied Legal Writing and Research.
- Year 2: during this year students will analyze the remaining core subjects such as Foundations of EU Law, Land Law and Trusts Law. Next students have to choose 5 modules from a range of elective subjects that allow pupils to gain experience and specialize in their desired fields. Some of the electives offered include Family Law, Business Law, Further Issues in Tort Law, Intellectual Property Law, Immigration Law and Media Law
- Year 3: in your final year (hooray!) you will spend the whole year studying elective subjects that will help you specialize in your future career. Students are asked to choose between 8 subjects that may include Child Law, Discrimination Law, Criminal Justice, International Banking Law, Tax Law, International Law, Human Rights Law in the UK or The Canadian Charter of Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
During these 3 years of study to attain your law degree, very few hours are spent in a classroom with a professor. The majority of your studying will take place in the university library as independent learning.
After your final examinations and graduation, you are ready to join the workforce!
Jobs Options in the Legal Field
Now that you have your law degree it is time to apply for different jobs in the legal field.
There are many career prospects for those who have law degrees. The City University of London reports that 88.9% of graduates find employment or are successfully accepted in other schools to further their education in order to become solicitors or barristers.
Some of the students attending the aforementioned school have found jobs working for organizations such as Capitol Solicitors, Standard Chartered Bank, HSBC and Amnesty International. The City University of London is just an example, there are many students who have graduated from other universities that experience the same success in job placement.
What are potential jobs in the legal field for those possessing a law degree?
- Paralegal: if you thrive under pressure and would love to provide aid to qualified solicitors and barristers in a variety of law firms, becoming a paralegal is your calling! You can apply for a job at a law firm as a paralegal if you possess a law degree. Paralegals carry out many tasks including organising case files, write legal reports and conduct legal research, bill the clients and attend court inquests.
- Licensed Conveyancer: those who took a strong interest in property law during university and have a keen eye for detail are perfect for this career! Licensed conveyancers buy and sell properties on behalf of clients. They take care of the contracts, prepare mortgage deeds and transfers of money and check to see if the sales contract or property in question is all legalized.
- Barrister's Clerk: while no law degree is required to apply for barrister clerk jobs, it is highly recommended because a knowledge of basic laws and legal skills will greatly help you to progress and improve at this job. As a barrister clerk, you are responsible for running the administration and business activities of barristers' chambers.
For those wishing to work as a barrister, litigator or solicitor, more schooling is required.
I got a lot of clarification when I talked my career choices over with my law tutor Perth!
Barristers are law specialists and represent individuals and organizations in court. Those who desire to become barristers need to have an analytical mind and sharp attention to detail. Those who are barristers can specialize in various areas of law such as commercial, common (family, personal injury etc.), criminal, entertainment and sports.
However, it is important to note that a Bachelor's in Law (LLB) is not enough education to become a qualified and working barrister.
After receiving your Bachelor's in Law, Barristers are required to complete the one year long Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) that is offered at many universities. Another very important thing to remember is that before entering into this programme, admittance to one of the four Inns of Court is recommended.
The third and final step is a year of training with an authorised pupillage training organization. Throughout the year you learn from a highly experienced barrister.
Law is a very competitive field so it is vital to have extra legal education, training and work experience to demonstrate your commitment.
After receiving their law degree, solicitors are required to assist university classes for one more year in order to attain the needed qualifications from the Legal Practice Course (LPC). During this time period and training, solicitors develop necessary skills that will help them in their future careers.
Following the successful completion of the LPC, solicitors move onto the final step of their education. The last step is entitled Professional Skills Course (PSC) and is part of a training period lasting 2 years.
There are many job options in the legal field for those possessing a law degree. Whether you want to start work directly after receiving your law degree or wish to continue your post-secondary studies, the world is your oyster!
Potential Careers for Those With a Law Degree Who Do Not Wish to Study Law
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It may be possible that you come to the realization sometime during your third year of legal studies that you do not want to practice law, litigation or be part of the legal system in the future. Nevertheless, you do not want your pending degree in law to go to waste.
What to do?
Many are overjoyed to discover that there are many other career paths where a law degree can be useful. There is no need to fret because an employer is always impressed with those who have law degrees.
Here are a few career options to choose from that are outside the legal field:
- Journalist: I'm sure that you realized that during your 3 years of studying to obtain your law degree you researched and read a lot! If you enjoyed research, a career in journalism is right for you! Law students often move towards journalist work to effectively use their research skills to produce something worth reading. A possession of well-trained ethics and legal knowledge are great assets for successful reporters. Knowing the consequences of crossing the line prevents you from doing so.
- Human Resources and Labour Relations: if you selected employment law during your third year of studies, working in Human Resources is a great choice for you! Your professional training will be put to good use as you will already know workplace laws and how to settle disputes between employees.
- Lobbying: it's like activism but with a big paycheck and powerful friends. Lobbying is great for those possessing a law degree who have mastered the arts of persuasion. Your work as a lobbyist involves sweet talking politicians, influencing the media and getting support from the internet for the things you are promoting.
- Activism: if a drastic change is what you want, activists push the boundaries more than anyone else. As a former student of law and an ardent supporter of legal advocacy, you will know what buttons to push in order to motivate transformation in parliament. A law student with experience with experience in environmental law can be of great interest to Greenpeace, Amnesty International or Friends of the Earth.
- Politics: many law graduates go into politics with a similar zeal to change this corrupt world. Many politicians hire law grads to work on their campaigns make sure that no laws are being broken. After a lecture or two, many undergraduate law students are disappointed to find out how little time a barrister spends in the courtroom delivering inspiring speeches that bring the jury members to tears. If a public platform is what you want, politicians spend way more time presenting speeches, fighting debates and speaking to the press.
No matter what profession you decide to choose after receiving your law degree, one thing is certain, there are plenty of choices!