Pursuing a Career in Law With a Science Background
A science degree can take you far beyond the laboratory, even into the courtroom. While the link between law and science may not be obvious, research has shown that scientists typically make good lawyers.
Science skills that transfer to a legal career
Scientists possess a wide range of skills that are highly transferable into the legal industry, including:
- Effective communication skills
- Strong presentation capabilities
- A capacity for problem solving
- An ability to write clearly and concisely
- Research abilities
- A propensity for evidence-based solutions
- Logical-thinking skills
- Flexibility regarding job duties
- The capacity to apply rules to the facts at hand
Although scientists are in high demand in law firms, the competition for a position can be stiff, and one opening can generate hundreds of applications. For solicitors to stand out, they need to have solid credentials along with a demonstrated interest in the law.
Specialties for scientists turned lawyers
A lawyer with a science background usually fits extremely well in several areas of practice, including:
Patent law. Many scientists become patent agents, patent examiners and technology-transfer specialists, careers that don’t require law degrees. But those willing to study law will have access to a greater range of opportunities and the ability for higher compensation. A scientist who can pass a set of exams called “foundation papers”, which test their basic concepts regarding patients, trademarks and copyright, can qualify to practice patent law within the British and European patent offices. Those who qualify as solicitor advocates have the right of audience in court, much like a barrister.
Intellectual property law. Intellectual-property solicitors usually practice in all areas of technology, including biotechnology, and have the ability to utilise their science backgrounds and technical knowledge in a legal career. Intellectual property law can be a great fit for those who enjoy science and want to have the opportunity to read about it, talk about it and be involved in it on a daily basis, without actually being a scientist.
Environmental law. Lawyers with a background in science often choose to specialise in chemical and environmental law, where they might represent manufacturers, environmental protection groups, waste disposal organisations, or contractors in their dealings with the Environment Agency. Environmental lawyers help clients prepare and file for licenses and applications, and also ensure that they are compliant with all environmental laws and regulations.
In-house counsel. Some lawyers with a science background find that working for a chemical or life-sciences company is the best fit for them. As in-house counsel, these lawyers advise companies concerning legal issues that relate to business activities, including patents, government regulations, contracts with other organisations and property interests. Some scientist/lawyers choose to work in-house for universities, national laboratories or government agencies.
A science background will not be a barrier to the legal professional. On the contrary, if you have a degree from a reputable university and can convincingly articulate why you're seeking a career as a lawyer, most firms in the UK offer a large share of their training contracts to those with non-law backgrounds.
How clients view a lawyer with a science background
Legal clients appreciate that a solicitor with a science background has the ability to adapt to changing environments and utilise their critical-thinking skills to tackle an array of legal challenges. Scientists are also known for their strong work ethic, making them a respected and trusted adviser for legal clients.