What is it that attracts you to a career in law?
Is it based on a realistic idea of what the jobs in this field require and an understanding that you have the personality and experience for it, or have you been attracted by an exciting but not necessarily realistic courtroom drama?
Like all jobs, there are challenges and opportunities. Let’s start with the challenges, because if those don’t put you off, then you can read about what makes it worth doing!
Challenges you might face pursuing a legal career
The first challenge is an academic one. Do you have, or are you looking forward to, mainly A* and A grades at GCSE, A and B grades at A level, and at least a 2:1 degree? If so, then keep reading.
The further you are from this, the harder it becomes to get into law. Practising as a legal professional is unlikely to be accessible for people who are not able to demonstrate a good academic track record.
Regardless, the examinations you need to pass to qualify will have a strong academic component, so academic ability is important and experience of study at a higher education level will certainly help.
Personal skills you will need to be a lawyer
Unfortunately it’s not enough to be academically able! You need to be able to relate naturally and confidently to a wide range of people, to understand their needs, influence and empathise, and be able to communicate how you can help.
This includes both colleagues and clients, and written communication as well as face-to-face or over the phone.
You need to have a rare skill with information too. If you can understand a lot of information quickly and work out the practical implications of what you have learnt, then you have a skill vital for a successful career in law.
One particularly important aspect of this is commercial awareness. You need to be the sort of person who, for example, reads newspapers and considers the various implications of business developments.
A person who understands the likely implications of contemporary developments for their clients is likely to make a good solicitor or barrister.
You are going to need to be able to keep a cool head under stress too; it is not unusual to work a day of twelve hours or more at busy times. Needless to say, all this requires excellent time-management skills.
What do I need to do after university to get into a career in law?
Even if you have all these skills down, this will not guarantee you a job! Once you have a law degree or another degree plus a one-year law conversion course, the next step is to gain a training contract with a law firm.
There are more people wanting these than there are contracts available. Vacation schemes and other work experience will increase your chances of finding a training contract.
Why go into a law career?
- You get the opportunity to work closely with a wide range of clients on interesting and important work.
- You work in a close team with your colleagues. It’s often a supportive team with plenty of social contact.
- You become an expert and that expertise is valued by your clients and colleagues.
- There can be a wide variety of work and you often see clear results from your contributions.
- The financial rewards can be impressive after a few years of experience. Solicitors could earn £40,000 - £70,000 within a few years; sometimes considerably more. Barristers could earn £40,000 - £200,000 a year.
All of this is simply a roundabout way of saying that a job as a solicitor or barrister is a fantastic job for the right person. If you have both the confidence and the evidence that you are that kind of person, then go for it!