Legal Career Options
‘Landing a career in law’ is on the top of your life-long to-do list. But are you aware of all the legal career options out there?
You might think that the occupations of solicitor, barrister, legal executive or paralegal covers the entire legal industry. Wrong! There’s loads more legal career options out there, so let us guide you through and you can see what takes your fancy.
Solicitors provide legal services to individual and institutional clients across a wide range of civil, commercial and criminal law issues.
The day-to-day tasks of a solicitor include holding initial discussions with and advising clients, researching common and statutory law to prepare a case brief and briefing barristers or advocates on cases where representation before the courts is required. Solicitors are also responsible for supervising junior staff, reviewing documentation, drafting contracts and keeping clients informed of any progress on their case. They’re also responsible for reviewing judgements and raising grounds for appeal in the case of unfavourable decisions or cases where the damages provided are inadequate.
A barrister gives expert legal advice and represents their clients in court. The majority of barristers are self-employed, either working on their own or in partnership with other barristers.
Barristers usually focus on a specific area of law and this profession involves providing advice on legal matters and representing clients before judicial entities. Furthermore, barristers are required to carry out research into legal issues, case histories and precedents.
They also interpret laws, judgements and legislative requirements, before preparing case briefs and other legal documentation. Moreover, barristers will frequently be required to meet with their clients and arrange settlements outside of court.
A legal executive is a fully-trained and qualified lawyer that specialises in a certain area of legal practice. They’re typically employed by law firms, public sector organisations and the in-house legal teams of commercial enterprises in the private sector.
Essentially, a legal executive’s job responsibilities are the same as solicitors. They represent and interact with clients, attend court proceedings and prepare legal documents.
Legal executives also apply prescribed legal principles, rules and regulations to matters such as wealth and inheritance tax. They prepare wills, sett= up trusts and draft contracts. Legal executives are also tasked with certifying legal documents and affidavits under oath and issuing summons and writs.
A paralegal carries out back-office management and clerical duties, such as filing, answering telephones and setting up client appointments.
Paralegals also undertake research and collate relevant material for the legal matters assigned to them. They prepare briefing notes and highlight valid case decisions and precedents to the solicitor who are assigned to the case.
They also prepare case documentation, such as court applications, as well as transcribing legal opinions, depositions and witness statements, and putting together case dockets with detailed indices and checklists.
Paralegals may attend court proceedings and keep up to date on legislative, regulatory and industry-related developments.
The main responsibilities of a judge are to preside over cases brought before the court and review legal briefs, arguments and evidence presented by the defence and the prosecution or the two combative parties in a dispute. Judges also provide support and guidance to juries and help them to understand their duties and responsibilities.
They will also pass the final verdict and in criminal law cases they decide on the sentence which will be served once a conviction has been made.
Successful judges are able to review and analyse the factual and legal components of a case, and sift through the large amounts of information that is provided in case documentation and paperwork filed by the involved parties.
Furthermore, they need a complete, extensive and up-to-date knowledge of laws, legal issues and judicial procedures. Judges must function as independent, unbiased and fair arbiters.
Patent attorneys help inventors and companies obtain a patent, and advise clients on patent infringement and other areas surrounding intellectual property rights.
A patent attorney might work in a firm of patent attorneys or in-house for a large company. They advise clients on the likelihood of obtaining a patent, partly through studying scientific and technical documents and utilising their specialist knowledge.
They’ll apply for patents, putting together patent drafts and compiling technical arguments to support the case. They also need to renew, defend and enforce patents, trademarks or copyright. Patent attorneys handle the legal legwork required when a patent is transferred or sold, and they might also advise their clients on other intellectual property areas.
A patent examiner examines patent applications and assesses them based on the specifications of the particular inventions, their functionality, their safety and their originality. They make sure applications are legitimate and unique.
They also conduct detailed research into existing patents using a variety of sources, including technical documents and computer databases. Furthermore, they conduct technical analysis of the application and write reports based on their assessments.
Trademark attorneys provide advice on the use, protection and enforcement of trademarks.
Trademark attorneys clients with both legal and technical advice. They’re responsible for researching selected trademarks to check if they’re already in use, completing the prescribed procedures for the registration of new trademarks and enforcing trademark rights in the instance of infringements.
Responsibilities extend to providing legal advice on the registration and protection of trademarks in multiple jurisdictions, and they prepare documentation and renewal notices across all jurisdictions where the trademark is registered.
Trademark attorneys may also be tasked with providing legal advice and expertise on licensing, brand identity and copyright issues.
Coroners investigate instances of abnormal, violent or prison-based deaths.
The coroner’s task is to determine the nature of death and they liaise with the victim’s personal physician and ask them for information on the deceased’s pre-existing conditions. They may also ask them for their professional opinion based on their knowledge of patient history and the symptoms or conditions which are likely to have affected the actual cause of death.
Where natural or accidental causes are determined to have caused the fatality, the coroner will be required to send a report to the reporting entity and the registrar of deaths. Where a definitive decision is made, i.e. determining the cause of death to be natural or accidental, the coroner will file the necessary reports.
The coroner may also announce an inquest. This happens in cases where the pathologist is unable to positively identify the cause(s) of death, or circumstantial evidence is found, which may or may not lead to a ruling of deliberate or unnatural causes. Following this, a comprehensive inquest report is prepared by the coroner.
The duties and responsibilities of solicitor advocates are similar to those of a barrister. They represent clients in proceedings and specialise in civil or criminal law or, in some cases, they do a hybrid of both.
The majority of solicitor advocates practicing today are lawyers from the litigation departments of solicitors’ firms.
Court clerks work alongside magistrates that are presiding over criminal cases or specific civil proceedings, providing them with advice on applicable laws and judicial procedures.
The magistrate considers and analyses the facts of the case and the clerk provides them with guidance on the legal concepts, precedents and rules, which are relevant to the matter being heard.
They also make sure that court proceedings move along smoothly, explain procedures to defendants and witnesses in order to avoid disruptions and make sure that all the people involved in court proceedings conform to the conventions of the court. For instance, they “swear in” witnesses and juries.
Additional responsibilities include overseeing and managing administrative matters and setting up hearing schedules in accordance with the availability of magistrates.
A court reporter is tasked with recording and preparing a complete, word-for-word account of judicial proceedings or other events where a detailed record is required.
Court reporters use their knowledge to take down verbatim notes or use the latest transcription software to create a complete and grammatically correct record for future reference.
Legal secretaries undertake general administration and office management activities. They also managing incoming telephone calls, taking minutes or dictation and then typing up correspondence or preparing other paperwork.
They also arrange client appointments and assign workspaces and resources for new employees and trainee solicitors, such as telephones, computers and internet connections. They also manage and maintain databases and library resources.
Legal secretaries also make travel and accommodation arrangements for partner-members and other employees, maintaining expense accounts or handling the entire financial and accounting responsibilities for the company.
Company secretaries are great business all-rounders – they have a head for numbers, an eye for detail and are sticklers for accuracy. They know all about company law, constantly keeping up to date of legal requirements and advising the board on how to keep the company on the straight and narrow.
And there we have it! All the legal job roles that you could undertake in your future career!