Working in the legal sector with a degree (or similar)

To succeed as a solicitor, you need to be determined and highly motivated.

It will take at least three years to train if you are a law graduate, at least four years if you are a non-law graduate and at least six years if you are not a graduate. It can be a challenge to find an employer to support you through the training and from 2014 law firms will be free to choose the level of pay for trainees. You can enter the police service as a graduate.

Example jobs

Trainee administrative assistant
Carrying out straightforward office-based tasks under supervision, such as filing and copying documents.

Office junior
Carrying out office duties such as sorting the post, ordering stationery and answering the phone, perhaps making tea or coffee, passing on messages and running errands.

Data entry
Updating, maintaining and retrieving information held on computer systems.

The first point of contact for an organisation, which could be a business, school, hospital, sports centre, etc.

Audio typist
Producing typed documents by listening to verbal recordings.

Case study

You need to be able to handle situations with all types of people. Good communication skills are probably the most essential part of practical policing...

Neil Baskerville, criminal justice inspector at Cheshire Police

Approximate pay levels

Figures supplied as a guide only

Pay levels graph

Typical working conditions

  • You will be based in an office or court, working with individuals, businesses, courts or other law-related organisations such as the police.
  • Most graduates in the legal profession are employed, but some are self-employed, including most barristers.
  • Working hours are officially 9am–5pm, Monday to Friday, but extra hours are common, including taking work home. The work is likely to be fast-paced.

Qualifications needed

All legal professions need to gain additional qualifications or training after completing a degree.

Solicitors take a law degree followed by further study and training. Other programmes of study are available for those with a non-law degree and for non-graduates with appropriate experience and qualifications.

There are three stages in training to be a barrister: a minimum of a second-class honours degree; the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), which is one year full-time or two years part-time; pupillage, which is one year of in-service training.

Career path

Once you qualify in your chosen legal profession, your career options are very varied.

Solicitors can choose to work in private practice, within a business or organisation, in local or national government or in the court services. After a few years working in private practice, you may be able to become a partner or train to become a barrister.

Judges are selected from the ranks of experienced lawyers.

Experienced solicitors or barristers can become notaries. The work is often about international trade and other overseas affairs.

Useful links

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The Notaries Society

The Law Society

Bar Standards Board