You may work as a solicitor advising and acting on clients’ behalf in private practice (e.g. civil and family law, litigation, personal injury and criminal law), commercial practice (advising and acting for businesses), in-house legal advice for companies, the government/ local authorities or the Crown Prosecution Service, often specialising in a particular area. Barristers give specialist legal advice to solicitors and other professional clients, and represent individuals and organisations in court. Legal secretaries provide administrative support for lawyers and legal executives. You could also work in probation, the prison service or as a consultant.
To study law you will need five GCSEs (A-C) and two A levels or Highers with good grades, or equivalent. You then need a degree in law, or in another subject followed by a postgraduate law conversion. To become a barrister, you must follow this with a vocational stage and a practical 'pupillage'. Legal secretaries need a good standard of education and office experience and there are also specific legal secretary qualifications you can study towards.
As a budding Barrister you may have an advantage if you can find a mini-pupillage (a short period of work experience and shadowing in chambers). Temping is a good way of getting relevant office experience for becoming a legal secretary.
Normally 37 hours a week, sometimes longer. Barristers may work some evenings and weekends.
A solicitor in training will earn between £16,650 - £18,590 rising to £25,000 - £70,000 once qualified. Barristers’ salaries during pupillage are at least £10,000 rising to anywhere between £25,000 - £200,000, depending on specialism and reputation. Salaries in the Crown Prosecution Service are between £28,000 -£60,000. Legal secretaries earn between £12,000 and £18,000, rising to £25,000 – £36,000 depending on experience.
You can work in in private practice, central and local government, the courts service, Crown Prosecution Service, law centres, businesses or charities. Jobs may be advertised in the local, national and legal press, and by specialist legal recruitment agencies.
Graduate profile: Simon Bradley from Pinsent Masons LLP
1. What subject(s) did you graduate in and from where?
I studied French and German at Bristol University. I then completed the Graduate Diploma in Law and Legal Practice Course at BPP Law School.
2. What is your current job role? Please provide a brief description of your duties
I am a solicitor in the Financial Services and Insurance team at international law firm Pinsent Masons. I work in a team that advises a wide variety of clients, including banks, insurers and investment houses, on a range of issues relating to financial services regulation and insurance law.
3. What skills, knowledge and qualities does your job require?
You will need to be organised, have excellent attention to detail and have a strong interest in the area of law you practice in. Becoming a lawyer takes a long time and you have to be dedicated to the process. The law can be very complex and challenging so you will need to have a natural curiosity, enjoy solving problems and be able to see things through to completion. You will also need to enjoy working with people and be able to present complicated written advice in an easy to understand and logical way.
4. What are the benefits of the degree/qualification(s) you studied for?
I decided to study a non-law degree as I wanted to do something I already enjoyed and also become more fluent in French and German. Law firms really value non-law graduates as they can bring a broad skill set to the workplace. A language degree improves your communication skills and is attractive on a CV.
5. Are there any additional activities or work experience that helped you?
When applying for training contracts, it's important to go in to interviews prepared. I completed several work experience placements at different law firms which I was able to talk about in my interviews. I would also not shy away from taking a year out on graduation and working for an organisation that is relevant to the area of law you want to work in as this will show initiative and dedication.
6. Is there any other advice you would give to someone interested in working in a similar field?
Competition for training contracts is fierce and you really have to stand out from the crowd in the application process. I would try and speak to people you already know who work in the legal sector and really understand from them what being a lawyer is like.
7. How did you find your current job and what was the application process like?
No two days are ever the same for me. I find the work very satisfying and really enjoy helping a client complete their business objective. As with any professional career, the hours can be long and you do sometimes need to make a personal sacrifice in order to provide an excellent client service.
The application process can be daunting. The normal process is to apply for a two-week vacation placement at a law firm. This will give you the opportunity to assess the firm and see whether they are right for you. During that time you be assessed by the firm and will have to attend an interview, usually with a partner.
8. What do you think are the main keys to success in your field?
At a junior level I think that experience is vital as you only learn by doing. You need to get on well with clients and also constantly keep up to date with changes in your field.
Ultimately, whether you are successful is up to you. You have to be very self-directed and take responsibility for your own work and career as a lawyer.
9. What are your future career options?
Going forward there will hopefully be promotion opportunities at my firm. Many lawyers aspire to become a partner in their firm. Some decide that private practice is not for them and decide to work in-house as a lawyer within a company.
10. How has being lesbian, gay or bisexual impacted your career, if at all?
It has only had a positive impact on my career. Being gay has opened up valuable networking opportunities with other LGB people within client organisations. My firm has an active LGBT network which organises regular social events. The legal sector, in general, has improved leaps and bounds through the work of organisations like Stonewall and InterLaw and diversity is very high on the agenda for many law firms, including my own. Pinsent Masons was the first law firm to enter the Stonewall Workplace Equality Index...so being gay here is not a problem!
11. How important was it that your university provided specific services/advice for you as an LGB student?
I think it's extremely important. As with myself, a lot of LGB people have grown up in a home environment where being out was not acceptable or frowned upon. University offers the perfect opportunity to discover who you are and what you want to do in life. Bristol has a very strong LGBT network which organises social events but also provides support to students who are coming out and need a friendly face to talk to.