What can I do with my law degree?
Many people choose to study law because it’s a ‘safe’ degree. If you are academic and you study hard, then eventually you are guaranteed a good job and a solid salary. This is mostly true if you decide you want to carry on into more advanced studies within the legal sector and progress into the role of a barrister or solicitor, but what if you don’t? It can take courage to identify that you don’t want to continue into the profession set out by your degree course, but the good news is that it is entirely possible to change direction (and it happens more often than you think). In the following article we will discuss what you can do with your law degree.
In 2014/15 70,825 UK students were on a full-time law undergraduate or postgraduate course. It is an incredibly popular choice, as a career in the legal sector was established long ago as a reputable aim of a well-paid job. But nowadays there is such a wide variety of jobs in the world that many students graduate and feel like they want to go into something different. Or they might simply realise halfway through their course that law isn’t what they want to do after all. If this sounds like you, then don’t feel despondent, because you are still employable for a vast variety of sectors that are nothing to do with law.
BrighterBox sees many students unsure about their next steps, but most are easily suited to a huge number of different roles. University gives you more adaptable skills than you might realise, so taking the initiative to explore things outside of your comfort zone will likely yield positive results. To give you an overview of the types of roles that directly and indirectly involve law here is a list of roles that are usually available on the BrighterBox website:
Unrelated to law:
HR and recruitment
Customer service and operations
Related to law:
Chartered legal executive
Trade mark attorney
If you do decide that law isn’t the way for you anymore, then you will be in good company. Prepare to join the likes of these successful law graduates who went on to do other things:
Nelson Mandela & Barack Obama (presidents)
Jerry Springer (talk show host)
Mahatma Ghandi (activist)
John Cleese (comedian)
Rebel Wilson (actress)
Who employs a law graduate?
Whether you want to go into the legal sector, or are interested in moving into a new industry, employers are usually very welcoming towards a law degree, because it demonstrates that the candidate has been through a challenging and competitive course to get to where they are now. Law degrees are notoriously tough, so it stands to reason that any graduate from such a course would possess a reasonable degree of intelligence and resilience – both desirable traits for any employer.
The most obvious employers of law graduates are, of course, law firms, but it isn’t always that simple. If you are set on becoming a solicitor or a barrister, then the competition is extremely high. You will need to begin applying for training contracts as early as two years in advance to be in with a good chance of securing a position. The two types you can aim for are the LPC (for aspiring solicitors) or the BPTC (for aspiring barristers) and both come with their own application requirements. If you are lucky, then you will be successful in finding a firm willing to pay for your training contract and begin safe in the knowledge that you will be able to enter a full-time job at the end of it. Unfortunately, there are simply more law graduates than there are firms willing to sponsor students, and often a graduate will be expected to pay for the extra training themselves. This doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to secure a job at the end of your training, just that you will need to work hard and show how dedicated you are to becoming a barrister or solicitor and reapply when you are ready.
If you are not interested in entering a law firm, then you might like to hear about the employers that hire based simply on a solid education and personality traits. Startups are a great overall industry to enter if you are unsure about where your skills might be best suited. The work ethic within startups is generally a ‘pitch in all areas’ feeling. This means that the best candidates are the ones that can juggle various types of work at once and aren’t afraid to cross into more than one department if they are needed elsewhere. Essentially a good all-rounder is the only candidate necessary.
What sorts of jobs do law graduates do?
Going on the basis that you wish to continue into the legal sector, a law graduate would have all the skills and education necessary to become a barrister, solicitor, paralegal or anything else in that line of work. You may have to complete further study and various training schemes, but most law graduates are perfectly capable of progressing with a career in law.
In an article by Legal Cheek it is stated that ‘According to a poll of 500 UK businesses, law graduates’ “transferable skills”, “aptitude for learning” and “strong leadership and communication abilities” make them an attractive prospect for companies operating outside the legal industry.’. From this we can discern that law graduates can excel in almost any role. Many employers outside of the legal sector look favourably on law graduates for the reasons discussed so far, and prize them highly compared to some other disciplines.
Some of the specific job titles that you might want to think about aiming for are:
- Managing accounts usually rests on an ability to network with clients and bring in sufficient repeat business by ensuring they are happy with your company’s services.
- Within a law degree you are required to produce spoken presentations often, meaning you develop an ability to think on your feet and craft clear and concise arguments – all of which is useful when negotiating with clients. The power of persuasion so often associated with lawyers will also come in handy here.
Customer Service and Operations
- Remaining calm in the face of pressure and being able to communicate your reasoning whilst still taking the opposition’s arguments into account should be second nature to a law student. Dealing with disgruntled customers is no different.
- Working within the operations department requires incredibly organized candidates who are willing to drive processes whilst being detail-focused and reliable.
HR and Recruitment
- HR and recruitment focuses on the delicate management of people and therefore requires people that are great communicators and organized enough to be a go-between for two or more parties.
- The part of a law degree that deals with methods of legal reasoning is perfect for anyone wanting to work with other people and build successful business relationships. Being able to decipher employment contracts and understand the complexities within contractual work will stand out within HR (for dealing with claimants and respondents), as will an ability to be empathetic and sympathetic towards personal problems and respond in a reassuring and compassionate way.
- Acting with integrity, within a code of conduct, will come naturally to a law graduate and is an important part of HR and recruitment.
- Business development can be like account executive work, but with a heavier focus on generating new clients. Building a list of contacts is of paramount importance and those that are successful in this role are confident go-getters happy with networking.
- Most law degrees require interaction with both peers and professionals and law graduates are likely to be comfortable with meeting new people and utilise good listening techniques.
- Being good at absorbing complex information and then presenting it with a fast turnaround is a large proportion of a law degree and this will greatly assist in any business development role.
- Marketing is fast becoming a popular choice of career for both creative and analytical people. Law graduates are more likely to be suited to the side of marketing that deals with data collection and presenting the information to influence future marketing decisions.
- A law degree does involve a fair bit of essay writing, so if you have a natural creative flair you might find yourself excelling in a marketing role that focusses heavily on content creation and copywriting.
- Attention to detail is crucial to succeeding in a law degree, which would stand you in good stead for an analytical role in a marketing department. Being able to process complex information and then present it in layman terms is helpful for digital marketers who need to justify expenditure in their department, which is a trait often part and parcel of lawyers.
- If you felt as though you wanted to continue within law, but head into digital marketing, remember that law firms do have a need to market themselves on social media just like any other company, and will hire people to do this for them.
- Most graduates are more than qualified for a role in administration – the main attributes required are often an organized mind and pro-active nature.
- Law graduates are put under a lot of pressure during their degree and being able to stay organized and on top of their work is a must throughout their studies in order to reach urgent deadlines.
What skills can I put on my CV?
If you have decided to search for jobs that are outside of the legal sector, then you should select the skills that you want to highlight per the types of roles you are applying for. Not everything will fit on your CV, so you should be selective, particularly as law graduates might have more to offer than some.
All graduates leave university with a sizeable amount to put on their CV, as most degree courses have a base level of similarity. For example, essay writing will equip most undergraduates with the ability to research a topic thoroughly and construct an effective argument based on that research. Time management and organisation are skills vital to anyone wanting to get that essay in on time whilst revising for upcoming exams. Independence gained from living away from home for three or four years shouldn’t be overlooked, as well as any experience developed through being active in any societies or sports clubs during that time. General transferable skills might also be the direct result of any hobbies you have in your spare time – from photography to blog writing – don’t make the mistake of focussing entirely on your studies.
Law students have their own set of abilities drawn directly from their degree and unique to that specialism. It might seem obvious, but forming considered arguments is a cornerstone of a law degree and therefore one of the main attributes that you should be highlighting on your CV. The scenarios presented in a law classroom can be incredibly complex, so being able to digest this information before crafting a response is an ability worth putting down.
Presentations form a large part of most law degrees in the UK, so having confidence to stand up and present your ideas with coherence and persuasion is worth writing up as a bullet point on your CV. The combination of theory and practice in a law degree gives its graduates a wide variety of knowledge both in the confines of an essay as well as in a real-life setting.
How do I improve my employability after a law degree?
Improving employability is simply a case of demonstrating a proven interest in the industry, whether that’s through gaining relevant work experience or engaging in extracurricular activities. If you want to head into a career in the legal sector, this might translate into gaining work experience through shadowing schemes or similar short term placements at law firms. Gaining a strong portfolio of work experience will stand you in good stead regardless of where you end up in your career, so don’t feel disheartened if you spent considerable time dabbling in the legal sector before considering a change.
If you know that you are not interested in pursuing law, then you can work on alternative ways of improving your employability. The best way to go about this is to decide on a few keys areas that you might want to go into, and then work from that. For example, if you are interested in marketing, then you might want to focus your energies in proving your skills through methods such as blogging, improving your personal social accounts and cultivating professional relationships in that field.
Most interests can benefit from joining a club or society at university at the very least. Seek out the entrepreneurial society, the debate team, the marketing and PR society – if you search hard enough you can usually find a society for anything at university, so pick the ones you think will help in your future and see if you can be involved in the organisational aspect of them for bonus points.
How can I build on a law degree?
Building on a law degree depends on what you want to go into. If you want to enter the legal sector, then you might want to start by considering the resources available via your university. For example, this page on the University of Nottingham’s website gives details of legal employer’s fairs and links to where you can find out additional information through the university careers portal. If you want a recap on how to enter the legal industry, then refer to our ‘Who employs a law graduate?’ section.
If you are certain that you want to digress from law after you graduate, then you should take time out to work out what you want to do (or at least what you want to try out). Hobbies are a great place to start – if you are willing to do something in your spare time, then I bet you would be willing to do it for a salary. Similarly look back over your A levels and think about the subjects that you have enjoyed in the past. Knowing the direction that you want to go in is the first step towards reaching your goal. Once you work out the skills that you can highlight on your CV, then you can build on them and look at ways to add more.
Devo Ritter, writing for The Muse put it very well when she said: “if your dream role requires effective communication skills, you can be confident that through the Socratic method and trial experience, you’re a convincing communicator. If an employer is looking for someone who can expertly synthesize complex ideas into understandable formats, you can go ahead and thank all those case summaries and corporate law memos you wrote in law school—because complicated issues […] exist in every industry.” Assessing your skills and adjusting the wording on your CV will make a world of difference in how employers perceive you, so do not underestimate your degree under any circumstances.
If law isn’t the way that you see yourself going, then just pick a new path and work towards it. A law degree is not a barrier – if anything it is a stepping stone towards a multitude of careers.