Written by Amber Brooks, Pearson Business School Student
There is much more to the law than wigs and court rooms, and it might just be easier to get a job in this profession than you may think. With careers such as magistrates and paralegals on the rise, you are only ever one step away from work that can be as rewarding as it is challenging.
The skills you need
As with all jobs, there are certain characteristics that employers are looking for. Candidates applying for work in the legal field will benefit from having and demonstrating the following skills:
- Read and process vast amounts of information for legal cases
- Be able to write articulately and concisely
- The ability to work well in a team
- Commercial awareness
- Quick typing skills
- Attention to detail
If you think that you possess the above skills, then here is an idea of the steps to take to enter the legal profession:
Build up your CV
A carefully-crafted CV will showcase your talents and suitability for the job in a succinct manner. This is especially important when applying for jobs in law, as you will be expected, for whatever job you apply for, to be able to draft various documents and forms.
Find relevant work experience
Searching out relevant legal work experience is essential in showing an employer that you are proactive and have an interest in the practical application of the law. First-hand experience will be invaluable when you start working. However, don’t neglect to consider any skills learnt previously that may be transferable.
Routes into legal professions are no longer as limited as they once were. For example, CILEx qualifications are increasingly popular, and a cheaper, more practical alternative to the traditional route by degree. With specialist courses available, including those for legal secretaries, many more potential career paths are opened up. This allows you to tailor your education and choose a path that best suits you.
Find the right career for you
With such a wide range of available positions in the legal sector, it’s a great opportunity to play to your strengths. For instance, you might enjoy a job as a paralegal if you think you would enjoy working closely with clients, while also taking on a variety of other roles. These roles can range from preparing legal documents and researching cases, to taking witness statements. To become a paralegal, you need to have a good understanding of the law and the legal system, but beyond this, legal qualifications are often desired but not essential. Some employers request that applicants have obtained or are studying towards their Legal Practice Course (LPC).
Alternatively, if the fast-paced work of advocacy is something you are interested in, then qualifying as a barrister would be worth considering. To become a barrister, you must first have studied a qualifying law degree. Alternatively, any other degree can be followed by a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) qualification – a law conversion course. Then, you would study for the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and thus professionally qualify as a barrister. It is this process that is known as being “called to the Bar”, which is when you would subsequently seek out a pupillage – a specialised placement enabling aspiring barristers to gain knowledge of the law in practice. Ultimately, the route to becoming a fully qualified barrister is longer, but many would argue that being self-employed and faced with new cases and challenges every day makes it worthwhile.
If, however, the prospect of working in the legal profession full-time doesn’t excite you, then you might choose to volunteer as a magistrate. So long as you are between the ages of 18 and 65, you can give up your time to sit for at least 13 days in court in a year as a judge in the Magistrate’s Court. Although no formal qualifications are required to take on this role, it is necessary to demonstrate an awareness of social issues and to think logically. Magistrates are appointed a legal adviser to help clarify points of law in court. This would be an ideal opportunity for someone who hasn’t studied the law to resolve legal disputes, consequently and directly making a difference to the lives of people in the local community.
If you are interested in the law in any way, don’t let the stereotypes of the field intimidate you. No door is closed to you, and you are only ever a few steps away from a fulfilling career.
Find more information at Law Careers, and the CILEx website.