What next after my law degree?

law student looking at smartphone

How to make the most of your options, once you’ve graduated

You’ve done the work. You know that habeas corpus isn’t a Harry Potter spell. You’re a law graduate. Now what? Here’s a look at your options, along with some expert advice.

Choosing a non-law path

First of all, there’s no obligation to take your legal degree and actually practise law with it, as your knowledge will be in demand in lots of industries.

“The law is relevant in every workplace – from the specific rules and regulations to the general employment conditions and practices,” says John Watkins, director of employability at The University of Law. “So an undergraduate law degree will have value anywhere.”

Legal training also gives you handy skills like critical thinking, constructing and presenting an argument, attention to detail and problem solving. Not things employers turn down.

Going into law as a solicitor

Solicitors practise law in areas as varied as negotiating for corporate businesses or representing individuals and their rights. They draw up contracts, settle divorces, help buy houses and even appear in court for their clients.

Where you work – and who for - can be equally varied, says Amanda Desforges, LPC national programme director at The University of Law. 

“Legal practice is incredibly diverse, with opportunities including high street practice, magic circle firms and in house, with many other options in between.” 

Town? City? Global megacorporation or human rights charity? They all need solicitors.

Going into law as a barrister

Barristers do everything from advising on an arcane piece of property law to prosecuting or defending people in court. 

“Some barristers are often in court, others are more Chambers-based, writing advice and drafting,” says Jacqueline Cheltenham, BPC national programme director at The University of Law.

Just as it takes specific abilities to negotiate a divorce settlement or wrangle a billion-pound contract as a solicitor, you’ll need a few particular tools – like a logical, analytical approach – to be a barrister. 

“If you enjoy considering both sides of an argument and then arguing on behalf of one side, then a career at the bar may be for you,” says Jacqueline.

Routes into the profession

As a law grad, your current postgrad route to becoming a solicitor looks like this:

  • Complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC) – vocational training
  • Complete a training contract (two years with a law firm)
  • Apply to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and qualify (hopefully) as a solicitor

However, the way you become a solicitor is changing. In September 2021, the new Solicitors’ Qualifying Examination (SQE) was introduced. 

If you qualify using the SQE route, things will go like this:

  • Complete an undergrad degree or equivalent in any subject (doesn’t have to be law)
  • Complete two SQE stages, both in the form of exams
  • Complete two years of Qualifying Work Experience (QWE)
  • Apply to the SRA

The big difference is that it will only be your SQE results that show you have the necessary legal game to be a solicitor. Your degree won’t count as a qualifying award.

But! You’ll need to get all the knowledge and legal skills to actually pass the exams, of course. So your undergrad degree in law will be a great start, and law schools are already gearing up to offer postgrad courses to help. 

There is a transition period in place if you started an eligible law degree by a certain date in 2021, so you may be able to choose to qualify using either the LPC or SQE route.

Meanwhile, barristers qualify the same way they currently do:

  • Qualifying law degree
  • Bar Practice Course (BPC) – vocational training
  • Pupillage (training on the job at a barristers chambers)
  • Called to the bar (hopefully), get an ace wig (maybe)

It’s also good to know that there are other legal career paths, such as paralegal and legal secretary, which are worth investigating if the solicitor / barrister routes don’t appeal.

Choosing your uni

If you fancy some postgrad law, you’ll need somewhere to study it. You might want to stay at your current uni (they generally offer discounts), but you might want to go somewhere new to get a fresh, refocused experience.

Either way, it’s important to consider all the usual things. Cost, of course, and location – could you study online, or move / stay at home to study? But also dig deep into a law school’s links to the profession, their reputation, how their students get on with securing training contracts or pupillages, and more personal things like teaching style and class size.

Finally, take some time to reflect on the road ahead. John recommends seeking advice from careers advisors and getting lots of work experience to help narrow down your options.

But don’t feel pressured into doing all the things, all right now – just aim to learn and develop, says John. “As long as you’re moving forward positively, you’re progressing.”

Our partnership with The University of Law

The University of Law

The Student Room is proud to work with The University of Law as the official partner of our law hub, where current and future law students can find the advice and guidance they need.

The University of Law welcomes intelligent, ambitious students interested in the world around them; people who question systems, procedures and behaviours, and are not afraid to challenge convention.

Study at The University of Law and you’ll be equipped with the professional knowledge you need to excel in your chosen career, and supported by an award-winning employability service to help you get there.

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