Twelve jobs you can do with a law degree
If you have ever found yourself saying ‘I’m studying law but I don’t want to be a lawyer’?, don’t panic. The competencies you are developing during your law degree and legal work experience are relevant in many alternative careers. Analytical and research skills, for example, are needed by not just solicitors or barristers but most other professions. Likewise, good communication and problem-solving skills are directly transferable to many careers including management, town planning and consultancy work. There are also roles where legal knowledge as opposed to skills, is particularly useful – such as HR or tax advisory work. As company secretary Donald McPherson recommends: 'Think of your legal qualification as the start of your learning, rather than the end of it – always grab opportunities to learn new skills and broaden your experience.’
1. Qualifying as a chartered/company secretary
Company secretaries ensure organisations comply with company law and regulations. Their work includes maintaining records about an organisation, preparing reports and keeping directors up to date with legal developments. They are likely to work with directors and senior staff and may be involved in planning, finance and arranging insurance. Chartered secretaries are experienced company secretaries who have qualified through ICSA (the Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators). Vacancies are advertised in the national press and their respective websites, and through specialist recruitment agencies.
Donald McPherson, company secretary at Alliance Trust PLC, told TARGETjobs Law: ‘I have found that a legal background provides a framework for approaching issues dispassionately and thinking through all the implications before acting.'
2. A graduate role in the Civil Service Fast Stream
The Civil Service Fast Stream offers approximately 700 graduate vacancies each year in a wide range of Civil Service departments. Those who join the Fast Stream are guaranteed a series of intensive job placements designed to prepare them for senior managerial positions. Fast streamers move between projects and sections within their departments and take up postings in other departments and agencies. Application is via an online process with an annual deadline in early November, and recruiters are looking for an ability to work under pressure, attention to detail and commercial awareness – all traits which are encouraged on a law degree course.
3. A clerkship in the Houses of Parliament
A small number of clerkships are available in the House of Lords. Clerks work in the various offices of the House of Lords administration; they give advice on practice and procedure in the House and support committee work – committee office clerks organise inquiries and draft reports, for example. Appointments are made via the same Civil Service Fast Stream programme described above. Other roles at the Houses of Parliament are recruited separately and vacancies are advertised in the national press and their respective websites.
4. Joining the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)
As well as its traditional work of collecting tax, HMRC is responsible for making sure the national minimum wage is properly paid, paying tax credits and collecting student loans. Graduates can apply for the department’s graduate programme, which offers a four-year training scheme leading to accountancy, management or tax inspector qualifications. To work in this field you’ll need a logical mind and the ability to apply the law to different scenarios. You’ll also need an eye for detail and the ability to spot inconsistencies.
5. Working as a tax consultant…
Sitting on the other side of the fence to the HMRC, tax consultants offer advice to businesses or private clients on particular tax problems or ongoing cost-effective tax solutions. Each year’s Budget brings with it new legislation so a background in analysing legal changes is useful. Tax consultancies, including the Big 4 accountancy firms, seek graduates in law as well as accounting, tax or business. They look for evidence of problem solving, persuasion, gaining the trust of clients and organisational skills during their recruitment process. Your law degree may exempt you from some of the exams tax practitioners sit to gain the professional qualifications to become a tax consultant.
6. …or a chartered town planner
Planning is another career option recommended for those with a law degree, according to the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). You can qualify as a town planner by taking a RTPI-accredited postgraduate degree after any degree. Attention to detail, communication and negotiation skills are relevant in town planning too.
7. A law degree can open doors in legal publishing
Specialist legal publishers (both print and online) often employ lawyers looking for a change or seek applications from candidates with a law degree. The editor of TARGETjobs Law, for example, has a law degree and the LPC, and came to TARGETjobs via roles as a sub-editor, editor and then commissioning manager at a legal publishing company. There are a few training schemes available and most posts will be advertised individually when they become vacant. A background in law nurtures good attention to detail, an ability to write succinctly and good research skills – all useful attributes in publishing. Check out the Guardian’s media site and investigate specialist recruitment agencies.
8. Investment banking and other ‘City’ careers
Intellectual rigour, diplomacy, stamina and negotiation skills are all important in City careers and can be demonstrated by law students. The City is a honey pot for graduates, with most graduate opportunities found in investment banks (covering corporate finance, markets, fund management, private-client services, and IT and operations), insurance broking and accountancy. As with many graduate roles, City careers involve a stringent recruitment process. Application deadlines differ and you’ll need to be prepared for interviews, assessment centres and online testing. Read our investment banking and finance advice to help you narrow down your options.
Georgina Davidson, investment banker at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities International, explained in an interview with TARGETjobs Law: ‘My law degree gave me transferable skills that I didn’t even know I had. Experience of debating and mooting at university gave me confidence when giving presentations and speaking to clients. Being able to anticipate both sides of an argument is useful when recommending a stock.’
9. A graduate job as a management consultant
Legal knowledge is useful for many areas of consulting. Management consulting requires analytical thinkers who can work with everyone, from the chief executive to the operative, to help an organisation achieve its objectives or implement substantial changes to its working practices. Good research skills are essential in consulting: your clients expect you to get up to speed with their industry and business in record time. While some consultancies recruit continuously, many have application deadlines between October and December – see the employers listed in our consulting section to apply.
10. Insurance roles, particularly in loss adjusting
Loss adjusters are called in by insurance companies to verify claims. Graduates can enter loss adjusting careers with many degree backgrounds, although some employers such as GAB Robins tell us that they particularly welcome applicants from a law background. Many of the skills developed on a law degree and during legal work experience transfer well to this field: having an eye for detail; an analytical mind; good negotiation skills; and being good with people from all walks of life.
11. Compliance officer: ensuring organisations comply with rules and regulations
Compliance officers take care of a company’s financial conduct (ensuring it complies with regulations and principles) and its reporting (providing financial information to the regulator). Read our graduate area of work on regulation and compliance and you’ll see that graduates can find compliance work with all types of finance organisations as well as some solicitors’ firms. Most employers prefer a numerate, business or law-based degree.
12. Management training in a range of sectors, including retail
Large corporate and financial organisations offer a variety of management training schemes. General management training might involve spending time in different departments including human resources (HR), general management (at branch or department level, for example), and sales and marketing. More specialist programmes cover financial management and IT. There is often the opportunity to work towards professional qualifications, such as a Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) qualification. Visit the TARGETjobs employer hubs to research potential employers and make applications.