Student in mock law court

A law degree opens many doors – whether in the legal profession or other sectors such as business and finance

Law is an excellent qualification and is in the top ten most employable degrees

Caroline Baynes, Senior Teaching Fellow at Portsmouth Law School, writes about the careers you can pursue as a law graduate, the places you could work and the salaries you could earn. 

Do you want to work in the legal profession?

If you’re considering a career in law, you might think you need to become a solicitor or barrister, but there are other roles you could go into. 

If you want to become a solicitor or barrister, you should choose a fully accredited Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree as it gives you a headstart towards the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) or Bar Training Courses (which sometimes have different names depending on the provider). 

You can also become a Chartered Legal Executive when you complete the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) training programme. This can lead you to a career as a judge, coroner, advocate and partner in law firms. All our law courses include the CILEx Graduate Fast-track Diploma module.

Solicitor

Solicitors give confidential legal guidance and help to clients. They need good people and communication skills and in-depth knowledge of their chosen area of law. Solicitors work for private law firms, commercial companies, government or the court service.

The Law Society recommends a minimum of £22,794 for solicitors training in London and £20,217 for trainees elsewhere. But some companies – particularly in London – pay a lot more. 

Barrister

Barristers are legal specialists who give independent legal advice and represent clients in court. They tend to be hired by solicitors to act on behalf of clients. Around 80 per cent of barristers are self-employed and work in offices called chambers. Others are employed in government departments and agencies such as the Crown Prosecution Service. Some work in public organisations like charities. 

Minimum salaries for graduates undertaking pupillage (the final stage of qualification for the Bar) is £18,866 per year in London and £16,633 outside of London. However, this can quickly rise. Qualified barristers with around five years' experience can earn between £50,000 and £200,000, and those with ten years’ experience can earn between £65,000 and £1,000,000.

However, earnings for self-employed barristers can vary significantly depending on a range of factors. Solicitors and barristers can be appointed on merit as judges if they have suitable experience later on in their careers. 

Legal executive

Legal executives carry out similar tasks to solicitors but specialise in one area of law such as family law, personal injury claims or conveyancing (home buying/selling). Fully qualified chartered legal executive lawyers can have their own clients and represent them in court, and can become judges, coroners, advocates and partners in law firms.

Starting salaries are usually £15,000 – £28,000 per year while you qualify. Once qualified and after three years relevant work experience, legal executives can expect to earn £35,000 – £55,000.

Paralegal

Paralegals help lawyers in their work, but don’t give advice directly to clients. The average salary for a graduate paralegal ranges from £18,000 to  £25,000 per year.

Mediators and Arbitrators

Arbitration and mediation are alternative ways to resolve disputes, without going to court. Arbitrators and mediators are neutral, which means they will not take sides and cannot provide advice but they will reach a decision after hearing from both sides of the dispute.

Salaries for accredited mediators with less than five years' experience are between £17,000 and £22,000. Experienced mediators may be able to earn up to £35,000 a year.

The course is very interactive. We have been able to engage with lawyers on a practical scale. I have had the opportunity to take part in the practical lawyer unit which enables me to engage directly in the field of legal advice which has greatly boosted my confidence as an individual and guided me in choosing a career path.

Patricia Asekenye, LLB (Hons) Law

Using your law degree for public good

It’s not all about the money as many law graduates use their skills and knowledge for public good on issues such as the environment, human rights, immigration, welfare and data protection. There are many career opportunities in advocacy at non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as Amnesty International and Friends of the Earth, and graduate schemes at public institutions such as:

NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme

The NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme attracts law graduates to train as NHS leaders in management, human resources, finance, policy or data analytics. The starting salary for trainees is £25,368, with the opportunity for a 5 per cent increase after 12 months.

Civil Service Fast Stream

The Civil Service Fast Stream trains you to support the central government in implementing national policies. The scheme has a starting salary of between £27,000 – £28,000, and has been rated as the Number 1 Graduate Employer by The Times for the third year running.

LGA National Graduate Development Programme

The Local Government Association’s National Graduate Development Programme is a two-year management development programme with a minimum starting salary of £25,991 for graduates from any degree discipline to support and improve local government within areas such as corporate, HR, finance, IT and legal services.

Studying for a degree in law is exciting as there are so many opportunities available after you graduate. It’s intellectually and analytically demanding and you’ll need to develop an ability to express yourself clearly and persuasively. These are skills which are highly sought after by many employers, giving you opportunities to be rewarded with a high-salaried career as well as make a positive change for the public good.

Caroline Baynes, Senior Teaching Fellow at Portsmouth Law School

Other careers you can have with a law degree

There are many career options available to you beyond the legal profession as many employers accept applications from graduates with any degree subject. Here are just a few examples:

Finance or banking 

You don’t need a maths degree to be a success in ‘The City’ as there are a variety of roles within top firms which would suit a law graduate, particularly in financial law and international trade.

Data analyst

Attention to detail, being highly organised and a good communicator are essential skills for data analysts. These are the same skills that you develop on a law degree. Data analysts are much sought after in a range of sectors including pharmaceuticals, manufacturing, marketing, government, education, finance and consulting. 

Human resources

Many law graduates venture into the management and development of staff at organisations. Depending on the size of the organisation, you could work across a range of areas or specialise in a particular field such as working practices and policies, conditions of employment, pay and rewards and equality and diversity.
 

Caroline Baynes is a Senior Teaching Fellow at Portsmouth Law School. Before joining the University of Portsmouth, she taught A level law and worked as an in-house lawyer for a number of high-tech companies specialising in contract and commercial law