Government lawyers provide a range of legal services to a number of government organisations, including central Whitehall departments. They undertake interesting and high quality legal work and have the opportunity to move around and work in different areas of law and practice, and within different departments, throughout their careers. For those who choose to specialise in a particular area of law or practice, there are opportunities to do so. The benefits of working as a lawyer within government include a good work life balance; flexible-working opportunities; an attractive pension scheme; and access to high quality training programmes. The Government Legal Profession supports the aim of the wider civil service to be the UK’s most inclusive employer. This means providing a great place to work for all.
Whether the government is creating new laws, buying goods and services, investigating mergers which could restrict competition, setting the annual budget and collecting the right amount of tax, employing people, fighting organised crime or defending its decisions in court, it needs significant levels of legal advice on a whole range of complex issues.
Government departments are looking to recruit talented people from a wide range of backgrounds, who can demonstrate the type of skills and behaviours required for the role. For example, the ability to make effective decisions and to communicate effectively. And because the work is often high profile and can have a significant and positive impact upon the lives of millions across the country, the legal trainees they recruit will be motivated about public service.
The training period will be for two years. During the pupillage period (ie first 12 months) your time will be split between your department and a set of external barristers’ chambers. The departments which typically offer trainee barrister places are the Government Legal Department (GLD) and HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC). Departments aim to offer a permanent qualified lawyer position on successful completion of training, although this can never be guaranteed.
Recruitment is usually two years in advance. However, some trainee places tend to be available for those looking to start sooner. Online ability tests and a half-day assessment centre have been used in previous years to assess the essential skills and behaviours required for the role. Please check the website for full details when the application process opens, usually in early July.
Generally departments will pay your Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) or Legal Practice Course fees (LPC) in full, where you have not started the course at the time of accepting an offer. There is no preference to which bar school or law school you attend, or, to the electives you undertake as part of the course. You may also be eligible for a grant of about £5,400 (national) to £7,600 (London) for the vocational year if you intend to study for your BPTC or LPC on a full-time, or part-time, basis. You’ll need to discuss your eligibility for a grant with the department at the offer stage. Unfortunately, departments will be unable to provide funding for the Graduate Diploma in Law.
Administrative & public law
The public law Bar spans the full range of administrative, public and constitutional law.
Civil law encompasses a very broad range of legal issues, including those relating to contract, tort, probate and trusts.
Competition and regulatory work involves a mixture of commercial, public and European law.
European Union and international
Employment barristers may appear before the International Court of Justice, the European Court of Human Rights, international tribunals and domestic courts.
Immigration lawyers deal with all legal matters relating to immigration and nationality.
IP barristers advise on issues that range from commercial exploitation and infringement disputes to IP rights in large commercial transactions.
Personal injury law falls under the law of tort and involves civil claims brought to obtain compensation for injuries.
Planning law regulates the way property owners use and develop their property in the interests of the wider community.
Whether it’s EU-originated, domestic or an industry code of conduct, regulation affects all aspects of civil life and commercial activity.