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The Oracle

What career choices do I have with a law degree?

updated on 05 April 2022

Dear Oracle

I’m about to graduate from my law degree but don’t want to work at a law firm. What are my options?

The Oracle replies

Reading time: four minutes

Having a law degree opens a range of possible careers, not just the traditional lawyer route. According to a Prospects 2021 table, 46.4% of law graduates are working in legal, social and welfare, 13.2% work as secretarial and numerical clerks, 10.3% work in business, HR and finance, and 7% work in retail and catering.

Considering what to do with your law degree, read this LCN Says: ‘What should I do with my law degree?

These statistics show that there are a plethora of options available to law graduates, so you are not limited to a legal career just because you studied law at university.

In-house

If you would like to stay close to law, you could work as an in-house lawyer for a company or public sector organisation. In-house lawyers are a group of solicitors and barristers who have opted to move into the industry from previous careers in private practice.

Not sure how to get started? Read this LCN Says by an in-house lawyer: ‘How to land in-house legal training’.

Many companies have in-house legal teams to handle their day-to-day matters and increasingly only use law firms for specialist advice. Lawyers also work across the public sector, for example, for government departments or NHS trusts.

Unsure whether to go into private practice or in-house? Read this LCN Says: ‘Private practice of in-house? Finding the right legal work environment’.

We’ve seen a rise in companies offering in-house training contracts, from the BBC to Vodafone, so it’s possible to go straight from your Legal Practice Course (LPC) into your in-house career, or complete your LPC part-time while training. That said, the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), which will replace the LPC, will change the way in-house lawyers qualify, with new programmes likely to be launched to offer various pathways into the profession. It’s likely that the in-house training you complete will count towards the qualifying work experience aspect of the SQE. It’s important to check with individual employers to see how they’re adapting this new route to qualification.

See the Law Society’s in-house division for articles and webinars on how to kickstart your in-house career.

Legal journalism

If you enjoy writing, why not go into legal journalism? Most law graduates have in common the ability to read complex jargon and turn it into something coherent and concise. Writing clearly and succinctly is a skill that law students are taught in their undergraduate and postgraduate studies.

Therefore, many law graduates venture into editorial or research analyst roles for companies like Lexology, Lexis Nexis, Chambers and Partners and Thomson Reuters. This role typically requires you to be on top of your commercial awareness. You’re constantly sharpening your writing, editorial, and analysis skills and developing your legal sector knowledge.

You’re in a unique position with access to press releases from law firms and the Law Society, you’re one of the first ones to know when a firm has officially merged and with who and you get to scope out interesting news stories to share with aspiring lawyers.

Alternative careers

But in-house and legal journalism aren’t the only options – there are many other career paths to pursue with your legal qualifications. LCN’s alternative careers section has information about a range of careers in which legal qualifications and experience are valuable, including in the Crown Prosecution ServiceGovernment Legal Profession, in a law centre or as a licensed conveyancer.

Head to LawCareers.Net’s alternative careers section for information on career paths outside the law for candidates with legal qualifications.

Check out LCN’s Jobs page for in-house positions to apply to or use the training contract search and filter for in-house training contracts.

Careers in finance, the civil service or insurance are all possible with a legal background. Legal publishing (eg, working for LCN’s sister brand, Lexology) is another possibility for law graduates who don’t want to go into practice right away.

Many of the skills developed as a trainee – commercial awareness, client networking, project management – are transferable to all kinds of positions and industries, so consider what it is about the job that you enjoy.

Check out LCN’s commercial awareness hub to sharpen your commercial awareness.

For example, do you enjoy:

  • communicating with clients;
  • learning about different industries;
  • researching different points of law; or
  • the business development aspect?

Interested in business development? Read this LCN Says: ‘Business development: what’s all the fuss about?

Identify what you look forward to doing during your working day and think about the types of jobs beyond law that may offer the same stimulus and require your experience and expertise.

HR is also a possibility – some graduate recruiters started out as lawyers. Many got to the point of being a trainee or a few years post-qualification before realising that recruitment (particularly graduate recruitment) within a law firm was what really sparked their interest. Their expertise, having sat on the other side of the recruiting desk, is invaluable when it comes to recruiting and guiding the next generation of lawyers.

Check out LCN’s Meet the Recruiter profiles, for insights into law firms' graduate recruitment.