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The Oracle

Turning from science to law

updated on 24 September 2013

Dear Oracle

I graduated this summer with a master's in physics and am now planning on going into law. As part of my research into firms, I looked at the backgrounds of practitioners and found that scientist-turned-solicitors are few and far between (apart from in certain niche areas such as patent law). Does my background put me at a disadvantage or could my uniqueness be a benefit?

The Oracle replies

As you've noticed, a science background is very useful in fields such as intellectual property; this is an area of law you should think about as it makes sense to seek a career in a specialisation in which you have expertise that you know is coveted by law firms. Why not try to get work experience in the field to find out whether this is an area that would appeal to you? (Work placement deadlines located here for your convenience…)

When it comes to why, in general, relatively few lawyers seem to come from science backgrounds, the answer may simply be that scientists don't want to become lawyers! Perhaps those who choose to study science-based subjects do so as a route to careers more directly related to their degree - research or teaching, for example. Of course, there is the possibility that scientists are queuing round the block to train as lawyers, but are having no luck (although we'd be surprised if this were the case). Nevertheless, we think that your background is unlikely to be a barrier to the profession, if you otherwise have a good degree from a reputable university, legal work experience and solid reasons for seeking a career as a lawyer.

However, we are only speculating. For a definitive answer, can we point you in the direction of members of the profession or legal recruiters, who are better placed to advise you on the reality of the situation? You could go along to a university law fair (they take place nationwide every autumn) where you'll find legal recruiters aplenty or call up the human resources department of a couple of law firms that particularly appeal to you.