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The Oracle

What career choices do I have with a law degree?

updated on 25 April 2023

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 and career paths, not just the traditional lawyer route (ie, private practice). According to a Prospects 2023 table, 43% of law graduates are working in legal, social and welfare, 14.2% are involved in clerical, secretarial and administrative work, 12.1% work retail, catering and customer service, 8.7% work in business, HR and finance and 22% fall into the other category.

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’s a plethora of options available to law graduates, so you’re not limited to a legal career in private practice just because you studied law at university.


If you’d like to stay in law but aren’t enamoured by a career in private practice, working as an in-house lawyer for a company or public sector organisation could be a great option for you. Unlike lawyers working in private practice, whose firm will be appointed by clients, in-house lawyers work directly for their employer and carry out legal work for them.

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

There are plenty of companies that now offer in-house training contracts/programmes, from the BBC to McDonald’s and Sky, so it’s possible to go straight from your Legal Practice Course (LPC) (if you meet the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) transitional arrangements) into your in-house career, or complete your LPC part-time while training.

Aspiring in-house lawyers who don’t meet the SRA’s transitional arrangements will qualify via the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE). The introduction of the SQE is set to make training and qualifying as an in-house lawyer that bit easier. In the past, it’s been common for aspiring in-house lawyers to train in private practice before moving in-house – in fact the Law Society’s Annual Statistics Report 2020 shows that while 23.7% of practice certificate holders worked in-house, only around 10% of trainees were in-house.

The flexibility that now comes with the SQE’s qualifying work experience (QWE) requirement means there’s no longer a minimum seat length requirement, or a requirement for trainees to complete contentious or non-contentious work, for example, and it can be built up in a variety of organisations as long as candidates are seen to be developing some or all of the competencies on the SRA’s statement of solicitor competence. The work you do on an in-house training programme will vary depending on the organisation and the work they do, but if you’re keen to work for a well-known brand or public organisation on a broad range of legal issues, this could be an option for you.

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’.

The Government Legal Service also offers in-house training contracts in its various apartments, including the Government Legal Department, the National Crime Agency and the Competition and Markets Authority.

In an article for the Law Society, legal counsel at Trustpilot Lizzy Lim says: “I am yet to come across an in-house team who would not be able to offer the key attributes that will need to be met in QWE, such as interacting with stakeholders, seeing how solicitors work in practice, opportunity to consider ethical challenges and developing the necessary competences”.

As ever, it’s important to check with individual employers to see how they’re adopting the SQE.

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, you could consider 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. This role typically requires you to be on top of your commercial awareness. You’re constantly sharpening your writing, editorial, and analytical 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

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 various career paths 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 also possible with a legal background.

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 you enjoy.

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

For example, do you like:

  • 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?

If you’re really not set out on a career in the legal profession, identify what you look forward to doing during your working day and think about the types of job beyond law that may offer the same stimulus and require your experience and expertise.

HR is also a possibility – some law firm 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.