Becoming a solicitor with a science background
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I graduated last summer with a master's in physics and am now planning on going into law. During my research it seemed 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
There are actually quite a few lawyers with science backgrounds out there, working in a range of legal practice areas. Far from being a disadvantage, a science degree is evidence that you are literate, numerate and have good analytical skills – all of which are excellent attributes for a lawyer. As you have noticed, a science background may be particularly useful in fields such as intellectual property (IP), where an understanding of the science underpinning a patented product can improve your ability to provide excellent legal advice. However, a science background does not limit you to IP – your skills are transferable to many different areas of law.
Your background will not be a barrier to the profession, if you otherwise have a good degree from a reputable university, legal work experience and can convincingly articulate your reasons for seeking a career as a lawyer. Remember also that most firms offer around 50% of their training contracts to those from non-law backgrounds.
You should continue your research by meeting members of the legal profession (lawyers as well as law firm recruiters) face to face. A good way to do that this term would be to attend a university law fair, where you will find legal recruiters aplenty. You could also call the human resources departments of a couple of law firms that particularly appeal to you.
By conducting thorough research, you will also be able to identify several firms that have a strong tendency to welcome candidates specifically from a broad range of scientific backgrounds. Law firms now operate in sector groups and given that you have knowledge of a particular sector, this could be of huge importance to a number of firms. Your ability to understand a client’s business could be your great commercial advantage.
Concentrate on demonstrating your dedication to the legal profession. Think how to answer why, after completing a physics masters, do you want to practise law? What skills have you developed that will enhance your legal career? What can you offer a law firm? So long as you can demonstrate that you are a good candidate, your background will not be a stumbling block to success.
It is perfectly possible to become a lawyer without doing a law degree, and studying a different subject at undergraduate level is no disadvantage at all in the eyes of recruiters. For sound advice and to find out more about the opportunities available, head to our dedicated zone for non-law students.
And read our Feature on becoming a lawyer without a law degree, which includes tips from lawyers who made the move successfully from a range of academic backgrounds.