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Alternative careers in and around the law

Government Legal Profession

The Government Legal Profession (GLP) comprises more than 2,000 lawyers who are employed within a range of departments, agencies and public bodies. They provide a comprehensive range of legal services to the government of the day. All GLP posts are open to both solicitors and barristers.

What’s the role of the GLP lawyer?

There’s a huge amount of legal work generated by the government in all the major areas of law, including as it relates to the private sector (eg, advisory and litigation services), as well as in a wide range of specialisms (eg, European, employment, commercial, social security and tax laws). In addition, the GLP has unique responsibilities, including the following examples.


GLP lawyers advise ministers and policy administrators on the implications of changes to the law, instruct parliamentary counsel on the preparation of bills, provide advice to ministers during debates and draft subordinate legislation as necessary.


Government decisions can be subject to judicial review, and it’s therefore crucial that sound legal advice is on hand at all stages of the policy formulation process. Government provide advice on whether a policy can be introduced under existing legislation and support the preparing of proposals for new laws, among other things.


GLP lawyers handle civil and criminal litigation from national security and human rights to judicial review, in all courts up to the Supreme Court, sometimes with constitutional implications.

It’s almost impossible to attempt to list or categorise the variety of work that the GLP is involved in. In short, legal teams vary in size from three lawyers in smaller regulatory bodies to around 2,000 in the largest (Government Legal Department). Government departments employ lawyers of varied experience, from trainees to those who are highly experienced. The legal teams are made up of litigators, advisers, drafters and/or specialists.

Why join the GLP?

The GLP differs from private practice quite considerably. The work offers a different perspective and intellectual stimulus. The objective is the public good and GLP lawyers can make a positive contribution to the wellbeing of the country. Its lawyers also have the chance to move jobs every few years. This can mean not only a change of job, but also a change of department and even specialism, which ensures that the lawyers build broad skill sets.

They’re supported in this by an excellent training programme, which draws on the experience of senior government lawyers, as well as academics and other leading figures in particular fields of the law.

The morale and individual wellbeing of its lawyers is important to the GLP and to that end, its legal departments offer flexible working patterns (eg, part-time work and job-shares) and family-friendly policies.

To gain an insight into mental health and the legal profession, read this LCN Says, ‘Take care of your wellbeing: establish healthy habits early on’.

Career paths

Generally, trainee solicitors will be allocated to one of the recruiting departments (eg, GLD) and training will vary depending on the assigned department. Trainees will gain a broad view of government legal work. Any previous qualifying work experience (QWE) will not count and trainees will be required to completed the full two-year training contracts or QWE offered.  

Pupil barristers divide the pupillage period between a chambers and the government department they’re assigned to; and spend the remainder of the training period within their department. Trainees and pupils are involved in the whole range of work conducted by their department, including high-profile matters, under the supervision of senior colleagues.

Find out more about the training schemes on offer and how to apply via the government website.

GLP lawyers are offered career development, combined with a clear grading structure, and high-quality training, allowing lawyers to progress to higher levels at a pace determined by their own performance. Sustained good performance is rewarded by additional salary increments.

Lawyers also can move between different areas of law and practice within their department or even to other departments, to gain wider experience.

From 2023 onwards, the GLP will offer the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) route to qualification. The GLP will pay for the Legal Practice Course and Bar course fees in full. Information on whether it’ll fund parts or all of the SQE hasn’t been released yet.

To find out more about what the GLP can offer you, visit our GLP directory page.