Alternative careers in and around the law

Non-law-related positions

Civil servant

There are opportunities throughout the civil service, some of which are particularly appropriate to holders of a law degree. Law graduates may wish to pursue a career in the Home or Foreign Offices, or the Ministry of JusticeHM Revenue & Customs employs tax inspectors and those with an ability to understand the intricacies of tax law would be especially appropriate for such jobs. The UK Border Agency also welcomes applications from those with a legal background.

The Civil Service Fast Stream is an accelerated training scheme for graduates wishing to join the Civil Service. For more detail, visit the website.

European civil servant

While no one can be sure what the implications of Brexit will be, at the time of writing (December 2016) the European Commission continues to advertise for law graduates to work in its directorates. To get a taste of what that might be like, the commission offers five-month periods of in-service training ('stages') for people who have recently obtained a university degree/diploma. The European Parliament, the Council, the European Commission, the European Court of Justice, the Social and Economic Committee, the Committee of the Regions and the European Ombudsman all organise traineeships, each lasting between three and five months.

The programme has been running for nearly 50 years and tens of thousands of people have benefited – in fact, many of them have gone on to become European civil servants and even European commissioners. For more information, contact the European Commission’s London office.

Finance

Banks are keen to recruit law graduates, as are building societies, stockbrokers and related professions. Those who thrive in a competitive and high-pressure environment may find a financial services or City career attractive and well worth investigating. Most of the leading financial institutions offer summer work placement programmes, which are a good starting point for you to explore this as a career option.

Similarly, many accountancy firms recruit law students to specialise in tax work because, arguably, there are few differences between the job of a tax accountant and a tax lawyer.

Accountancy exams are tough but the potential rewards – both professional and financial – are excellent. A move into accountancy also offers the opportunity to branch out into other careers (with positions in industry, management and consultancy). For further details of careers in accountancy, contact the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales or the Chartered Institute of Taxation. For a comprehensive list of accountancy terms, see the Arnold Hill & Co glossary.

Insurance

Most insurance companies will find a legal training extremely valuable in their claims departments, especially so if you have a background in insurance law or have taken an insurance paper/module at university or law school. Many of the skills required to succeed in the law – meticulous attention to detail, methodical approach to problems, excellent client skills – will transfer very neatly to the insurance industry. For more detail on how to become a part of the insurance industry, contact the Association of British Insurers or the British Insurance Law Association.

Publishing and media

Writing about the law can be a creative way in which to use your legal knowledge. Specialist publishers occasionally advertise for law graduates or qualified lawyers to train as legal editors. There is a wide variety of potential employers, ranging from international publishing houses with large legal departments to small companies that produce legal news, reference works and directories. In addition, a number of international law firms have publishing departments that provide newsletters and briefings for clients.

Newspapers, and television and radio stations, all employ legal correspondents. Here, an understanding of how the law works is invaluable.

Academic

The world of academia beckons many who have studied law, perhaps gone on to do a master's degree or higher, and found that learning about and teaching the subject of law is preferable to practising it. Many lecturers and tutors at universities and postgraduate providers were once practising solicitors and barristers. More general legal research and/or analysis are also worth considering as career options.

Coroner

Coroners are employed by local government. To qualify, you must be a solicitor, barrister or doctor, and you must have five years' experience in that field. Coroners inquire into deaths within their own geographic areas when the death is thought to be unnatural, unexpected or where the cause of death is unknown or violent. For more detail on what the job involves and how to become a coroner, visit the website of the Coroners' Society of England and Wales.

Police officer

Those with a keen interest in law and order may wish to consider joining the police force; opportunities abound for graduates to achieve accelerated promotion within it. For further details, take a look at the website.

Private investigator

A legal background may be useful for people considering a career as a private investigator. For example, investigators are often used in insolvency proceedings to establish the financial position of a person or company that might be wound up/made insolvent. For more detail, see the Association of British Investigators.

Community worker

This is a broad field, but certainly within government and local authorities, or community groups, the need for advisers with a legal background can be very useful indeed. Such areas where it may come in particularly handy include social and probation work, housing, trading standards, and planning and environmental health.