How to start a career in law (if you’re changing careers)

Want to get on the right side of the law? It’s time to take the stand… 

Whether you’re just starting out in the world of work, or you’re looking to change careers, a career in law might be more attainable than you think. You just need to figure out which path is right for you. 

We spoke to The University of LawThe University of Law, the UK’s longest-established specialist provider of legal education and training in the UK, to get their advice on how to start a career in law: 


What skills do I need to start a career in law? 

A job in law requires a certain set of skills – from verbal and written reasoning skills to the ability to analyse information and solve problems. 

Here are a few of the key skills you’ll need to demonstrate to employers: 

  • Inductive and deductive reasoning abilities 
  • Commercial awareness 
  • Creative problem solving skills 
  • Verbal and written communication skills 
  • Teamwork skills, and the ability to take on all points of view
  • Research, interpretation, and analysis skills 
  • The ability to work under pressure 
  • Attention to detail and a meticulous work ethic

These can be gained from a number of places, whether it’s from your current or previous job role (cue: transferable skills), from your education, or via your hobbies and interests


Do I need work experience to start a career in law? 

In addition to academic qualifications, relevant work experience is also an essential requirement for most legal roles – especially if you want to be a solicitor or a barrister

Not only will it allow you to gain insights into what a career in law would actually be like, it’ll also enable you to develop the required skills to succeed.

This can be something you carry out before or during your studies, whether it’s applying for work placements and mini-pupillages, or even organising informal work experience with high street legal firms. 

Getting involved with your university’s debating or law society, carrying out pro bono work, and court marshalling are also great ways to gain valuable legal experience. 


What qualifications do I need to start a career in law? 

The qualifications you’ll need will depend on the role you’re looking to pursue. 

But whether you want to become a solicitor or a barrister, the first step you’ll need to take is to complete a qualifying law degree (LLB). 

Or, if you already have a degree in a non-law subject, you can take a conversion course, such as the Postgraduate Diploma in Law (Conversion) or study for a Master’s Degree, such as The Master of Arts in Law (MA Conversion).

Following this, your path will depend on the route you take. For example: 


If you want to become a solicitor… 

There are currently two ways to qualify as a solicitor:

If you’ve already started a law degree or GDL, you can take the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and carry out a training contract with a law firm.

If you have a degree in a subject other than law, you can take the newly introduced Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) route, which includes Qualifying Work Experience (QWE). 

It’s important to have the skills that law firms are looking for as well as the qualifications, so ULaw recommends a comprehensive course like the LLM Legal Practice (SQE1&2), which not only prepares students to pass SQE1 and SQE2, but also trains them in the enhanced skills and competencies that legal recruiters value.

Find the right route for you with ULaw’s quiz


If you want to become a barrister… 

Qualifying to become a barrister involves three stages of training. These are: 

  • The academic component – a law degree 
  • The vocational component – Bar Practice Course (BPC)
  • The work-based learning component – pupillage

Once you’ve completed all of the above, you’ll be able to apply to become a barrister. 


Whilst these are the most traditional routes for solicitors and barristers, there are also apprenticeships and professional qualifications available, which allow you to work while you study. 


Do I need a law degree to start a career in law? 

Whilst you’ll need a degree to start your legal career, it doesn’t have to be in law. 

Undergrads of any subject can take a conversion course like the Postgraduate Diploma in Law (Conversion), or study for a Master’s Degree, such as The Master of Arts in Law (MA Conversion) to gain the same level of qualification as a law graduate – and your chances of getting hired won’t be affected.

In fact, students with different academic backgrounds often have a more diverse set of skills, which can be particularly attractive to legal employers – especially if your degree is related to law in some way. For example, an English degree will teach you both written and verbal communication skills – which are essential for a legal career. 


What area of law could I work in?

Because there are so many areas of law, aspiring solicitors or barristers can choose to pursue a role in an industry they’re passionate about. 

Here are just a few of areas of law you could work in: 

  • Environmental law 
  • Commercial law
  • Family law 
  • Corporate law 
  • Construction law 
  • Criminal law 
  • Banking law
  • Human rights law 
  • Employment law
  • Immigration law 


What legal job could I do?

Whilst the route of becoming a solicitor or barrister might be the most commonly pursued (and most well-known) paths, they’re certainly not the only ones on offer. 

Here are some of the most popular legal jobs: 

  • Bailiff 
  • Family Mediator
  • Immigration Officer
  • Company Secretary
  • Legal Secretary
  • Crown Prosecutor
  • Judge
  • Probation Officer
  • Patent Attorney
  • Forensic Scientist/Psychologist
  • Magistrate
  • Court Usher
  • Paralegal
  • Trading Standards Officer
  • Tax Inspector
  • Equalities Officer


Why study with the University of Law? 

The University of Law is the UK’s largest and longest-established specialist provider of legal education and training, offering a range of postgraduate legal training and Master’s degrees designed by qualified lawyers.

Their courses are employment-focused, honing key skills in a teaching environment based on real legal practice. 

Here are a few more benefits of studying with the University of Law

  • Flexible study options: choose to study full-time or part-time at one of their locations nationwide (or in Hong Kong), or online
  • Expert legal careers and employability service: receive access to award-winning careers support from before you apply until after you graduate
  • Award-winning pro bono team: access over 3,000 opportunities to work on real cases while you’re studying
  • Impressive employability record: 95% of 2018/19 full-time, UK, LPC graduates in employment were in highly skilled occupations within 15 months of completing their course
  • Various funding options available and up to £2million fund available across all law programmes, including full-fee scholarships.
  • The UK’s largest legal alumni group: over 80,000 members, giving students excellent networking opportunities



Find out more



Want to learn more about how a law qualification could help your career? Enquire now.



The University of Law is the UK’s longest-established specialist provider of legal education and training, offering a range of postgraduate legal training.


Amber Rolfe

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