Getting into a Law career

March 2023

Tips to help you navigate legal careers and pathways into them

Legal careers are commonly covered by our career advisers in one-to-one careers guidance meetings. Many students are drawn to this area of work due to the continued growth in the UK legal market, the good earning potential, a diverse range of specialities and the opportunity to help others.

Written by Kelly Cumming, our blog this month explores the many occupations in Law, the benefits of working in the sector and how to find the edge to get into this field of work. Kelly is a Careers Adviser with FutureSmart Careers and also has a strong background as a Law careers consultant with a leading Russell Group university.

So what jobs are there in Law? 

When people think about jobs in Law, the roles of ‘Solicitor’ and ‘Barrister’ typically come to mind. However, there are many different jobs in the Law profession across a range of specialisms and disciplines. There are roles that provide direct legal advice and assistance to clients or jobs that involve the coordination of an organisation’s administration, business and compliance activities. What is more, there are jobs that can be attained through an apprenticeship and do not require a university degree. The following links share invaluable insights:

What about the different areas of Law?

When considering a career pathway in Law, our first tip to students is to research the many different areas of Law. By investigating a range of legal practice areas, you could open up a world of opportunity not considered before and, in turn, shape a different future career path. 

Expectation vs. Reality

The reality of working in Law can be very different to what is portrayed in media, films and on TV. The hard truth is that the hours are often long, workload and client expectations can be challenging and there is often lots of reading - so you need to be prepared to balance your work life and personal life.  

Still here? OK, great!

Although there are a few downsides (but what area of work doesn’t have these!), there are many advantages and rewards to weigh up. Not only a lucrative sector, many organisations also operate in a competitive international legal market and have overseas offices with the chance to travel and work abroad and build expertise and knowledge – making a CV sparkle!

Legal careers are well known for offering intellectual rewards. So, if you are in pursuit of gaining knowledge and enjoy using analytical, creative, linear, illogical and rational thinking, then a career in Law could be for you!

Further, due to a healthy demand for professionals in different legal areas, job stability is another significant positive. Also, there can be lots of opportunities to grow - many organisations offer training, mentoring and career progression programmes to help employees achieve their potential.

Which skills are needed for careers in Law?

Legal employers often look for candidates with good academic achievements and strong soft skills. Hard skills are also embraced by many organisations and employers can seek candidates with the capability to perform job-specific tasks, for example LexisNexis is a legal and regulatory intelligence platform that many law firms like employees to learn and use quickly. The Lawyer Portal and Prospects provides further information on skills needed for Law.

What is commercial awareness?

Commercial awareness is widely required by the Law profession but what does this mean? Broadly speaking, It is the ability to have up-to-date knowledge of current affairs, issues and trends that influence business, commerce, the marketplace and legal sector on a local, national and international level. There is no textbook on gaining commercial awareness but tips and suggestions include: reading news articles, company and legal blogs, legal newsletters, Government policy changes; watching TV programmes; and listening to business and legal podcasts. It is best to start gaining commercial awareness early on to enable you to keep abreast of social, political and economic developments and become business savvy.

Is work experience important?

Yes! In an increasingly competitive job market, work experience is essential. While many legal employers desire candidates to have legal work experience, they also understand that it can be difficult for people to get it.  We would encourage students to find other forms of work experience which can be just as powerful such as part-time work, volunteering, project work, clubs/societies (such as a member or captain of a sports team), work shadowing, insight events, company open days, internships and virtual work experience. Through non-legal work experience, you can develop the all important skills needed for Law. In addition, many law firms offer vacation schemes and a number of barristers’ chambers offer mini-pupillages, but be warned the opportunity to complete these before university are rare. You can search for vacation schemes and mini pupillages via and

If you haven’t heard of Watson Glaser tests, read on!

As part of the recruitment selection process for legal jobs, some organisations may require candidates to take a psychometric test called the Watson Glaser test. This aims to assess candidates’ critical thinking skills and, on initial glance, taking the test can seem scary and it may take you a while to understand what is expected of you. But, as the saying goes, ‘practice makes perfect’! To access some free tests, the following will provide a good starting point:

Can I get an apprenticeship in Law?

Yes indeed! There are a number of apprenticeships in Law and they are a nationally recognised way to gain the skills and qualifications needed to qualify in a range of Law professions whilst earning money and not paying tuition fees. Law apprenticeships are available in different levels but the apprenticeship level you take will be wholly dependent on the profession you are training for and the qualification/s needed. Prospects provides a useful guide on Law apprenticeships and explains what apprenticeships are available and the level and duration of apprenticeship programmes. More information on Law apprenticeships and apprenticeship vacancies can be found via the following:

What are Magic Circle and Silver Circle law firms?

Coined in the 1990s, the terms ‘Magic Circle’ and ‘Silver Circle’ are used to describe the highest performing and most prestigious law firms in the UK - with Silver Circle firms falling just below Magic Circle organisations. For many, working for a Magic Circle and Silver Circle law firm is an ultimate career goal due to firms’ renowned reputations for excellence and success. Both Magic Circle and Silver Circle firms are competitive to secure a place at but are recognised as the elite and best firms in the country.

New Solictitors Qualifying Exam

On 1st September 2021, a new training route for aspiring solicitors was introduced. Termed The Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), it is a new centralised way to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales and will eventually replace the original Legal Practice Course (LPC) and Training Contract route. Although the LPC/Training Contract route is still available, it is only accessible to people who have a university degree and have completed, started, accepted an offer or paid a non-refundable deposit on a qualifying law degree (such as the LLB or GDL) by 2021. It is anticipated that the SQE will fully replace the LPC/Training Contract route by the end of 2032.

While the transition from the LPC/Training Contract to SQE will take some time, many law firms are taking steps to change their solicitor ‘route to qualification’ programmes. For example, Kennedys has set up a SQE training programme that will allow aspiring solicitors to start working towards their SQE qualification immediately after university.

Where to find out more about legal careers

Navigating legal careers and pathways to them can feel like an overwhelming task. Please take reassurance that many people feel like this. It can be very helpful to speak to legal professionals and keep up to date with trends in the sector. To help you with this, the following websites will provide you with some useful information:

  • Targetjobs Law - information on legal news, training opportunities and work experience.
  • The Lawyer - legal news, tips and the offer of regular email updates.
  • All About Law - a forum, blogs and specialist articles for aspiring lawyers.
  • Law and Legal - details on law firms plus a careers section and information on specialist legal employment agencies.
  • The Lawyer Portal - a resource for everyone considering a career in law, whatever their stage or background.
  • Vantage - a platform to connect with legal employers and information on work experience, vacation schemes, insight days and much more.
  • Next City Lawyer - run by qualified lawyers, a website which shares insiders’ perspectives on working in the field of law.