Careers in Law can be very different depending on the type you practice and the size of the firm you join. Solicitors tend to be the first port of call for legal matters whether personal or corporate and they liaise with clients to try and resolve their problems or provide a legal framework for something they want to achieve.
Barristers are called in by solicitors for their expertise in a particular area of the law or to argue a case in court. That said, the distinction between the two is narrowing slightly due to the increasing scope for solicitors to conduct their own litigation.
Like many of the professions, law offers a great deal of flexibility in terms of where you practice so you don’t have to be in the centre of a large city to have a successful career. You can practice in large firms servicing business, within the businesses themselves as an in-house lawyer or at a high street practice overseeing the matters of private individuals.
It’s worth bearing in mind that the type of firm and specialty of law you practice will have a huge impact on what your daily life is like. A private equity solicitor in a magic circle firm is going to be spending a lot more time in the office than a high street solicitor. Commercial barristers were one of the biggest shocks to us. We hadn’t quite grasped just how individual the job is and the huge hours it demands. A 6 day working week appears very standard.
Law is well known as a lucrative industry and many firms seem to have coped with the credit crunch well. As a guide, if you’re a solicitor in a top 50 city firm then on your first rotation expect a salary in the £35-40,000 range. Newly qualified's will be in the sixties and three year post qualified can be anywhere from £80-110K. Salaries in the smaller high-street firms are quite a bit lower. Barristers are self-employed so their income can vary hugely but the industry stars could give David Beckham a run for his money.
To find out more about graduate jobs in law, check out the videos below:
Graduate Jobs as a Trainee Solicitor
Graduate Jobs as a Barrister
Graduate Jobs in Law
My name is Mark Humphries, i'm a barrister and i currently work for the CPS. I'm Geoffery Kelly and I'm a barrister. My name is Karen Robinson i'm a trainee solicitor at a London city firm called Freshfields. My name is Nigel Rawding i am a disputes partner. My name is Marie Scott, i'm a partner in a law firm called Nabarro. My name is Dhruti Gore and i'm an associate in the corporate department.
It's not Ally McBeal and it's not all about court rooms and barristers and people going around in funny wigs and gowns. My involvement and what is the law for me, is really about applying legal principles and a legal framework to facilitating a business transaction or a business deal.
It's the regulation of society really. It's the way in which we decide what people can and can't do. It's a set of rules that apply to everybody that give us a structure.
At university I was asked quite early on by my tutors whether I thought I wanted to be a solicitor or a barrister and I went off and researched the points and tried to work out what characteristics of each of those you need to have. Being a barrister and standing up in court which is the initial perception you have of being a barrister, being an advocate wasn't something that appealed to me and I think you have to be quite confident in your public speaking skills.
Most instructions for barristers come via a solicitor, and the solicitor will only instruct a barrister if it is something which the solicitor can't deal with his or herself, so you are being brought in to bring to bear your expertise on a certain area of law.
Being a barrister means going to court, representing defendants or prosecuting on behalf of the crown prosecution service, resolving problems, resolving issues where it's alleged that somebody has done something they shouldn't have done. It's not anywhere nearly as well paid as being for example a commercial solicitor or a barrister doing commercial law but criminal law is fascinating, it's a very rewarding career, it's a very interesting career.
When you go to court you are responsible for what happens there. Whereas in other areas of the law you don't have that responsibility necessarily from the outset, certainly my understanding of working in the larger city firms is that what you do at the very outset is a very large degree of photocopying and proof-reading which isn't quite what I wanted to do when I started out in my career.
I did a placement with a local barristers chambers close to where I lived so it wasn't in the city and very quickly having done that experience I realised it really wasn't for me, it was quite a stagnant atmosphere, very individual, there was very little team work, it was very intellectually stimulating but at the same time there was no social aspect to it from what I could see. It was very much for yourself and I thought the city law firm life sounded much more attractive than working in an old chambers building to be quite honest.
When deciding what team to qualify into, there are several factors that you will probably take into account and one big one is choosing whether you seat a more litigious area or whether you like to work in a more transactional area.
I think you're either a litigator or not. I actually particularly enjoy that aspect of the work so you are in situations of confrontation with your counterpart on the other side and the client who is on the other side. I think if you actually enjoy that it's not that difficult, it's actually quite a lot of fun at times.
We are working with one of the oil super majors at the moment, a big US-based multi-national which has got a development in Nigeria and some issues have arisen there with their contracting partner and the way those cases are resolved is by presenting your legal arguments and evidence to a tribunal of often three lawyers selected by the parties, who give a decision, called an arbitration award, and decide basically who wins and who loses.
I'm not a litigator; I couldn't work on something for 2 or 3 years. I couldn't work on a case that's going to last that long, it's just not in my nature. I like short intense deals.
You are working with your client, your client wants to achieve something with another company or with another person and both sets of lawyers are working towards a common goal.
The client will come to us with a particular issue or problem then I'll look through the documents and often write a note of advice to them, or even an email or often it's through a conference call.
Facilitating business deals most of the time, occasionally problem solving outside of that as well. But a client will come and they might want to do something very straightforward, buy a piece of land or buy a building. It could be an office block that is already let to tenants and that's quite mainstream straightforward work.
I think one of the biggest changes in the industry that I work in which is commercial law is the fact of the emerging markets and there's a lot more emphasis and a lot of deals that are happening out in China and the East and also places like Russia and Kazakhstan.
Sitting here in a large city practice is not all representative of everything that a solicitor might end up doing and there will be very successful practices all around the country outside of London and even outside the bigger cities in the country.
It can be something as simple as changing a name by deed poll or to do with advice in co-ownership of a property if different people are contributing to a purchase of a flat, house or land and associated drafting and paperwork.
We try to encourage a reasonably informal approach to working in the office. That's partly reflected in the fact that we do have a dress-down day on Friday which many of us find a real challenge and would much rather be putting on a suit.
I have to wear a wig and gown if I'm in the Crown Court. At the moment, the job I'm doing for the CPS I'm not in the Crown Court, I'm in the Magistrates Court so I don't wear a wig and gown there.
We have what they call an open door policy which means that everyone's office is always open so you can go into other people's offices if you want to ask questions and vice versa, people can come into your office to ask various questions as well.
Well, there's lots of women...i'm not sure if you've noticed! It's mainly a firm with lots of women, in my summer scheme intake there were 17 girls and 3 boys and I think that's a trend in the law at the moment in that there's a lot more women coming through.
I go through phases and there are some times when I'm in the office at least 12 hours a day, that's not always sat at my desk for 12 hours a day - you manage to escape for lunch now and again.
You can find yourself working 16 hours, getting a little bit of sleep and then getting up at 5 or 6 in the morning to do some more work in time for going to court.
I do have a Blackberry, most people do and they are slightly addictive, so i'm always checking my emails and some people exercise a little willpower and turn them off, unfortunately I don't. I do occasionally work weekends but I would never come into the office at the weekend - I would work from home.
What you find actually is that you spend a lot of the day in meetings and on the phone so the time you get to do the real drafting work is probably in the evening when your phone stops ringing.
Barristers often only have one day off a week and that is the Saturday because they have to spend part of the Sunday preparing for Monday's case.
I think the most exciting parts are completions. When you actually see everything you've worked on finished, there's a real buzz coming up to completion.
The deals are quite exciting and they can be quite large, a lot can be at stake, they can be widely reported everywhere so it's quite nice to be part of that process.
The other element of satisfaction though that comes through is when the client appreciates what you do. That doesn't always happen but when it does it's very rewarding to know that actually you have got a client, an individual or an organisation out there that's pretty happy with what you have done.
Arguing that case and ultimately succeeding in that case is one of the best feelings I think you can get from any job.
I found that working in a law firm, whilst very rewarding at times, I found the hours were often very long and actually it's quite a solitary job. I literally never knew when I was going to get out of work and you'd get a client ring you up and at the last minute you'd have to stay there all night and draft a document or analyse a case.
It can be extremely stressful and there are times when it can all seem a little too much, particularly when you are dealing with significant difficulties with cases, serious matters that require a lot of thought and difficult decisions have to be made under pressure in a short time frame.
From a legal perspective there is quite a lot of documentation that has to be filled in, a lot of filing, they're fairly mundane procedures but they have to be done and done correctly.
In order to be a successful lawyer you need to be confident and you need to be pretty intelligent. You need to have good results from university as a starting point and a foundation.
You don't have to do a law degree at all, you can do any degree you like, you just have an additional year after your degree where you do what's called the conversion course, the GDL.
It's important to be somebody who can digest a lot of factual information in a short period of time and who is able to pick out the wheat from the chaff, and sit there and say "This is what this case is about, these are the key points and this is how I'm going to attack it and analyse it".
You need to enjoy lateral thinking, problem solving, being able to apply the information that you have to hand to a specific situation and adapt that and to be able to give clear advice.
You need to be able to relate to everybody, the clerks, the solicitors, the judges, the clients and the jury of course which is extremely important because you need to come across well to the jury.
How people decide which area they are going to go into as a career they just kind of go on how they feel in those departments and if you enjoy that work then just go with your heart and go with that decision.
It does make a difference, your job makes a difference and the way you conduct yourself has a huge impact. If you're a very good advocate and you get the right result for your client then that has consequences for all of the people involved in the case but I think it's wrong to go into the job thinking "I am going to do good" because you may be representing somebody who you think is guilty and if they are found not guilty then you haven't achieved your aim. So it's a very interesting job from that point of view and it's a significant job and a worthwhile job but it's not one where you can sit back and say you've done good for society every day.
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