How to Work in Law Without Being a Lawyer

The legal career is an often difficult but rewarding life choice, but many believe you have to go to law school and become a lawyer to work in law. The truth is, there are many roles within the legal sphere that don’t require you to be a lawyer, and many more legal jobs that you need not go to law school for.

In partnership with Simply law Jobs, Karen Holden, Founder, and Jacqueline Watt, Director at A City Law Firm, discuss with Lawyer Monthly the many options available to those who don’t wish to become a lawyer, but want to work in law.

80 years ago, when trying to become a lawyer, it was the norm to complete a law degree and then arrange for a Barrister or a Solicitor to take you under their wing. These days the process is not so easy. It is a hugely competitive arena that takes a minimum of 6 years (which normally consists of a 3 year law degree, the Legal Practice Course for 1 year and a 2 year training contract) and can cost the best part of between £30,000.00 to £50,000, unless you do your law degree in Scotland where the University fees are free for Scottish residences.

The legal field is a stable and intellectually stimulating sector in the UK that can make a huge difference to people’s lives. Regardless of your role, working in the legal field can be exciting and rewarding and has the ability to change peoples’ lives for the better. It is for these reasons that it is becoming increasingly popular for people to seek a career in the law without being necessarily training to qualify as a Solicitor or Barrister. Below we will discuss a few very rewarding careers that can make this dream a reality.

Chartered Legal Executive

Instead of working as a Solicitor you can now take courses to be recognised as a Legal Executive with the Institute of Legal Executives known as (ILEX). A Chartered Legal Executive is able to undertake most of the same responsibilities as a solicitor. The general difference is that this route is a lot less expensive and is a ‘earn as you learn’ way to working in the legal field. A Legal Executive decides to specialise in one area of the law, becoming an expert in that field only. This is different to a trainee solicitor who will be required to train and practice across at least 3 different areas (one area must be contentious).

Legal Executives must adhere to a strict code of conduct and are required to complete a lot of training pre and post qualification. This role is extremely popular with people who want to become a qualified legal assistant whilst they work. More information can be found on the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives website. Further after completing 5 years working as a legal executive there is the opportunity upon passing the ILEX course and all the stages of this to take the Legal Practice Course and qualify as a Solicitor thereafter.

Paralegal

Paralegals spring to mind for most when considering a career in law. This role is extremely varied and can offer a competitive salary once you have gained a few years’ experience. Paralegals tend to work under and alongside Solicitors in any legal field from litigation and family, employment law or and real estate/property law. Paralegals are vital to most large law firms and responsibilities can include writing detailed letters, interviewing clients and assisting on transactional work.

A law degree can be beneficial; however, it is not essential (but it is highly looked for these days together with completion of the Legal Practice Course) and when looking for paralegals most companies will look for a legal qualification.

More information on how to become a paralegal can be found on the National Association of Licenced Paralegals website.

Apprentice

It is now possible to become a solicitor via the solicitor apprenticeship route. This is a six-year programme where you will receive paid work while you learn and which results in qualification as a solicitor.

The only requirements are five GCSEs (C and above) and three A levels (B and above). This is a new and interesting route into the profession and firms are starting to offer this option, especially in the context of increasing university fees.

Police Officer

Police Officers are at the forefront of reducing crime and making communities safer for all. Police officers work across a huge variety of areas from violent crimes, gun crime to white collar crimes and everything in between. This line of work is challenging and rewarding, it takes you out of your comfort zone and lets you make a real difference to people’s lives. You also have the ability to work yourself up the ranks in the Police and be promoted.

Working as a Police Officer offers great responsibility and a generous benefit package. Requirements are normally 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and college qualifications like A levels for a degree apprenticeship.

To apply for the Police’s National Graduate Leadership Programme police officers can now be offered accelerated courses and who hold a degree of at ideally a 2.2 grade. There is also opportunities to be a Police Community Support Officer these officers work in a neighbourhood policing team dealing with minor offences and crime prevention.

More information on joining can be found on your local government website.

Lay Magistrate

The UK can have non-legally trained people to sit as a form of judges in the Magistrate’s Court. The Magistrates Courts are the lower criminal courts. Magistrates are volunteers and are required to spend 13 days (26 half-days each year or 35 half-days if they also sit in the youth or family courts). This highly sort after role is usually undertaken by upstanding members of the community who wish to make a positive impact to society. Magistrates will usually sit with two other Magistrates on criminal matters so they will sit on a panel of three in total.

More information on Magistrates and the process to apply can be found on your local government website.

Mediator

When disputes occur in civil matters it is a relatively inexpensive, less time consuming and sometimes enforced option to use a mediator before taking a matter to court. Mediators act as a neutral third party in disputes and help to resolve situations in an amicable and equal manner. Mediators may be involved in a huge variety of areas of law including family, commercial and landlord and tenant disputes.

To become a mediator, you need to have a calm temperament and be prepared to listen.

You’ll usually need a higher education qualification or up to 5 years’ relevant work experience in:

  • law
  • social work
  • counselling
  • therapy or education

A degree is not essential but can be beneficial. More information into this route can be found online.

Barrister’s Clerk

A Barristers Clerk is an invaluable asset to any barrister. The Clerk will organise the workload and day-to-day business that occurs in the Barrister’s office, known as a chamber. A Clerk will speak to solicitors to take instructions for a barrister and will organise invoices and payment. A clerk may also be expected to manage diaries and allocate business. Barristers Clerks are expected to have good communication skills as it is often the Clerk who must win business which ultimately makes money for the Barrister and the chamber.

Finding an initial job as a Barrister’s Clerk can be tricky but if successful you can expect a stimulating and rewarding career. More information on how to go down this route can be found on the Institute of Barristers’ Clerks.

Legal Secretary

A Legal Secretary’s main role is to ensure that a Solicitor’s office runs smoothly in all aspects. They do this by providing administrative support to Solicitors. Some of the tasks of a Legal Secretary are to organise and maintain the filing systems, liaise with clients, organise meetings and calendars and typing and preparing legal documents. Legal Secretary roles are extremely varied and they are key players in any law practice.

Becoming a Legal Secretary does not require a degree, but it could be beneficial to gain qualifications in legal support. There is a legal secretarial diploma which is a very beneficial qualification to have these days and this can be taken in college or at the Institute of Legal Secretaries.

Support Staff

As with any business, law practices require support staff for the smooth running of operations. These roles include legal accounts managers, human resources personnel, facilities, administrative staff and more.

Undertaking any role in the legal field will offer you a fast-paced, well refined and impressive arena to finetune your skills and enjoy a positive, stable and rewarding career.

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