What Else Can You Do With a Law Degree?
Many law students reach the end of their degree before realising they don’t want to follow the typical career trajectory of a barrister or a solicitor – but that certainly doesn’t mean their time was wasted.
More than most qualifications, a law degree will open doors to a wide range of sectors that may not be directly connected to your subject of study. A strong critical acumen, well-developed communication skills and a wealth of technical knowledge are all a necessary part of gaining a degree in law, and will stand you in good stead no matter what field you choose to enter once you graduate.
If you are currently studying law or thinking of studying it, it’s worth taking a look at some of the other career paths that your degree will let you access.
Legal counsel is sought after in every branch of government. US students will want to explore the options available to them at the local, state and federal levels and find the roles that appeal to them. One valuable source in the Washington, DC area is Opportunities in Public Affairs, which lists jobs on Capitol Hill in think tanks, non-profits and government institutions. Vacancies range across numerous fields, including government affairs, policy, legislation, PR, communications, fundraising, research, writing and journalism. Many of these jobs are entry-level or internships ideal for recent graduates.
Those in the UK may want to look into the Government Legal Service and its trainee scheme, for which the application deadline is 28 July. Also of note is the Civil Service Fast Stream, which offers around 700 graduate-level positions each year in a variety of government roles. Each of the Fast Stream’s tracks involves a series of intensive job placements that will leave participants equipped for a senior managerial role in the civil service, and most of them are open to law grads.
Outside of government and typical law firms or corporate placements, graduates with law degrees can often find employment in the financial sector. Law grads make attractive candidates for positions related to taxation, whether in chartered accountancy firms or dedicated tax consultant firms. Investment banks want legal professionals for research and regulatory roles; insurance companies need legal guidance on underwriting, claims and pensions. Knowledge of law is an attractive quality across the financial sector, and there is no shortage of jobs for the qualified.
For law graduates seeking jobs related to the above examples, it will be beneficial to have taken modules or classes in accounting, tax law or an adjacent subject. An undergraduate major in one of these areas would be especially beneficial for American students.
Combining a “traditional” career as a barrister with one in a charitable foundation, non-profit legal aid societies can offer fulfilling work in representing the interests of the economically disadvantaged, similar to the pro bono work occasionally undertaken by for-profit firms. For US students, public interest opportunities can often be found on PSJD. In the UK, legal aid has been placed under greater restrictions in recent years, but remains a worthwhile field in which to specialise, and legal aid roles are often advertised by the Legal Aid Practitioners Group among other bodies.
If you have already begun a law degree, you have likely tapped into a range of online and print resources written by qualified lawyers. Westlaw, Infolaw, LexisNexis, Lawbore and other knowledge bases rely on staff-produced content, as do legal news sites like Jurist, Law.com, Legal Cheek, the Law Society Gazette and countless others, to say nothing of the many respected print and electronic journals that cater to legal professionals. All of these publications employ writers and researchers with backgrounds in law. For grads with an interest in journalism or publishing, any one of these outlets could provide a way into a creatively fulfilling career.
As mentioned at the beginning of this guide, legal qualifications open doors. The simple fact that you earned a law degree means that you are able to work diligently and apply a keen eye for detail to your job, and prospective employers will take note of this. Entry-level jobs in media, marketing, PR, human resources, teaching, advertising and accountancy are generally open to anyone who holds an undergraduate degree, and a background in law is a perfectly valid entry point in many cases.
If any of these areas appeal to you, it is highly recommended that you gain as much relevant experience as possible, ideally through internships or summer placements over the course of your degree. Be sure to tap into whatever career resources your college offers; they will likely be helpful in landing a placement, whether or not you have already graduated.