The world of law
has been portrayed on both the big and small screen. From the blockbuster movies to the TV dramas, lawyers have been battling it out in the courtroom on behalf of fictional clients for years.
But looking past the TV and movie stereotype, lawyers are more than just useful for busting you out jail. Read on to find out what being a lawyer actually involves…
So, what will I actually be doing?
Representing a client and advising them on their legal situation is all in a day’s work for lawyers. From individual cases to whole companies, from court proceedings to small disputes behind closed doors, it’s your job to act in your client's best interest.
Not just stuck in a courtroom, lawyers can work on criminal or civil lawsuits, so a variety of jobs can crop up. One day you're representing a client in court, the next you could be finalising a divorce, drawing up a will or just advising on minor legal issues.
Your daily tasks will depend on your client’s needs and whether you’re specialised in a particular area of law, but you could be doing some or all of the following:
- Attending court hearings (and doing the preparation beforehand)
Drawing up contracts and other legal documents
- Negotiating (not all cases will end up in court)
- Explaining the law and giving general legal advice
- Settling disputes and supervising any agreements
- Researching and gathering evidence
- Analysing legal documents
- Supervising legal assistants.
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The nitty gritty
Your environment and working hours will rest on each individual case and whether it’s a specialised area of law. Specialities in the law sector include:
Whatever specialism you choose, be prepared to work long, unsocial hours (including evenings and weekends…the law never sleeps, sorry). When you’re not talking with clients or attending court hearings, you’ll be expected to be doing research or drawing up legal documents.
If you don't like the law environment but enjoy the theory behind it, the world of teaching is also available.
Money, money, money
Your hard work as a lawyer is heavily rewarded by a great salary in the bank. One of the highest paid graduate professions, you could earn up to £36,000 at the start of your career if you pick the right employer.
From there, the only way is up, with some lawyers earning over £50,000 for dishing out legal advice. Although this can change depending on your specialism, your employer and your location.
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The good points...
Not only is it a well-respected and well-paid job, but also it gives you great job satisfaction, especially if you win a difficult case.
Plus there’s the smug smile you’ll be able to give when you say you’re a lawyer at family parties…
...and the bad
When you leave school, it’s fairly easy to leave the books behind….not so much with law. Because the law is always changing and unique court cases constantly crop up, you’ll need to not only keep up with the latest rules and regulations, but also read up on old ones in order to win your case.
You won’t always be representing the innocent party either, the guilty need representation too, so you may find yourself trying to win a lesser jail sentence for someone that’s broken the law…not something you’d expect when you went to law school.
Is there study involved?
Yes, and rather a lot. For those of you expecting to work your way through school the Legally Blonde way, you’re in for a disappointment…
The hard work has to start early on, as you’ll need at least five GCSE and two A Levels to get into university. While it’s useful to study a law degree, it’s not compulsory, as you can always take a conversion course afterwards. The conversion courses are the GDL (Graduate Diploma in Law) or the CPE (Common Profession Examination).
Most employers will want a 2:1 degree, although any additional experience is always a bonus on top of whatever you graduate with.
Once you’ve thrown your graduation cap in the air, it’s time to hit to books again, as to become a lawyer you’ll need to take the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) for Barristers or the Legal Practice Course (LPC) for Solicitors. Taking a year to complete, several universities now offer it.
Need additional qualifications? Find a course at our Learning Zone
OK, I'm interested... But is it really the job for me?
This job is all about debating a case for your client, so if you’re argumentative and will fight your side to the end, this could be the job for you.
You’ll also need good judgement and analytical skills, as you’ll be spending a lot of time reviewing legal documents in the hope they’ll help your case. It also helps if you have some of the following qualities:
- Good at negotiating and debating (not just arguing in a calm manner)
- Can stay cool under pressure
- Good communicator (both in writing and speaking)
Good at maths (all ties into the analysing side of the job)
- Attention to detail
A passion and an interest in the law are also useful in this job, as you’ll be surrounded by it.