As you progress through your law degree at university, you’ll typically be bombarded with talk of training contract applications, vacation schemes and pupillages.
Since these are the most conventional career paths in law, students can often feel pressured to conform and apply for these positions, fearful that they would otherwise be wasting what is a really strong degree.
Yet, there are countless opportunities to pursue a law-related career that don’t involve becoming a lawyer of some sort, and they certainly won’t waste your degree, either.
But without the right resources and exposure, how can you explore these alternative career paths? Here are a few tips:
1. Keep an open mind
It’s very easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the only feasible or worthwhile career path post law degree is to qualify as a lawyer, particularly with many universities hosting workshops to support these career paths and few others.
However, keeping an open mind about the opportunities available is essential if you’re looking beyond these professions. Even the firms and institutions advertising their training programs are advocates of this, with an increasing number of ‘non-law’ traineeships being created to encourage innovation and provide a fresh route into law.
In fact, as technology continues to take hold in the legal industry, the variety of opportunities open to law graduates is actually increasing day by day, and it’s becoming considerably easier to find a role that excites you – no matter how niche your interests are.
From defining the laws that govern our country in the future to creating to selling some of the most advanced legal technology on the market, these are just a few examples of the opportunities available to law graduates and other graduates with an interest in legal:
- Graduate programmes with Alternative Legal Service Providers (ALSPs)
- In-house roles at legal tech start-ups (e.g in sales, customer success and marketing)
- In-house paralegals and solicitors at companies (large and small!)
- Chartered legal executive roles
- Non-law graduate training schemes (e.g Clifford Chance’s Ignite Programme)
- Policy analyst roles
- Pro bono opportunities with charities and clinics
2. Network on LinkedIn
Once you’ve started to consider a wider pool of opportunities, it’s useful to understand what the different types of roles actually involve, as well as how people started their careers in them in the first place.
One of the best ways to do this is through LinkedIn. Most individuals in the legal industry will be keen to share their insights on this kind of platform, meaning that graduates can quickly gain access to information about what the role is like day-to-day, and what kind of projects are involved as part of the job.
A lot of professionals will also be open to receiving messages and questions about their role, meaning that you can ask them any burning questions and see if they have any words of wisdom that can help with your own journey.
You can also see what route individuals have taken to get to their current role, as LinkedIn allows you to review their profiles and find their education and work history to gain a clearer picture of what kind of experience is advantageous.
3. Think outside the box
When you think of a career in law, what do you imagine? For most, it will be a day job where you’re reviewing contracts, reading case law and arguing a client’s case. However, there are lots of different skills and roles that intersect with law, yet allow you to practice something different. Most of the time, you’ve probably never even considered them, or even heard of them.
For instance, I’m currently working as an SEO Writer for a legal tech start-up that delivers an all-in-one contract automation software to legal and business teams. This means that whilst I am covering content relating to contracts and in-house legal operations in my day to day role, I’m also part of the marketing function and I get to engage in more creative tasks that I really enjoy.
By comparison, my previous role involved working within an SEO agency, where I had the opportunity to pursue my interest in law by writing about the legality of different digital marketing practices.
By finding unique ways to combine your unique skills and interests with your broader interest in law, you can discover opportunities that align more closely with your strengths and that you’re much more likely to find fulfilment from.
To identify these types of opportunities, it’s worth looking into in-house roles at smaller law firms or legal tech startups, as they will typically offer more niche job roles with more refined responsibilities. It can also be helpful to discuss your core interests with a company at the interview stage, as they can sometimes tailor your job role to cover the fields you find most interesting.
4. Attend talks and webinars
Another way to gain an insight into the new and exciting roles emerging within the legal industry is to attend talks and webinars by companies you’re interested in. Upcoming events can often be found on company websites or through sites like eventbrite.
Usually, these talks, webinars and conferences will cover very specific topics that might inspire you to explore a certain area of law in greater detail, and perhaps even introduce you to some more specialized roles.
Attending these events can also be an effective means of networking, and you can meet legal professionals who are the experts in their field. By showing up and trying to learn more, you can leave a lasting positive impression on the company, which can be beneficial if you choose to pursue a career with them in the future.
5. Seek varied work experience
We’ve likely all experienced the vicious cycle of trying to get work experience without having already had work experience. For a competitive industry like law, it can feel almost impossible to get your first role that could kickstart your career.
Although getting your initial work experience can be tough, it’s critical for getting yourself on the career ladder, and luckily you only have to think small to begin with.
For this it’s worth looking at sites like Prospects, RateMyPlacement, and Legal Cheek. Or, even better, you could even reach out to small companies and request shadowing experience or internships. Once you’ve gained this initial experience, you can begin building your experience portfolio from there.
Lastly, if you’re still undecided about exactly what it is you’re looking to go into, it’s well worth trying out a few different routes. After all, a lot of the skills you develop are transferable and can prove advantageous when you’re applying for other roles in the legal world. The best thing you can do is grab opportunities with both hands and try to learn as much from these as possible.
So, in short: keep an open mind, remain curious and take opportunities to develop your understanding of the legal industry with both hands. Also, remember that just because the conventional routes into law might be the most popular ones, that doesn’t mean that they’re the only routes out there worth considering.
Written by Sofia Tyson from Juro