Law careers – a brief background
You might think that being a lawyer involves wearing a wig and gown and either defending or prosecuting a criminal in court. While that is indeed part of the justice system and part of being a barrister in England and Wales, law is much more diverse and varied.
Commercial law, for instance, involves solicitors assisting businesses with their legal affairs. You might find yourself acting for a company that is buying another in an acquisition, or you could be advising a property developer that is planning to open a new shopping centre in a nearby city.
Lawyers should enjoy working with clients and building relationships – so instead of viewing law as debating in court over a criminal act, view it as multiple teams and organisations working together to secure the ideal outcome for all sides in a business transaction.
The great thing about law is that it’s needed in all sectors and areas of business and society. From banking to sport, healthcare to aviation, lawyers are required everywhere.
What do I need to study for a career in law?
As mentioned, you don’t need to study law in order to be employed as a junior lawyer! Additionally, an increasing number of top 100 solicitor firms are introducing apprenticeships, which you can usually apply for with five GCSEs or National 5's passes and 2-3 A-levels, Scottish Highers or equivalent international qualification.
A legal apprenticeship will involve working four days a week and then studying for a related qualification one day a week. Alternatively, you might compress all of your studying into a 2-3 month block and work full-time for the rest of the year.
If you’d rather go to university before starting a career in law, this is also an option. Law firms are amongst the largest graduate recruiters in the UK, and barristers chambers also hire graduates on a yearly basis.
Both the solicitor and barrister route involve studying after you finish university. If you want to follow the solicitor route you will need to pass the SQE (Solicitors Qualifying Exam), as well as the PGDL (Postgraduate Diploma in Law) if you are a non-law student. If you want to be a barrister, you’ll need to complete the Bar Course.
You could also consider becoming a patent attorney. Essentially, a patent attorney is a legal agent who acts for clients like creators or companies to help them obtain a patent, deal with patent infringement, or get legal advice on other areas related to intellectual property law. A good proportion of patent attorneys study for a postgraduate qualification, such as an LLM in Intellectual Property Law, but this isn’t a prerequisite. A patent attorney is an excellent career path for physics students, as you need a STEM degree to qualify.
Working in law
Regardless of whether you decide to become a solicitor, a barrister or a patent attorney, there are a lot of skills you can draw on from your time studying physics that will be beneficial to a career in law.
If you spent a lot of time planning experiments with others in the laboratory during your physics education, this shows that you are well suited to planning meticulously and working in a team to reach the desired outcome. Analysing any results of an experiment draws on your analytical skills, a must have for a legal professional, along with incredible attention to detail.
Law is a huge sector, and if you didn’t want to practise law, you could even look into servicing the legal industry with cutting edge technology that you work on using your computing skills, for example.