Last Updated on August 28, 2023
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10 jobs you can do with a law degree
The non-legal career options for law graduates and established lawyers are increasing. Here are 10 possibilities in case you want to make the move.
By Kate Allman, LSJ journalist
Australian law schools have copped a lot of bad press recently. Media reports say they are churning out far more graduates than there are graduate legal positions and charging students through the nose for a “generalist degree” that may not lead to their employment as a lawyer.
However, contrary to these bleak reports, data suggests that a law degree places you in good stead to secure employment in a variety of career fields. According to Graduate Careers Australia, 74 per cent of Australian law school graduates obtain full-time employment within four months of graduation. This is higher than the national average for graduate employment which is 69 per cent.
Established lawyers looking to move into jobs outside the law also have many doors open to them, according to Laura Talintyre, a director in legal recruitment firm Cicero.
“I know lots of lawyers who have moved into very successful careers outside the law,” says Talintyre. “Many of them end up in the Big Four accounting firms or in management consulting. They work in diverse fields and are generally paid very well.”
A law degree teaches you to think critically, solve problems, research, communicate, work in teams and distil large, complex rafts of information into succinct (well, most of the time) writing. While these skills are important in almost any job, here are 10 careers that value law graduates highly.
Talintyre says the “Big Four” accounting firms in Australia (PricewaterhouseCoopers, KPMG, Ernst & Young and Deloitte) are increasingly trying to poach top-tier lawyers for their own growing legal services arms. In 2016 the PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) legal arm grew to 18 partners and is apparently chasing a target of 25 partners and 100 lawyers by the end of the 2016/2017 financial year. Moving to an accounting firm has the added bonus of expanding your skill set, as most firms will require (and pay for) you to obtain the Chartered Accountants qualification.
Many lawyers make excellent journalists because of their attention to detail, natural scepticism, writing skills, and knowledge of Australia’s complex political and legal system. Waleed Aly, Andrew O’Keefe, Liz Jackson and Annabel Crabb are a few Australian examples of well-known journalists with law degrees.
Many lawyers drift into legal recruitment because of their knowledge of the legal industry and contacts. Talintyre says it’s almost impossible to work in legal recruiting without a law degree. “You need to know what you’re talking about, in order to be relevant and recognise what the candidate or firm wants,” she says. “I’ve heard of recruiters trying to place banking and finance lawyers into construction law firms. It can be awkward and frustrating for the candidate.”
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, Federal Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, Foreign Affairs Minister Julie Bishop and independent Senator Nick Xenophon are among the many Australian politicians with law degrees. Skills learned in law school such as argumentation, advocacy and an understanding of Australia’s political system are very useful in Parliament.
5. Management consulting
Top-tier management consulting firms like Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey & Company and Bain & Company often encourage law graduates to apply to them because a law degree teaches you valuable critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Experienced lawyers are also hired for their experience in communicating with wealthy, professional clients.
6. Judge’s associate
While not entirely outside the law, judge’s associate positions are well paid and allow you to hone your legal research skills in a different capacity to that of a lawyer. If you don’t mind reading cases or researching (a lot), the salary is often high compared to that for graduates in law firms.
7. Human resources
A move into human resources (HR) makes sense for many lawyers as it requires an ability to apply employment laws and mitigate risks relating to the employees’ health and safety.
8. Wealth management / investment banking
Legal knowledge comes in handy for wealth managers seeking to circumvent banking laws and loopholes to the advantage of their investors. Lawyers who have worked in large firms also tend to “get” banking and finance – they understand how the corporate world works and know how to manage and bill time effectively.
It used to be that law graduates would need to spend three years in the police force to become a police prosecutor, but since 2008 graduates in NSW have been able to apply for an Accelerated Prosecutors Recruitment Program.
Law graduates are taught to argue and influence decisions, so if you feel strongly about a cause, why not use those skills in public interest advocacy? The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) in Sydney lists positions online and is good place for graduates to start.
A law degree is a gateway to a career as a solicitor or barrister, but it’s not the only path you can choose. Many options are available to you beyond the legal profession
Jobs directly related to your degree include:
- Barrister’s clerk
- Chartered legal executive (England and Wales)
- Company secretary
- Costs lawyer
- Licensed conveyancer
- Solicitor, Scotland
Jobs where your degree would be useful include:
- Advice worker
- Border Force officer
- Chartered accountant
- Civil Service administrator
- Data analyst
- Data scientist
- External auditor
- Forensic computer analyst
- Human resources officer
- Patent attorney
- Political risk analyst
- Trading standards officer
Remember that many employers accept applications from graduates with any degree subject, so don’t restrict your thinking to the jobs listed here.
Take a few minutes to answer the Job Match quiz and find out what careers would suit you Try Job Match
Relevant work experience demonstrates to employers that you have the skills that they are looking for.
If you’d like to get some work experience that is directly related to the legal profession, you could do a mini-pupillage. This involves work shadowing that usually lasts for one week in a set of chambers. Details of this can be found at the Pupillage Gateway as well as at Chambers Student mini-pupillage listings. You can also search in solicitor’s firms for law vacation placements.
You could try marshalling – shadowing a judge, usually for anything between one day and one week – or pro-bono work, through organisations such as the:
- Citizens Advice Bureau
- Free Representation Unit
Joining your university law society will also be helpful, as well as anything else that gives you an insight into legal practices and the workings of the law.
For more information on relevant placements, see law work experience and law vacation schemes.
If you’d like to consider something outside of the legal profession then work experience in property development, the banking and financial sector, or HR departments in businesses can be useful. Taking on positions of responsibility through student groups provides good experience.
If you qualify as a solicitor, you can work in a number of different legal practices. The widest caseloads come from high street solicitors’ practices, which cover criminal, family, probate and business law. Opportunities are available through local and national government and large organisations often have in-house legal teams. Take a look at the top UK law firms.
If you become a barrister, it’s likely you’ll be self-employed and will be a tenant in a set of chambers. Alternatively, you could look for employment with organisations such as the Government Legal Service, the Armed Forces legal services or the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
Find out more about the reality of working in law.
Outside of the legal profession employers can include banks and building societies, insurance companies and HR departments of large firms.
Find information on employers in law, accountancy, banking and finance, public services and administration and other jok sectors.
Skills for your CV
A law degree covers the foundation subjects that are required for entry into the legal professions. But the understanding of legal implications and obligations, combined with the ability to apply this knowledge in practice, is valuable in many parts of the public, private and voluntary sectors.
The range of skills that a law degree provides includes:
If you intend to practise law after graduation you must go on to further study and vocational training. To become a solicitor in England and Wales you have to complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC), followed by a paid training contract with a law firm.
If your aim is to work as a barrister in England and Wales, you need to undertake a Bar course, followed by a one-year training period called a pupillage. Variations in training routes exist in Scotland and Northern Ireland for both roles.
Many professional qualifications are available in other areas such as accountancy, HR, marketing and business. To find one that interests you, search postgraduate courses in law.
What do law graduates do?
The top five jobs for law graduates include legal professional (17%), solicitor and lawyer (8%), legal associate professional (6%), and legal secretary (2%). Welfare and housing associate professionals, admin officers, police officers and protective service associate professionals are also in the top ten jobs held by these graduates.
|Working and studying||15.6|
Graduate destinations for law
|Type of work||Percentage|
|Legal, social and welfare||42.8|
|Clerical, secretarial and administrative||13.8|
|Retail, catering and customer service||13.6|
|Business, HR and finance||8.5|