The term “Lawyer” is basically an umbrella term for professional individuals who provide legal, support, advice and representation for clients across various areas of law such as employment, family or environmental law. Terms underneath this umbrella most commonly include Barristers, who provide very specific legal advice and represent clients in court, or Solicitors who are the first point of contact for getting general help and advice on matters of law.
The law affects us all at points in our lives – from getting a divorce, to sticking to the enforced speed limits to ensuring you know your rights at work – and there are times when we may need to turn to a Lawyer to understand, challenge or defend ourselves.
On a day-to-day basis, Lawyers will typically:
- Assess the strength of a client’s case, gathering and analysing information that could support legal actions.
- Negotiate with clients on how the legal matter should be handled and what a realistic outcome could be.
- Give legal advice and information to clients.
- Calculate claims.
- Carry out in depth research into case law.
- Prepare paperwork for court.
- Come up with strategies and arguments to be used in court.
- Attend court hearings.
- Present cases to judges.
- Negotiate settlements.
The importance of what a Lawyer does cannot be overlooked, as they have the lives of others in their hands. The outcome of a legal decision can change people’s lives forever, and the support, advice and assistance provided by a Lawyer can be key to the outcome. It’s extremely satisfying for Lawyers when they play a part in handing someone their life back e.g. by helping them win custody of a child, or walk free from a crime they didn’t commit.
If you are over 50, the chances are you will have gained a lot of valuable life experience that will have helped you develop sound judgement and empathy towards others – these skills are extremely valuable to a law career.
What skills do I need?
The right person will:
- Have the desire to keep learning throughout their career. Laws are constantly changing and each case will be different from the next, so you’ll have to learn how to apply the relevant laws to the individual case you’re dealing with.
- Display strong problem-solving skills, as you’ll have some complicated legal situations to unpick.
- Have the confidence to stand up in court and fight your client’s case until the end.
- Understand the impact that you’re legal advice, assistance and representation could have on people’s lives.
- Have excellent research skills.
- Be a confident communicator as you’ll be dealing with a range of clients and families, and may also have to address the judge in court, and question witnesses and suspects.
- Have analytical skills.
- Be able to show perseverance, even when the outcome of a case isn’t looking promising.
- Have great judgement.
What will I love about the job?
- The instant job satisfaction you’ll gain from knowing you’re making a difference to people’s lives and that justice will be done.
- The chance to keep learning new skills and acquiring fresh knowledge.
- The variety, as each legal case will be different.
- The option to work in the public or private sector.
What are the challenges?
- Accepting that some clients may listen to your advice but not take it – but as long as you always act in the best interest of the client, you can rest assured that you’ve done your job well.
- The complexity of the law when trying to apply it to cases that have many grey areas – but for those who enjoy problem-solving, this will be more of a positive challenge.
- Outcomes in court can sometimes be disappointing, but part of the job is learning that you can only do the best you can based on the information you have – after that it’s out of your hands.
How much will I earn?
Lawyers typically earn around £54,000 during their first five years of practice, rising to £76,000 for those who’ve been in the job for five to ten years and £100,000 for those who practice for ten to fifteen years.
Are there opportunities to progress?
Opportunities to progress as a Lawyer are normally linked to how many years experience you’ve spent in practice. Lawyers may become Senior or Partner at a law firm.
How do I get started?
There are several routes you can take to become a Lawyer, but in general you will need to have a degree. If you have a degree in a non-law subject (even if you achieved it many years ago), you can still take a one year Graduate Diploma Law (GDL), or law conversion course, which is the first step towards training to become a fully qualified Barrister or Solicitor. This course will give you all the basic law principles and knowledge you need to progress your law career. There are usually a number of funding options available for GDL courses, so it’s best to check out your options with your school of choice before enrolling.