How to start a career in law (if you’re changing careers)

Want to get on the right side of the law? It’s time to take the stand… 

Whether you’re just starting out in the world of work, or you’re looking to change careers, a career in law might be more attainable than you think. You just need to figure out which path is right for you. 

We spoke to BARBRI, global leaders in legal education and bar exam prep, to get their advice on how to start a career in law:


What skills do I need to start a career in law? 

A job in law requires a certain set of skills – from verbal and written reasoning skills to the ability to analyse information and solve problems. 

Here are a few of the key skills you’ll need to demonstrate to employers: 

  • Inductive and deductive reasoning abilities 
  • Commercial awareness 
  • Creative problem solving skills 
  • Verbal and written communication skills 
  • Teamwork skills, and the ability to take on all points of view
  • Research, interpretation, and analysis skills 
  • The ability to work under pressure 
  • Attention to detail and a meticulous work ethic

These can be gained from a number of places, whether it’s from your current or previous job role (cue: transferable skills), from your education, or via your hobbies and interests


Do I need work experience to start a career in law? 

In addition to academic qualifications, relevant work experience is also an essential requirement for most legal roles – especially if you want to be a solicitor or a barrister. 

Not only will it allow you to gain insights into what a career in law would actually be like, it’ll also enable you to develop the required skills to succeed.

This can be something you carry out before or during your studies, whether it’s applying for work placements and mini-pupillages, or even organising informal work experience with high street legal firms. 

Getting involved with your university’s debating or law society, carrying out pro bono work, and court marshalling are also great ways to gain valuable legal experience. 


What qualifications do I need to start a career in law? 

The qualifications you’ll need will depend on the role you’re looking to pursue. 

But whether you want to become a solicitor or a barrister, the first step you’ll need to take is to complete a degree. If you would like to pursue a career as a barrister, this would need to be a qualified law degree (LLB). 

If you want to become a solicitor, this does not need to be a law degree.  

Following this, your path will depend on the route you take. For example: 


If you want to become a solicitor… 

If you’ve already started a law degree or GDL (on or before 31 December), you can take the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and carry out a training contract with a law firm. 

However, this route is now being replaced by the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) route. This requires you to:

  • Have a degree in any subject. If you have a degree in a subject other than law, you may wish to take an introductory course, such as the Foundations in Law course, which would build knowledge and confidence prior to the more detailed coverage of these elements in the SQE preparation.
  • Take a two-stage centralised exam, split into a multiple-choice question exam (SQE1) and legal skills assessment (SQE2). 
  • Complete two years of Qualifying Work Experience (QWE). Some providers, such as BARBRI, offer extensive careers and employability services as part of their courses.

To make sure you’re fully prepared for the exams, it’s a good idea to take an SQE preparation course. You can choose between flexible part-time SQE1 Prep preparation courses that take longer, or shorter courses depending on your time commitment.

These courses don’t just prepare you to pass SQE1 and SQE2, but also train you in the enhanced skills and competencies that legal recruiters value.

Want to find out more about SQE preparation? Try out a free course demo here.


If you want to become a barrister… 

Qualifying to become a barrister involves three stages of training. These are: 

  • The academic component – a law degree 
  • The vocational component – Bar Practice Course (BPC)
  • The work-based learning component – pupillage

Once you’ve completed all of the above, you’ll be able to apply to become a barrister. 


Whilst these are the most traditional routes for solicitors and barristers, there are also apprenticeships and professional qualifications available, which allow you to work while you study. 


Do I need a law degree to start a career in law? 

Whilst you’ll need a degree to start your legal career, it doesn’t have to be in law. 

In fact, students with different academic backgrounds often have a more diverse set of skills, which can be particularly attractive to legal employers – especially if your degree is related to law in some way. For example, an English degree will teach you both written and verbal communication skills – which are essential for a legal career. 

Undergrads of any subject, other than law, can also take a foundational course like the Foundations in Law course to gain a broader understanding of the law of England and Wales.


What area of law could I work in?

Because there are so many areas of law, aspiring solicitors or barristers can choose to pursue a role in an industry they’re passionate about. 

Here are just a few of areas of law you could work in: 

  • Environmental law 
  • Commercial law
  • Family law 
  • Corporate law 
  • Construction law 
  • Criminal law 
  • Banking law
  • Human rights law 
  • Employment law
  • Immigration law 


What legal job could I do?

Whilst the route of becoming a solicitor or barrister might be the most commonly pursued (and most well-known) paths, they’re certainly not the only ones on offer. 

Here are some of the most popular legal jobs: 

  • Bailiff 
  • Family Mediator
  • Immigration Officer
  • Company Secretary
  • Legal Secretary
  • Crown Prosecutor
  • Judge
  • Probation Officer
  • Patent Attorney
  • Forensic Scientist/Psychologist
  • Magistrate
  • Court Usher
  • Paralegal
  • Trading Standards Officer
  • Tax Inspector
  • Equalities Officer


Why study with BARBRI?

BARBRI is an online legal educator specialising in courses that help graduates and legal professionals prepare for the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), which enables them to become a solicitor in England and Wales. 

Their SQE preparation courses utilise innovative online technology to provide students with a structured and supportive learning environment, whilst being time and cost-effective. 

More reasons to study with BARBRI include:

  • They’re a trusted legal educator with over 50 years helping more than 1.4 million law students and lawyers succeed in legal exams across the globe
  • You can study entirely online and around other commitments 
  • Learn from qualified solicitors and barristers and get unlimited one-on-one time with your expert tutor 
  • Receive extensive careers and employability services, including individual careers support, CV review, interview skills preparation and other resources to boost your industry knowledge
  • If you don’t pass the first time around, they’ll help you prepare for your resit 



Find out more



Want to learn more SQE preparation courses? Enquire now or try out a free course demo here.



BARBRI is an online legal educator specialising in SQE preparation courses that help people pass their SQE exams and become solicitors.