Areas of Law: How to Become a Public Lawyer
Another area of law, public law, is a potential career option – but what is it exactly? Find out all about public law in our free guide!
How to Become a Public Lawyer
What is Public Law?
Public law is a field of law that covers the government’s relationship with the citizens it oversees and it also considers the relationships between citizens that might have an effect on society. If the government makes a questionable decision on the rights of the individuals in society, or does not act within the law, this is where a specialist lawyer in public law might step in.
Public law can involve:
- constitutional law
- criminal law
- tax law
- human rights law
- procedural law
As a public lawyer, you will have to cover a broad range of legal sectors that coincide with your work. Cases challenging a government decision can be initiated by a citizen who is unsatisfied with the authority or who asks the court for judicial review, which will oversee, evaluate and rule on the citizen’s claim.
Public law tends to be a compulsory module at university and you can go on to study it in an LLM, at master’s level. You can then go on to qualify in the sector and practice as a lawyer. Public law can also be referred to as ‘Administrative Law’ at a professional level.
What Does the Day of a Public Lawyer Look Like?
On a day-to-day basis, a public lawyer might have to:
- Attend meetings with clients
- Work on any on-going matters
- Research and understand government policies or decisions and their respective overseeing laws
- Review previous rulings in the public law sector and compare them to your matter
- Reach out and work with experts in public policies relating to your matter
- Investigate and evaluate evidence that might be crucial to your case
- Compare your papers with previous rulings in the UK courts
- Meet with barristers to discuss and plan a matter that is going to trial
- Attend hearings in court before a judge or jury
How Does a Public Law Solicitor Differ From a Public Law Barrister?
A public law solicitor will work in a firm, most likely in a private practice, focussing mostly on case theory and development. In addition, they will handle documentation, client work and negotiation with other opposing lawyers.
A barrister working in the public law sector, however, will be the advocate for the case if it reaches trial in court. They will typically be an expert in public law issues and will lead the team and make important decisions on the direction of the case. Moreover, a public law barrister will ultimately be the person arguing the case in court before a judge.
What are Some of the Benefits of Working in Public Law?
One of the main benefits of working in public law is that if you have a genuine interest in politics, how leading authorities govern society, or protecting citizens from unfair policies that infringe their rights, you will get to experience all of these.
Public law is a fusion of different sections of the law, as well as public policies, government and citizens’ rights. It is a fast-paced, academically challenging profession.
Where Can I Practise as a Public Lawyer?
The top UK private practice firms specialising in this area of law are:
What Sort of Person Would Suit a Career in Public Law?
A candidate that has a genuine interest in how the government sets policies to govern society or a more general interest in how the governing body functions as a whole, would suit a career in public law.
As a professional in the public law sector, you will may have to challenge or defend policies or actions of the government and its citizens. Thus, it’s important that you are certain it is an area you want to specialise in.
If you aren’t studying law as an undergraduate degree (where you will most likely study public law in your first or second year), then you could consider politics as an undergraduate degree. As a result, firms will see this as an advantage due to your preexisting knowledge of the subject.
What Work Experience Looks Good for a Career in Public Law?
Some examples of work experience that would look good for this future career are:
- Completing a vacation scheme in the public/administrative law sector of a firm;
- Completing a mini pupillage, shadowing a barrister who specialises in public law hearings and cases;
- Completing formal work experience in a government administration. For example: the government’s legal body;
- Complete an internship or voluntary work on campaigns;
- Showing an interest in the topic by submitting/winning public law essay competitions at university;
- Participating in mooting competitions that cover a public law topic.
What are Some Typical Routes into Public Law?
The typical steps to becoming a lawyer in public law are:
- Study public law as a module in your law undergraduate degree at university, or alternatively, study an equally relevant undergraduate degree, such as politics;
- Choose modules that will be beneficial to your ambition to specialise in public law;
- Complete legal work experience in firms or chambers that specialise and cover public law matters;
- Secure a training contract or pupillage in a firm or chambers that have a public law team;
- Complete a training seat in public law, as a trainee in a firm or a pupil in chambers;
- Qualify in the public law department of your chosen firm or chambers.
Written by Amy Cheng