Non-Law Students: Should You Convert to Law?⠀
If you’re thinking of a career in law, then perhaps these questions have crossed your mind:
- Why should I go into law?
- How do I know it is right for me?
- What are my potential career options?
- Am I what the industry is looking for?
- Can I use my STEM or humanities degree?
This page will answer all of these questions, and give you a little more insight into deciding on a career in law when you’re already at/have been to university.
If you’d like to know a little more about what the Law Conversion Course is like, otherwise known as the GDL, take a look at our free guide which covers the basics of the course, funding and the different providers.
Find out more about the Law conversion course
You can also take our fun quiz, which will tell you if converting to law is a good idea for you!
Should you convert to law? Take the quiz!
Why Should You Go into Law?
A career in law offers a lifetime of interesting challenges, as well as being one of the most prestigious, secure, flexible, and rewarding careers in the world.
It’s a career path that gathers its fair share of media attention, as well as featuring in a number of films and television shows. Former or current lawyers include the likes of:
- Mahatma Gandhi;
- Amal Clooney;
- Barack Obama;
- Cherie Blair;
- Hillary Rodham Clinton.
But a legal career, or converting to become a lawyer, prepares you with a much wider skillset than you’d think would only be appropriate for the legal profession; training to become a lawyer requires solid communication skills, an eye for detail, the ability to think on your feet, and an analytical mindset.
>> You can find out more on What Makes a Good Lawyer through our free guide here.
In terms of what you will learn on your Law Conversion Course, this will include the art of negotiating, drafting, rational arguing, rule-making and working methodically. You will also be required to meet with clients on a regular basis.
Law can be a very rewarding career – both emotionally and financially. These two key motivators for individuals can be met by different areas of law – for example, if you work in commercial or corporate law, you will often be expected to work with big clients on big deals, meaning the financial payoff will be greater.
Alternatively, a career in criminal law would allow you to utilise your legal skills to help settle serious criminal cases, ranging from petty theft to homicide. The diversity of the cases you’d be working on, and your impact on the UK’s justice system in general, is a huge pull for students.
If your dream would be to mingle with the biggest names across the entertainment industry, media law may suit you better, and you may well find yourself working in the legal departments of industries including music, publishing, film, television and gaming.
Overall, you have a lot to offer the legal industry, regardless of your undergraduate degree subject. Read on to find out why.
>> To see other potential areas of law you could work in, click here.
How Do You Know if Law Is Right For You?
While we can guide you in a general direction one way or other, the truth is only you can answer the question of whether law is right for you. Law is a diverse industry and there tends to be something for everyone.
With that being said, here are some ‘key competencies’ of the legal industry to help you understand if it’s right for you.
You are able to:
- Research and simplify complex matters;
- Communicate with people, both verbally and in writing;
- Work to a deadline;
- Ask the right questions;
- Understand and empathise with opposing points of view;
- Speak confidently in public;
- Make rational decisions derived from facts;
- Work well in a team;
- Show commercial awareness;
- Use common sense reasoning;
- Solve complex problems;
- Work well under pressure.
As mentioned previously, your general career motivations matter immensely. Here are some of the more popular motivations that you find in students who are pursuing a legal career.
If your motivation is to change society…
Just speak to any criminal lawyer and they will tell you a story of injustice and why that motivated them to make the world a better place through a legal career.
The justice system across the world is one of the most important institutions that could ever exist; it’s what ensures we as humans act morally and ethically and are punished for acting against these two values. Being a part of such a crucial industry is an extraordinary opportunity for those of you who want to leave a lasting footprint on the world.
If your motivation is money…
There’s no denying that law can be one of the best paid careers in the world. This depends massively on the area of law you want to practise in, the type of legal profession that appeals to you and the type of law firm you work at.
For example, a commercial solicitor can expect to be paid between £70,000 to £120,000 upon qualification. A criminal solicitor, however, is more likely going to be paid between £22,000 to £30,000 once qualified.
>> You can see more solicitor salaries and barrister salaries for different areas of law through our page here.
If you work at a Magic Circle law firm – a commercial or corporate firm – you could be earning as much as £90,000 a year once you’ve finished your training contract.
>> Take a look at our Ultimate Guide to the Magic Circle Law Firms here to see more salaries for trainees and partners.
If your motivation is the challenge…
There is also no denying that the legal sector can be one of the most challenging, pushing those in it to perform to a better standard with every new case or client.
Many thrive off the interesting and occasionally difficult nature of law as it consistently enables you to become a better lawyer through unique obstacles.
And doesn’t it feel great when you complete a particularly gruelling piece of work and know that if a similar task were to come up again, you could tackle it head on?
>> Still undecided? Take our Should I Convert to Law? quiz and we’ll make the decision for you!
What Are Your Potential Career Options?
Now that you’re familiar with the key attributes that make you suitable for a conversion to law, here’s a little more information about the different career paths available to you.
A solicitor is a type of qualified lawyer who is responsible for preparing legal documentation, representing and/or defending a client’s legal interests.
Their work tends to either fall into ‘contentious legal work’ or ‘non-contentious legal work’. The former covers dispute resolution in either a court or a tribunal, whilst the latter essentially means that the solicitor helps clients with the legal aspects of their businesses or personal lives.
To become a solicitor, you must:
It’s worth noting that if you apply for training contracts whilst you’re still at university, some law firms may offer to cover or partially cover the costs of your GDL and your LPC.
>> Interested in becoming a solicitor? You can find out much more information through our free guide on How to Become a Solicitor here.
*Note: This route to practice is set to change with the introduction of the Solicitor’s Qualifying Examination (SQE). To find out more about the SQE and keep abreast of the changing landscape, click here.
A barrister is another type of qualified lawyer who advocates for their clients in court or at tribunal. They are usually self-employed, working as a part of chambers but occasionally work in-house at law firms and large commercial organisations.
The area of law the barrister practises in often dictates what work they will undertake on a daily basis. Whilst criminal lawyers will spend a great deal of time in court, either prosecuting an individual or defending a client, commercial barristers are far more advisory on a day-to-day basis.
To become a barrister, you must:
>> You can read even more on becoming a barrister with our free guide here.
Chartered Legal Executive
A chartered legal executive is a qualified lawyer who works in firms or in-house alongside or under the supervision of solicitors. They will usually specialise in one area of law, such as civil litigation, criminal litigation or family law.
Becoming a chartered legal executive tends to cost much less than becoming a solicitor, and also takes less time too.
To become a CLE, you must:
- Complete the one-year Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), or the Law Conversion Course after finishing university;
- Become an Associate Member of CILEx;
- Complete the CILEx Graduate Fast-Track Diploma, with takes between 9-15 months;
- Become a Graduate Member of CILEx;
- Complete three years of practical legal experience.
>> You can find out more about this legal role, and the differences between a solicitor and a CLE, on our Chartered Legal Executive page here.
In the UK, paralegals are somewhere between a legal secretary and a solicitor – whilst they are trained to handle more advanced legal content then a legal secretary, they are not quite as dependable as a solicitor.
Technically, there are no requirements to become a paralegal, however due to market demand and an influx of law graduates, it is now a base requirement that you have either a law degree, a law conversion qualification, or over one years’ experience as a paralegal.
>> You can find out more about how to become a paralegal with our free guide on it here.
Why Are You What the Industry is Looking For?
Both law firms and chambers value non-law graduates very highly, and you are not at a disadvantage if you decide to complete a non-law degree first, or decide on a law career a bit later on in university or life.
This is due to the fact that whilst a law degree is a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the practice of law reasonably early on, a non-law degree is evidence of you having a passion or interest outside of law, which is important to firms and chambers.
A lot of skills necessary for a successful law career can be developed equally as much, if not more, with a non-law degree – for example, an English literature degree requires you to take complex pieces of writing and analyse them closely, much like you might be doing with legal documents and cases.
It also allows you to develop slightly different skillsets that someone who has completed a law degree might not have had the opportunity to hone, some of which are detailed in the section below.
How Can You Use Your STEM Degree?
Here are just some of the abilities that make you a desirable training contract, pupillage or chartered legal executive candidate:
Law firms, in their drive to grow and become more efficient, have recently started to work on crunching numbers to decide everything from where to invest, to what to market to clients, to how to find the next generation of lawyers.
Any degree that has a focus on data analysis and statistical evaluations will have a huge advantage that law students may have to develop themselves.
Computer science graduates and undergraduates, rejoice! The advancements in technology are constantly changing the legal industry, both within it to the legal repercussions around it.
Law firms and chambers are therefore looking for graduates with a solid understanding of technology to keep up with the developments as and when they occur.
If technology’s relationship to the legal industry is something that interests you, here are a couple of articles that you’ll definitely enjoy:
There are also various specialisms; for example, in the US genomes can be patented, and for US firms operating in the UK that handle genetic material, they may well prefer a lawyer with a background in biochemistry, or something similar.
This can often be the case with medical law, environmental law and energy law too. You can be guaranteed your subject specialism will have some distinct relevance to an area of law, and therefore you will fully understand the complexities of your field.
Here are all the reasons why law firms love non-law students – read them now >>
How Can You Use Your Humanities Degree?
As for a humanities degree, this broad subject area, majorly dictated by essay writing and more qualitative analysis, gives you the edge with a number of different skills.
From understanding clients, to judges, to fellow lawyers, to the press, to politicians, to the general public, the verbal and written communication skills required of humanities undergraduates means they are able to express themselves and adapt their communicative approaches.
This also encompasses written communication skills – the essay writing aspect of many humanities degrees allows you to hone your writing style and improve your ability to create comprehensive written pieces, much like drafting legal documents.
Any history scholar can tell you history follows a pattern, for ‘history repeats itself’ – that means a historian, an anthropologist or anyone else trained to notice patterns would be well advantaged in an industry where decisions are made based on what came before.
That analytical ability to spot patterns would enable you to take the important decisions from cases and apply them effectively in the courtroom.
This is something for psychology, criminology and sociology subject holders to consider. These subjects require students to analyse people’s behaviour, which enables them to provide focused advice or advocacy for both clients and for a judge or jury.
Now you’ve read up on making the decision, find out how to convert with our page on the GDL…
how to convert to law
For daily tips and tricks on how to convert to law, join our Non-Law Students Facebook Help Group now!
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Author: Isabella Ford and Cameron Haden