Non-Lawyer Careers Within the Legal Sector
By: Erin Bradbury
What career opportunities exist in the legal sector that are non-lawyer positions?
Often when people consider a career in the legal sector, the roles traditionally associated with it are that of a solicitor or a barrister. Of course, the practices available to solicitors are technical and varied. But the legal sector itself is diverse, and its career opportunities encompass a range of disciplines. It is possible to have a legal career without becoming a solicitor, whether it be a career that requires a law or non-law degree. There are legal careers that value your qualifications and interests. Whether you wish to gain legal experience to further your legal career or enter the sector from a different angle, this article will highlight some opportunities to consider. (Remember, it's a career story, not a destination!).
Paralegal and legal secretaries
Generally, when people consider entering the legal sector in a position other than a solicitor, the more traditional and common roles are paralegals and legal secretaries. In particular, paralegalling is viewed as a position to be taken up before commencing a training contract or law school. However, it is a feasible long-term career option too. Outside of London, typical salaries for paralegals range between £14,000 to £22,000, while those in London can exceed £30,000. Of course, the role of a paralegal can vary from place to place. The legal experience offered is broad. So, depending on your aims, it is a valid option to boost your CV as it demonstrates industry insight and experience.
Additionally, people often consider the position of a legal secretary, since the position does not require a degree. However, this requirement does vary from employer to employer. This role is suitable for those interested in the industry or have a background in administrative work. You will need to demonstrate that you can work well under pressure and are detail-oriented, organised, and articulate. The role requires clerical tasks alongside the filing and maintenance of legal records, as well as transcribing and conducting research. The market for this position is competitive, as firms are reducing staff to reduce costs.
Legal operations are part of the future of commercial law, and increasingly so. This in-house role is focused on effectively improving business processes and aiding professionals who enable legal departments to serve their clients through the application of business and technical practices. Legal operations are focused on the delivery of legal services. It provides project management, financial management, strategic planning, and technological expertise that allows legal professionals to focus on their service - providing legal advice.
Although legal operations are relatively behind the scene, it is quietly marking a new age in service delivery in the legal sector. The legal operations sector marks the beginning of overhauling the in-house legal team by adapting to the opportunities and challenges presented by technological and structural changes in the modern era and future.
The legal operations sector undoubtedly will continue to develop. A law degree is not required. Firms are looking for people who are business minded. Commercial firms are now offering graduate opportunities and schemes, which is something worth considering if this suits your interests and qualifications.
Perhaps you have just finished your law degree or wish to utilise your preferred skill of conducting research. There are a variety of legal research positions, whether that be in a commercial or public policy setting, which don’t necessarily require a law degree.
For those who have completed a law degree and wish to pursue a career in public policy, research positions exist. For example, the Law Commission sponsored by the Ministry of Justice annually advertises for fixed-term paid legal research assistants to look into a variety of practices such as Commercial and Common, Criminal, Public Law, Property, and Family Law. The focus of these positions is to ensure that the law is modern and fair. Their role is to conduct research and make recommendations for reform to be considered by Parliament, as well as to codify the law, eliminate anomalies, repeal obsolete and unnecessary enactments, and reduce the number of separate statutes.
Or perhaps you wish to apply your research abilities in a commercial environment. An example of this position would be a conflict-of-interest assistant or manager. Identifying conflicts of interest is vital in the legal sector. This practice is related to the management of situations where a conflict of interest arises or where there is a risk. Commercial firms cannot take new clients due to ethical concerns, so midsize to large firms often have a conflict-of-interest manager checking for these conflicts. This position would require identifying ethical conflicts in a firm’s new business efforts, being updated with conflict-of-interest standards and requirements, as well as maintaining computer systems and databases related to conflict-of-interest management.
Of course, these are not all the available research positions. This is why it is so important to recognize the diversity of the legal sector when navigating a legal career!