Lawyer job profile

Law is a competitive and respected industry, known for being intellectually challenging and offering high salaries. The law covers all aspects of society, from buying a house and writing a will to environmental policy and business mergers. 

What does a lawyer do? 

Lawyers advise clients on all aspects of the law and present cases at court proceedings and hearings. Solicitors and barristers are both types of lawyer but have completed different qualifications. 

Being a lawyer involves advising clients on criminal and civil law and representing them in legal proceedings. Types of lawyer include:

  • Divorce Lawyer 
  • Criminal Lawyer 
  • Intellectual Property Lawyer 
  • Family Lawyer. 

What can I expect from being a lawyer?

There is a lot more to being a lawyer than arguing exciting cases in the courtroom. As a solicitor, much of your time will be spent researching case studies, writing legal strategies and staying up to date with the law. 

A respected career with high earning potential, the law profession can be challenging but also rewarding. Hours can be very long  and there is high pressure to achieve the best results for your clients and your law firm. 

Skills required to become a lawyer 

Beyond qualifications and training, a lawyer job description is likely to include some or all of the following: 

Communication and negotiation

Meeting clients from different backgrounds is an everyday responsibility for a lawyer. You will need to be able to write clearly, listen to your clients’ needs and negotiate settlements.

Public speaking

Lawyers need to present evidence in court clearly and confidently, providing persuasive arguments and counter points.

Analysis

Reviewing sources and case studies is all part of being a lawyer. You need strong analytical skills and excellent attention to detail.

Numeracy

Numerical skills are valuable as you will need to understand financial statements and account information.

Logic and reasoning

Laws evolve as society changes. You need to think logically and find case studies to back up your legal argument. Reasoning skills help you anticipate arguments from the other parties involved.

Duties of a lawyer

The day-to-day duties of a lawyer depend on your specialism and area of law you choose to work in. Duties may include:

  • Providing legal advice and guidance
  • Writing contracts
  • Meeting clients (individuals or businesses)
  • Attending court hearings
  • Reading witness statements 
  • Collating evidence and researching case studies
  • Keeping up to date with changes in the law
  • Representing clients in trials.

Working environment 

Most lawyers work for private firms although you may choose to work as in-house legal counsel for a company. You could also choose to work in the public sector. 

The Crown Prosecution Service is a government agency in England and Wales, existing to make prosecution decisions independent of the police and government. A public defender is employed by the state to represent those who can’t afford a lawyer. 

Lawyers are often based in offices, but travel will be required when you meet clients and contacts. If you are a criminal lawyer then you will spend a large amount of time in court. 

Hours

Being a lawyer means working in a high-pressure environment with long and demanding hours. Working hours range from 37 to 50 hours a week. Occasional weekend and late-night hours may be required when preparing for a trial. Lawyers charge clients for billable hours, so you need to keep track of the time you spend on different cases. 

Salary

What is the average lawyer salary? 

Lawyers are known for being highly paid. What you earn will depend on your specialism, employer, level of experience and location.

Starting salaries for qualified solicitors range between £25,000 and £40,000. In larger firms and in London you could earn much higher than the industry average.

Experienced lawyers can earn between £40,000 and £90,000. Qualified barristers earn between £12,000 to £250,000. (Guideline salary information from National Careers Service).

Qualifications and training

First you will need to complete A Levels (A Level Law is optional) or a Foundation in Law. Following this, qualifications you need to become a lawyer include:

  • Three-year undergraduate degree
  • If you studied a non-law degree you will need to take the one-year Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) conversion course
  • One year specialist training (Legal Practice Course or Bar Professional Training Course)
  • Two-year Professional Skills Course (for solicitors) or one-year pupillage (for barristers).

How to become a lawyer

A gavel of a judge and a scale of justice Getty Images

Find out the qualifications and training you need to become a lawyer in the UK and where this career can take you.  

Lawyer career path

Your career path will often depend on the firm you work at after you graduate and qualify. Law is a highly competitive industry with a broad range of practice areas. 

As a solicitor, you could work your way up to becoming a partner in a firm. The structure depends on where you work, with associates often having at least five years’ experience and senior associates 10 to 15 years. With experience, it is also possible to become self-employed working as a consultant.  

Top barristers can aim for a Queen’s Counsel position. The role is highly competitive to get into and it is unlikely before you have 20 to 25 years of experience. As it is based on your career achievements, it is something you have to aim towards for a long time. 

Areas of law 

Banking and finance law

Banking and finance lawyers advise and negotiate on transactions, deals and loans of money between banks and companies or individuals. Work can be complex and often international.

Commercial law

If you are a solicitor working in commercial law, your job will be to advise businesses on issues such as mergers, acquisitions, and disputes. 

Criminal law

Criminal law covers anything from small offences to serious crimes like fraud, murder and robbery. You can be a defence lawyer in private practice. In public practice, you can work for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) or the Public Defender Service (PDS).

Public law

This area of law represents legal issues between individuals and government. Judicial review is something a citizen can ask for if they feel a public body has not acted within the law.

Employment law

Employment law covers the relationship between employees or employers. Issues could relate to wages, safety and discrimination, and cases can be heard at tribunals or in court.

Family law

This area of law covers children, family and personal relationships. Disputes handled by family law include divorce, financial settlements, child custody and adoption.

Intellectual property law

Working in intellectual property (IP) law involves protecting the ownership of ideas and products for individuals and businesses. This usually means drafting documents, copyrights, patents and trademarks.  

There are many more career opportunities in law depending on your passion and expertise. Discover how to become a lawyer.