Other formats of this booklet are available for details see back cover icon

Other formats of this booklet are available for details see back cover

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Working in Law

Includes 20 real-life case studies covering:

  • Courts

  • Business

  • Support

  • In practice

Now on the internet www.connexions-direct.com/wilaw

What is this booklet about?

Working in law is one of a series of publications featuring people working in different jobs, professions and careers. Each person tells you what the job is really like, including the good things and the bad, offering advice on how to get in and the skills you might need for that job. You can also find out about the qualifications you will need, what training yo ucan get and how much you might be paid. You can also read about the route each person took to get their current job.

How can I find out more?

Visit www.connexions-direct.com/jobs4u for information on the jobs featured here, plus many more. Or why not talk to your Connexions personal adviser, who will help you research more details? Or you can contact one of the organisations listed at the back of the booklet.

^ How can I contact Connexions?

In person through a Connexions personal adviser who might be based at your school, college or reached at your local Connexions centre. Look in the telephone book or on the Connexions Direct website to find your local centre.

Or by telephone, text, webchat or email through Connexions Direct. Open 7 days a week, 8.00am to 2.00am.


080 800 13219

07766 413219

^ Other formats of this booklet are available - for details see back cover.

Key to salary icons:

£ Up to £12,000

££ £12,001 to £19,000

£££ over £19,000

These symbols represent the typical starting salary for the job featured in the case study.



Court administrative officer

Court clerk



Sherfiff clerk

Proucator fiscal

Crown prosecutor


Trainee conveyancer

Trainee patent agent

Pro bono solicitor

European Union lawyer

^ Support

Legal secretary

Barristers’ clerk

Legal journalist

In practice


Barrister in pupillage

Barrister in tenancy

Trainee legal executive


Notary public

^ Further information/Useful addresses

So you want to work in law?

Law is a high-profile profession and a popular career choice. People working in law are involved with the administration of a legal system – a set of enforceable rules regulating behaviour in society. This allows them to make an impact on society and contribute towards British justice.

^ What is the legal system?

Every country has its own legal system with different rules and procedures. There are three different legal systems in the UK, with Northern Ireland and Scotland operating separate systems from England and Wales. In all three areas, many aspects of the law have developed over the centuries. The decisions made by courts have become a body of laws, established principles and procedures, supplemented by Acts of Parliament.

European Community (EC) law comes from EC treaties, community legislation adopted under them, and the decisions of the European Court of Justice, which has the highest authority to decide points of EC law.

The Court System is administered by the Court Service, which provides the necessary support to the judiciary and the court staff.

It is usual for legal practitioners to specialise in one or more branches of law. The main branches are:

  • Contract

  • Tort (civil obligations)

  • Criminal law

  • Family law

  • Employment law

  • Constitutional and Administrative law

  • Property law

  • Company law.

What sorts of people work in law?

People of all types and backgrounds work in our legal system, but they all have one thing in common – a good level of education and a command of the English language.

Those working as barristers (advocates in Scotland) and solicitors must be members of professional bodies who set stringent examinations for entry. A degree-level education is essential for these jobs.

Educational requirements for supporting jobs in the court service, such as court clerks, court reporters and ushers, are not so strict. Many support jobs outside the court service are with firms of solicitors or with barristers’ chambers (barristers’ offices are called ‘chambers’). Jobs may be clerical or secretarial, and are open to people who can acquire these specialist skills.

Legal professionals may work in:

  • the court system itself

  • firms of solicitors

  • barristers’ chambers

  • private and public companies

  • central and local government

  • many other organisations, such as charities.

They fall into one of the following groups:

Barristers who offer specialist legal advice or represent their clients in court or at tribunals. They take instruction from solicitors and other professionals, and increasingly from legal executives. Barristers in chambers are self-employed, unlike those working for government and commercial organisations. They are supported in their role by barristers’ clerks who accept work on their behalf.

Solicitors are usually the first point of contact for people seeking legal advice and may represent clients in the lower courts. They work in a wide range of firms, broadly representing the specialist areas they have chosen. These may be international firms, city firms predominantly based in London, national firms with offices in many major UK cities, or High Street firms working for local businesses and people. Many solicitors also work in commerce and industry, local and national government, trade unions and court services, where they may be crown prosecutors.

^ Other Professionals working within the system include legal executives, paralegals, administrative staff, legal journalists and court reporters. Specialists include licensed conveyancers, trade mark attorneys, will writers and patent agents.

What training is involved?

Legal training can be expensive, although many firms do offer some sponsorship. Some jobs, such as solicitor and barrister, involve many years of academic study followed by several further stages of vocational training and experience. It is important to consider how costly this can be and to find an employer who will support you through some of your training.

Entering support roles, such as legal secretary and court administrative officer, involves applying to firms, chambers and the courts themselves for vacancies and training that may be available. Applicants must have at least GCSEs/S grades or equivalent qualifications, including English and maths.

Legal journalists are employed by a variety of publications and organisations, and need journalistic experience coupled with general legal knowledge.

^ Would working in law suit you?

Some of the people in this booklet felt attracted to working in law as a change from the world of commerce, some out of a desire to assist other people, and some to satisfy ambition. Others just like working within a system that is ordered and disciplined.

Whatever your motive, working in law usually entails working in the interests of other people who will rely on your knowledge and expertise. It is worth remembering that law is a very competitive field, so you'll have to work hard to succeed.

People working in courts throughout the UK aim to deliver justice effectively and efficiently to the public. They may work in civil, family or criminal courts.

^ Courts

Court administrative officer

Jobs4u title: Court administrative officer

Yasmin Arshad is an administrative officer for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in Cambridgeshire. She provides casework and general administrative assistance to the prosecution team. Acting as a point of contact for the unit, Yasmin deals with enquiries and correspondence in a professional and courteous manner.

^ What does your job involve?

My job involves producing court lists and preparing files for court, liaising with prosecutors, other caseworkers and criminal justice agencies, sorting and interpreting incoming files and taking the necessary action with urgent cases. I deal with telephone enquiries and correspondence. I am also a point of contact for clients and prepare forms for the payment of fees for counsel.

^ What kind of files do you deal with?

They are all crime files, for example, summons files, advice files and traffic files.

What hours do you work?

I’m able to work flexible hours which I enjoy, as it gives me more freedom to organise my time.

^ Who do you work with?

I work closely with the team of crown prosecution solicitors, and I liaise with police departments such as the witness liaison team and case file co-ordinators. I also speak to people from other departments, such as the probation service.

^ Do you have to go into courtrooms?

Sometimes, although most of my time is spent in the office, updating files on the computer, photocopying and contacting people by e-mail, telephone or fax.

What was your route into this job?

When I left school, I was very interested in a law career. I ended up taking a business studies course and worked for the Ministry of Defence (MOD) as an administrative officer. However, when I saw this job advertised four years ago, I realised that I was still interested in working in a legal environment and decided to go for it.

^ What kind of training have you had?

I have had in-house training for the computer systems that we use and diversity training. I am currently being sponsored through my Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX) course. This means that the CPS pays for my training and allows me to take study leave to revise for the exams.

^ What are the skills needed for your role?

You need to be able to meet targets, prioritise your work and manage your own time effectively. You should be able to prepare and structure written correspondence. It’s also important to work well in a team.

What are your long-term career goals?

This year I want to pass my Level 3 ILEX exam. My long-term plan is to continue studying to be a crown prosecutor. I feel very lucky that I’m in a job where I am given the opportunity to progress.

Yasmin’s route

  • GCSEs.

  • GNVQ in Business Studies.

  • Worked for the Ministry of Defence (MOD) in an administrative role.

  • In-house training with CPS.

  • Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX) qualification.

Yasmin’s tips

  • You have to be a good communicator and team player. This job is about bringing together a lot of different people and compiling information.

  • Being able to work to deadlines is important – a court hearing needs the right information at the right time in order to proceed smoothly.

^ Related jobs

Barristers’ clerk (England and Wales)

Civil Service administrative assistant/officer

Court usher

Legal adviser/Court clerk

Legal secretary

Local government registrar of births, deaths and marriages

££ Salary information

Salaries for court administrative officers range from between £14,654 and £17,412.

Getting in

  • Administrative officers working for the CPS usually need at least five GCSEs (including English language) at Grade C or equivalent qualifications, or two years of experience in a relevant clerical role.

  • In Scotland, administrative officers are employed by district courts which have varying entry requirements.

^ Court Clerk

Jobs4u title: Legal/adviser/Court clerk

Ben Yallop is a court clerk at Southwark Crown Court in London. He is responsible for assisting the judge and managing the courtoom, ensuring it runs smoothly and that everyone is in the right place at the right time.

^ What is the role of a court clerk?

The clerk assists, updates and informs the judge. I prepare all the case papers for the judge and make sure he/she is fully prepared for court.

What do you do in court?

I sit just in front of the judge keeping a written log. I also swear in the jury, take pleas from the defendant and complete paperwork, including imprisonment orders and bail forms. When I’m in court I wear a gown, starched collars and tabs.

^ What kind of cases do you deal with?

On some days, I might deal with a rape or murder. At other times I could be dealing with simpler cases, such as the theft of a bicycle. Apart from trials, there are sentencing hearings, appeals and any number of applications that might be made to the judge.

^ What equipment do you use?

I usually use a pen, paper and a computer. Courtrooms can be technically advanced, with videos and DVD players, and the jury can watch computer presentations on their own screen. Sometimes a witness gives evidence via satellite if they cannot attend court, or we use a video link so that a nervous victim does not have to see the accused party.

^ What was your route into this job?

During one summer holiday at school, I worked as an office junior in a firm of solicitors and became interested in the law. After university, I applied for a job

in the court’s general office. I spent a few months inputting new cases onto the computer system before I was promoted to court clerk.

^ Do you ever deal with unusual cases?

Rarely a day goes by where something interesting doesn’t happen. A defendant may try to escape from the dock, or a celebrity could be on trial. Court cases that I’m involved with regularly appear in the papers.

Is your work ever distressing?

Sometimes it can be. People make mistakes and can be sent to prison for them, and understandably they can get very upset. Occasionally, I come into contact with victims of rape or violence, which can leave me feeling very low.

What training have you had?

I have been on numerous courses and was only allowed to run a courtroom once I’d shadowed a clerk for a few weeks.

What hours do you work?

The court usually sits from 1 0.30am until 1 .00pm, and then from 2.00pm to 4.00pm. We work on a flexitime system; as long as I’m here between 10.00am and 4.00pm, and complete an average of 36 hours a week, I can work whatever hours are necessary to do the job.

What do you like best about your job?

No two days are the same and I come into contact with a wide range of people. I enjoy the challenge and the responsibility of clerking – it can be quite exciting when I have a high-profile case!

^ What are the skills and qualities needed?

You need to be level-headed, confident and happy to speak in front of a room full of people. Mistakes happen sometimes and you need to be able to deal with situations without panicking.

What are your future career plans?

At the moment, I am just enjoying clerking, although I may convert my degree to a legal one to become formally qualified. In the Civil Service, it is also very easy to transfer to other areas of work.

Ben’s route

  • A levels.

  • Degree in Philisophy

  • Worked in Southwark Crown Court general office

  • Promoted to court clerk

Ben’s tips

  • Courts are open to the public, so find out where your local court is and make a visit.

  • Gain as much experience as you can - courts sometimes hold open days or accept school pupils on work experience.

Related jobs

Barristers’ clerk (England and Wales) Civil Service administrative assistant/officer

Court administrative officer

Court reporter

Court usher


££ Salary information

Salaries range between £16,350 and £20,000 a year. Court clerks working in London receive higher salaries.

Getting in

  • The minimum entry requirements are five GCSEs (A-C) including English language or equivalent qualifications, or two years’ administrative experience.

  • Training is on the job; no prior knowledge of law is required.

  • Computer literacy is important.


Jobs4u title: Court reporter

^ Shola McGregor is a stenographer working for the firm of Harry Counsell, which provides court reporting services to courts, the legal profession and, in fact, any organisation that requires a verbatim (word for word) transcript.

What does your job involve?

I sit in courts or meetings, reporting everything that is being said word for word. I then produce a transcript of the proceedings in an allotted time.

^ Do you have a typical day?

Not really. Some days I work from home completing transcripts. On other days, I am out on jobs. I work in lots of different places, including the Nursing and Midwifery Council, the Competition Commission, at NHS complaints tribunals and at meetings in various law firms.

^ What equipment do you use?

I use a Stentura 8000 – it’s a specialist shorthand typing machine that has keys on it like a keyboard, but with only 25 keys. Each key represents a letter of the alphabet and different combinations equal different letters, for example, pressing T, P and H together is an N. I also use a digital recording device as a back-up to proofread my transcripts against.

^ How fast can you type?

I can type up to 200 words per minute, which would be impossible on an ordinary typewriter. Words are broken down into syllables, so I type syllables rather than each individual letter of the word.

What was your route into this job?

A friend worked for a company that provided stenographers to the Crown Courts and mentioned to me that they were recruiting. I took the opportunity to apply and was offered a job.

^ What training have you received?

I received 18 months of training from one of the top shorthand writers in the country.

What hours do you work?

My day normally starts at 7.30am because I have to arrive at my location and set up before any hearings start. I can finish at any time, depending on the deadline for the transcript. Sometimes I have to stay up all night to finish a transcript on time!

^ What are the advantages of your job?

I enjoy the flexibility. To a certain extent, I can choose the hours I work. I also enjoy the variety – each day is different, and I love the opportunity to meet new people.

Are there any downsides?

I am not in an office environment, so there isn’t the social interaction that I would get if I were working with a team of people.

^ What skills does a court reporter need?

It’s important to have good people skills, as you meet new people all the time. You must also be disciplined in order to meet deadlines. Court reporters have to be

flexible, as the job can change from one day to the next.

What are your long-term career goals?

I would like to become the best stenographer in the country and to own my own verbatim reporting company.

Shola’s route

  • GCSEs

  • GNVQ in Art and Design

  • Shorthand training course

Shola’s tips

  • Be determined b ecause it takes a long time to train.

  • It’s important to motivate yourself and do the best job you can.

Related jobs

Barristers’ clerk (England and Wales)

Copy editor

Court administrative officer

Court usher


Legal adviser/court clerk

Legal secretary

£ Salary information

The starting salary for a court reporter who works as a logger (recording onto tape) is around £12,000 a year. Experienced stenographers can earn up to £60,000. Many work freelance and are paid a daily rate of between £120 and £300. They also get paid for producing a transcript of the proceedings.

Getting in

  • Applicants need GSCEs/S grades (A-C/1-3). They must have an excellent standard of grammar, spelling and punctuation.

  • Courses in court reporting are available in colleges throughout the UK, as well as by distance learning.

  • The British Institute of Verbatim Reporters (BIVR) offers an examination in real-time reporting.

  • Scottish law firms usually train their own court reporters.


Jobs4u title: Coroner

John Sampson works as a coroner, examining the circumstances of violent, unnatural or sudden deaths where the cause is unknown. He is based in Southwark and his district covers four inner London boroughs – Greenwich, Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark.

^ What is the role of a coroner?

A coroner presides over a Coroner’s Court. These are usually based on a county structure. My purpose is to examine the circumstances of deaths with unknown causes. After considering the facts, I can authorise the disposal of bodies. In some instances, we hold a formal inquest. In Scotland, the process is different and is under the control of the procurator fiscal.

^ What was your route into this job?

I have been a full-time coroner since February 2005. Previously, I was a solicitor and the managing partner in a private practice undertaking a range of non-contentious work – mainly buying and selling property and acting for patients with mental health issues. I have also been a deputy coroner.

^ What does the work involve?

Deaths are usually reported to me by the police or a doctor, and I work closely with pathologists who carry out postmortems (medical examinations of the deceased)

on my behalf. A typical week might involve dealing with between fifty and seventy deaths, and I might open ten or fifteen inquests. During a week, I also approve thirty or forty postmortems.

^ How often do you attend court?

I am at court every day and ‘on call’ most nights and weekends, although I am not often called out. I have to make sure that one of my three deputies is available if I’m not around for any reason. About two thirds of my time is taken up with advising my twelve officers, correspondence and signing paperwork. The rest of my time is spent hearing inquests in court.

^ Do you make the decisions on your own?

Usually I do, but sometimes a jury is required for complex cases. However, a Coroner’s Court is not a civil or a criminal court. I make my decisions based on the law and they can be reviewed by the High Court if I have made the wrong decision.

^ How did your work as a solicitor differ?

The biggest difference is that I now do very little work on the telephone and when I am in court, I am totally focused on what is happening there. I deal with people who are very upset and I have to remember that whilst this is my job, it is a particularly distressing time for them.

^ Do you have any other duties?

In addition to death, I also deal with finds that are potential treasure, such as ancient artefacts with precious metal content. The job of a coroner is a public role, and I am often asked to speak at meetings about what I do and what the service provides. However, it is not a good talking point at parties!

^ What special skills do you need?

The law requires coroners to be solicitors, barristers or medical practitioners with at least five years’ experience. Most are lawyers with at least twenty years of experience who have sound knowledge of the law, especially the law of evidence and court procedures. Good communication skills are essential. It’s also important to have computer skills, as a lot of work is carried out on the computer.

John’s route

  • Degree in Law (LLB)

  • Qualified solicitor

  • Deputy coroner

  • Coroner for inner London district

John’s tips

  • If you are interested in this area of law be prepared to persevere.

  • Look out for changes taking place in the system.

  • Find out where your nearest coroner’s office is (www.coroner.org.uk) and ask them to arrange a talk to your school or group.

Related jobs


Crime scene investigator/Scenes of crime officer (SOCO)

Forensic scientist

Judge/Sheriff Police officer

Procurator fiscal (Scotland)


£££ Salary information

The salary of a coroner is based on the size of their jurisdiction or

district. Full-time coroners can earn up to £81,135. Part-time coroners are paid on a pro-rata basis with a salary ranging from £8,343 to £42,000.

Getting in

  • Coroners must have extensive professional training and are usually lawyers with at least five years’ experience.

  • Coroners usually begin as a deputy or assistant deputy to the coroner for a particular area.

  • They do not need any further training but do attend training courses provided by the Home Office and the Coroners’ Society.

^ Sheriff Clerk

Jobs4u title: Sheriff Clerk

Richard Cantwell works as a sheriff clerk – a senior administrator – for the Scottish Court Service (SCS). Based at the Sheriff Courts at Peterhead and Banff, he is responsible for the efficient day-to-day running of the court, including programming court business.

^ What does your job involve?

I have a very wide remit, including the management of staff, accommodation, shrieval (relating to the sheriff) and other resources to ensure the court functions effectively. I’m involved in all aspects of court work, ranging from minor cases to serious criminal offences.

For example, I monitor the training and development of staff, ensuring that SCS policies in relation to staff and all court users are implemented. This includes

drafting a local court business plan and providing procedural advice to staff, sheriffs, solicitors and the public. I also process the more complex technical casework, including civil, commissary (dealing with a deceased person’s estate), divorce and bankruptcy cases.

^ Do you have a typical day?

Not really! There is so much to do and so many variations in my work – there is always something new to deal with, or changes to process.

What equipment do you use?

I use a computer, laptop, phone, fax and photocopier. The court also has closed-circuit television (CCTV) and courtroom visual/audio equipment.

^ How did you enter this type of work?

I started as an administrative officer at Glasgow and then moved to Airdrie Sheriff Courts. Through promotions and transfers, I worked as a sheriff clerk depute in Duns, Kirkcudbright, Airdrie, Falkirk, Kirkwall, Elgin and Inverness, before obtaining my present position.

^ Why did you choose this type of work?

My first job was in the Civil Service, working for the National Savings Department. When the opportunity arose for a transfer to the SCS, I was attracted by the interesting and varied nature of the work, as well as the career prospects.

^ What training did you receive?

On entry, there was induction training at the staff training centre. This was complemented by many other training courses, with desk training as and when required, to learn all the different duties of a sheriff clerk.

What hours do you work?

I work 37 hours a week, from Monday to Friday.

^ What do you like best about your job?

I enjoy the variety and the opportunity to work in different offices. I also like facing new challenges.

Are there any disadvantages?

There are just not enough hours in the day!

What skills are needed for this job?

You need effective communication skills and the ability to get on with different groups of people. You have to be a good team player and focused on meeting targets. The ability to assess complex technical problems is also important.

Richard’s route

  • Five O grades.

  • One H grade.

  • Scottish National Certificate (SNC) in Business Studies.

Richard’s tips

  • Always examine the career prospects and work opportunities of any job.

  • Be aware of job security.

Related jobs

Barristers’ clerk (England and Wales)

Court administrative officer


Legal adviser/Court clerk

Procurator fiscal (Scotland)

£££ Salary information

A pay band one officer (support grade, administrative officer and administrative assistant) can expect to start on around £12,211.With experience and ability they can move up to pay band two (executive officer grade) and earn up to £21,567.A senior sheriff clerk could expect to earn in excess of £50,000.

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