What can you do with a law degree?
A law degree gives you a range of job opportunities outside of the traditional law professions. Without having any legal practice qualification or being called to the bar, there are still many alternative careers with a law degree. For example, you can work as a risk manager, credit controller, insolvency practitioner, trademark attorney, immigration consultant, or university lecturer.
A law degree (undergraduate or postgraduate) can unlock many doors to achieving career success. This article has been prepared to help students research their career options, whether you are in the process of looking for a job, searching for a scholarship, studying undergraduate law, or are in graduate school doing an LLM or PhD degree.
This article will help you discover what suits you best – depending on your preference, interests and skillset. The law degree not only gives you many respectable career paths but also develops a wide variety of transferrable skills desired by employers looking for these skills through alternative careers with a law degree. This article also appeals to law and non-law students interested in commencing a law degree study, especially students who may be unfamiliar with the traditional legal career paths and alternative law careers listed below.
Traditional Law Career Path
Barristers represent clients in court through formal legal proceedings. Barristers help to facilitate their client’s case into a legitimate argument. The role of a barrister is significantly different from a solicitor. In some countries, there is no distinction between a solicitor and a barrister. To be a good barrister, you will need excellent verbal communication skills as well as a flair for public speaking (advocacy skills). Your area of speciality and salary will depend on where you choose to practice. Barristers work on criminal and civil cases including employment, tax and property tribunals. As well as arguing a case in court, barristers also advise clients and solicitors on the strength of their case.
A solicitor takes instructions from clients. Clients can consult a solicitor who advises on what actions needs to be made on the client’s behalf. Clients can be groups of persons, corporate organisations, public bodies, or individuals. The type of cases and the area of specialism, including the location of the employer and employee can affect the pay level of a solicitor. Extensive legal training is often required before you can get into the profession of a solicitor.
Best Alternative Careers With a Law Degree
1. Tax Inspector
Do you have good numeracy and IT skill, and do you enjoy analysing figures? If you’re interested in combining your legal knowledge from your law training with finance and money management, the role of a tax inspector could be ideal for you. Tax Inspectors assist individuals and organisations to submit and pay the correct amount of government-related disbursements, i.e. taxes and other capitals within set deadlines.
This can be done through inspecting financial accounts and balance sheets, offering legal advice on tax legislation, or investigating financial fraud. Tax inspectors may also utilise accounting software where necessary. Membership of the Institute of Financial Accountants may be deemed essential by most employers and clients.
2. Health and Safety Officer
Health and safety officers predominantly work with the public sector. They monitor, maintain, and improve health and safety standards with public and private organisations (including intergovernmental organisations). They carry out their duties by visiting a range of organisations, where they inspect goods for safety analyses, investigate accidents, provide professional advice, and record health and safety infringements.
A law degree can boost your chances of becoming a health and safety officer, considering it is a compliance role. Knowledge of health and safety laws and legislation is paramount. Excellent written communication and problem-solving skills are the minimum requirements for this role. Become a member of the Institute of Occupational Safety and Health to learn more.
3. Legal Product Expert
A Legal Product Expert (LPE) is usually involved in advising, training and supporting legal professionals across the world. This is a sales and marketing role that will require you to facilitate sustainable relationships with clients by marketing and closing sales of legal products and software manufactured by corporations around the world. You will need to be client-focused and have a flair for relationship building and consumer management. A new law graduate LPE can expect to start earning from GBP 22,000 per annum.
4. Recruitment Researcher
As a recruitment researcher, you will be expected to understand the global legal recruitment job market while working together with recruitment consultants. This role may also be advertised as a trainee role where you can learn the business back to front, specialise in their market sector and start market mapping to find the best top calibre candidates. You need to possess organisation and project management skills in the legal recruitment sector.
5. Police Officer
A police officer’s responsibility is to maintain law and order by way of preventing, investigating, and prosecuting criminal offences. This is a selfless role that is vital to ensuring that members of the public and their personal property remain safe and secure at all times. A law degree, precisely one with criminal law and/or criminology elements, is an important qualification to have before applying for a role as a police officer. You may also want to consider joining volunteer law enforcement agencies. You can apply to become a police officer here.
6. Financial Advisor
You may simply love advising clients to choose savings, pensions, mortgages, insurance or investment products and properties. It is the job of a financial advisor to ensure organisations and individuals can manage their financial resources (e.g. money) safely and securely; profitably.
Depending on where you choose to work, you may need an additional qualification, but this requirement could be waived if you possess some experience. This is an advisory and customer service role and one of the most financially rewarding alternative careers with a law degree for graduates. You will need to be commercially aware of how you manage your clients.
7. Legal Journalist
Journalists in the legal sector work to tight deadlines with the significant task of being an excellent researcher. Research skill and attention to detail are critical to this role. The ability to receive information and transcribe it in an engaging form for the audience is also vital for overseas graduates. If you can write well and cope with deadline pressures and flexible work hours, this may be a good fit for you.
Some legal journalists start with a local newspaper and work their way up. Others write tabloids in magazines. There may also be opportunities to join a national paper’s graduate scheme. The opportunity is limitless in the journalism world. Every news outlet needs a controversial law story!
8. Legal Research Assistant
As a research assistant, you will apply your research and writing skills and critical thinking developed through legal study. You will be working with research experts, professors and organisations to publish articles and books. If you possess a postgraduate degree, you might be asked to do some teaching and supervision of university students.
A university often advertises this job, but you may find that international organisations and research institutes may advertise this role. There is a significant amount of time needed to plan your research and attend departmental or group meetings. This role is ideal for those that are interested in working in academia. Graduates who gain entry into academia find it flexible and a truly rewarding role among the alternative careers with a law degree.
9. Academic Research Fellow
This is a university-based role and a highly sought-after role by graduate students. Possessing a PhD in a legal area is a requirement to be considered for this role. You will be tasked with writing and publish peer-reviewed journals, edited books and monographs, and writing reports in your specialist area of knowledge. You might also be asked to teach LLM students and supervise PhD students.
There is usually internal funding available for you annually to perform this role. This funding can be used towards attending conferences and public lectures. However, you will also need to contribute to writing bids and applications for external research funding and to develop collaborative research relationships with other institutions. Strong research skill is a critical requirement for this role.
10. Risk Manager
This is one of the most sought-after jobs if you are thinking of alternative careers with a law degree. A risk manager advises organisations on any potential and unforeseeable risks to their value or existence. They identify and assess the level of threats and put concrete plans in place in the event of things going wrong. Mitigating risk is a key element of the job.
In this role, you will be responsible for managing and mitigating the risk to a business, including its customers and staff, its reputation, property and interests. You could work in a variety of sectors (e.g. IT, pharmaceutical, legal, construction, etc.) and specialise in several areas. Attention to detail and problem-solving are essential qualities in performing this role. Membership of the Institute of Risk Management if often required by employers.
Paralegals are graduate law students who support lawyers by maintaining, drafting, documenting, and organising files into catalogues. They are also responsible for calling legal witnesses, managing a legal library and attending legal meetings with senior colleagues. They usually do not specialise in an area. Excellent organisation and IT proficiency in Microsoft Office applications (Outlook, Word and Excel) are added benefits to performing this role.
Paralegals support several lawyers across a range of legal areas such as family law, corporate law, personal injury attorney, real estate, criminal law and many other types of legal areas and issues. Sometimes, this role could be advertised as unpaid, but this is increasingly becoming rare. Many law graduates start as paralegals to gain a better experience of legal practice. To be a qualified paralegal, membership of the National Association of Licensed Paralegals is generally required.
12. Company Secretary
This area of work is open to most graduates, particularly accounting, finance and law graduates. The job of a company secretary is mainly desk-based. With some experience, you may be able to work in a self-employed or freelance capacity. You will need to ensure a corporation complies with corporate regulatory requirements, as well as maintaining minimum required standards of corporate governance.
Provision of legal advice may sometimes be necessary; hence, possessing a law degree is a bonus. You will be holding a strategic governance position at the centre of corporate operations within an organisation. Jobs are widely available, as there are companies. While not essential, a recognised certificate in company secretary practice can help secure a job.
13. Chartered Town Planner
As a town or city planner, you will be directly involved in the management and infrastructural development of cities, towns, suburban areas and the countryside. Your task will be to manage the everyday demands of housing, agriculture, transport (including multimodal transports) industrial development, recreation, and the environment, to allow appropriate development to take place. This job requires critical thinking and organisational skills at a very high level. Regeneration and redevelopment within towns and cities will form an essential part of planning and co-ordination.
A significant portion of your role will be to influence competing views of local businesses, communities and government agencies. You will need to be assertive and have excellent verbal communication skills. If you work in a suburban area, you will need to ensure that the development initiatives you recommend for implementation is sustainable. You will also aim to make a forward-thinking contribution towards tackling the effects of climate change. Knowledge of environmental law and property law is vital for this role. Membership of the Royal Town Planning Institute is often desirable to fulfil this role.
14. Contract Manager
Working as a contract manager is one of the most rewarding alternative careers with a law degree today. As a contract manager, your role will be to maintain regular customer contact, performing regular audits with customers in line with the agreed matrix with your organisation. Customers are at the heart of all you do, and you will use your customer service awareness to develop new and improved services appropriate to the customer’s needs.
You will have excellent interpersonal and organisational skills to prioritise workloads and meet strict deadlines. You will be involved in the recruitment, performance management and coaching of site supervisors, cleaners and mobile cleaners; maximising upsells to clients to grow your client portfolio; accountability; and completion of payroll.
15. Credit Controller
This is a forward-facing role. You will be making contact with debtors, i.e. those people whose payment is overdue and explaining their terms of credit. This role requires excellent verbal and written communication skills and negotiation skills. You will be renegotiating repayment plans with debtors – you will need to have an assertive attitude with a tactful technique in anticipating and mitigating people’s challenges.
Using databases to store and check credit records and set up new entries is a requirement of this role. Strong administrative, numeracy and computer skills are imperative. You will be processing payments in an organised and methodical way. You may be required to start legal proceedings if debts are unpaid and arrange for the repossession of goods to recover outstanding debts. The CICM certification may be required by most employers.
16. Internal Auditor
You will be responsible for executing a mix of operational, compliance, and IT audits. This position will often support risk advisory and investigations projects. You will need to possess the ability to develop robust risk and control matrices and internal audit test plans; the ability to review compliance with related operational, financial, IT, and regulatory controls. Excellent stakeholder management skill is a desirable attribute.
A law degree is not essential, but it is beneficial. If you are a chartered auditor, your chances of securing a job are higher. You will need to keep up-to-date awareness of the regulatory and statutory changes and accounting practices. You will need to identify internal control deficiencies and provide recommendations to organisations for improving their operations, in terms of both efficient and effective performance.
17. Environmental Consultant
As an environmental consultant, you’ll need to effectively conduct field surveys and gather data about levels of pollution or contamination in an area of consideration, carry out desk-based research, interpret raw data, write environmental reports and share findings with multi-disciplinary colleagues, clients, subcontractors (such as analytical laboratories) and regulators. You will also advise on best practices based on research analyses and findings, develop conceptual models, which involves identification and consideration of potential contamination.
There is a possibility that you will undertake fieldwork to identify previous activities on the site and any contamination while looking at the suitability of new developments, like power stations, transportation facilities, wind farms or other large sites that may impact the environment. Ultimately, you will manage legal issues for clients and maintain an awareness of how legislation affects environmental projects. A law degree with elements of legal research, environmental law and public law is essential for this role. The ability to communicate effectively with external stakeholders and possession of project management experience is also vital.
18. Trading Standards Officer (TSO)
Trading standards officers act on behalf of consumers and businesses and it is one of the alternative careers with a law degree on our list. You will advise on and enforce laws that govern the way people buy, sell, rent and hire goods and services. Trading standards officers (TSOs) work for local governments advising on consumer law, investigating complaints and, if all else fails, prosecuting traders who break regulations.
These regulations cover a broad area, which includes consumer safety, the ban on counterfeit goods, product labelling, weights and measures, under-age sales, animal welfare, etc. Your duties could consist of visiting local traders for routine checks or of investigating complaints taking samples of goods for testing, checking that weighing scales and measurements are accurate, checking that food labelling is correct, ascertaining that advertising does not mislead consumers, advising consumers and businesses about the law. As a TSO, you will be investigating suspected offences, which could include undercover or surveillance work, preparing evidence, and prosecuting cases in court.
You must be attentive to details to perform this role effectively. Knowledge of consumer and commercial law and public law is essential. Professional certification may be necessary for this job.
19. Insolvency Practitioner
This is a specialised role that requires a high level of attention to detail and problem-solving abilities as a graduate. You will be working within the confines of bankruptcy laws to deal with personal and company insolvencies. In many jurisdictions, you will need to be licensed. Insolvency issues are usually complex in nature. The challenges for an insolvency practitioner can vary depending on the situation but can include dealing with bankrupt companies, managing the financial affairs of a company, investigating company debts and insolvencies, and reporting the results from investigations to creditors.
You may need to take steps to preserve employee jobs and rescue businesses where possible. You will need to act as a negotiating intermediary between debtors and creditors to find suitable repayment solutions to avoid insolvency ultimately—knowledge of corporate law and insolvency law is essential. A commercial law background with elements of dispute resolution is often desirable. Certification in insolvency practice may be required for this role.
20. Insurance Claim Handler
You will be managing claims from the start through to settlement, making decisions on the extent and validity of an insurance claim, and checking for any potentially fraudulent activity. As an insurance claim handler, you will coordinate services that may be required by policyholders following an incident or accident. You may provide advice on making a claim and the processes involved, process new insurance claims, collect accurate information and documents to proceed with a claim, analyse a claim made by a policymaker to establish whether it satisfies the policy conditions.
You may also investigate potentially fraudulent claims, liaise with solicitors, as well as other legal and claims professionals and negotiate the terms of a claim. There may be some forensic accounting tasks in your role where the case is complicated. A law degree with an element of insurance and consumer law is desirable. You must be able to think critically and multitask effectively. It is one of the most popular alternative careers with a law degree.
21. University Lecturer
To perform the job of a university lecturer, you’ll need in-depth knowledge in your subject area to teach higher education students. Expect to be involved in, or develop, a variety of teaching methods and materials including lectures, seminars, tutorials, mooting, and also e-learning. The use of virtual learning environments learning management systems is becoming increasingly used to support student learning. You may be expected to pursue your research (e.g. write journal articles, publish books, apply for research grants) to contribute to the broader research activities of your institution if you are on a research contract.
Demonstration of strong research and writing skills are essential. You will also be asked to undertake administrative tasks and pastoral support. As a starting point, depending on the university, you may be referred to as an ‘Assistant Professor’ or a ‘Lecturer in Law’. Other tasks you are likely to encounter are supervision of dissertations and PhD theses, marking and grading of assessments, attendance at committee meetings and student clearance/admission. Possession of a PhD is often a qualification requirement for this job but it is not essential if your position has little research responsibility.
22. Trademark Attorney
A trademark attorney advises clients on a wide range of trademark-related issues, and act on their behalf in dealing with the various intellectual property registration bodies, as well as with third parties. It is essential that you are thoroughly grounded in trademark and intellectual property law and practice, including possessing a working knowledge of intellectual property related issues as they affect industrial designs, passing off, copyright, patent.
You will need to demonstrate innovation and commercial awareness in performing this role. Many trademark attorneys are self-employed. The annual salary could be well over GPB 85,000 in many cases.
A keen understanding of statistic and business is critical for this role, and you must be attentive to detail to succeed. Your job will be to keep up to date with financial and tax legislation, stay informed while anticipating the movements in the market, carry out market research and analyses, write reports and newsletters. You will need to be proactively looking for clients while selling your services to your clients and manage the relationships effectively.
You may need to be involved in cold calling and email marketing while building your professional network. Clients will require regular on the state of their portfolio, including new investment opportunities. As a stockbroker, there is a tiny margin for error, and you cannot provide misleading information. A bachelor’s degree in law can open the doors for you, but a higher degree, e.g. Master of Business Administration (MBA) can enhance your chances of securing a stockbroker role.
If you enjoy listening and giving advice when people argue, becoming a mediator might not be farfetched. As a successful mediator, you will be a great listener, attentive to detail, problem solver, and you should be capable of upholding equal opportunity during the course of a dispute. Your job will be to facilitate meetings, act as a referee and keep everyone focused on the issues at stake while encouraging each party to reach an agreement without the need to proceed to court.
Meetings are generally held face to face, but online meetings should be expected. The type of disputes that you may encounter at a mediation meeting includes child custody, financial disputes, industrial strike action, disagreements between neighbours, divorce, etc. You may need to undertake a professional qualification to act as a mediator, but a law will suffice in most cases.
Becoming an arbitrator is not generally regulated by law, but you can qualify as a Chartered Arbitrator, thus making it one of the most highly-regarded jobs if you need to explore other alternative careers with a law degree. Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution mechanism, an out of court process in resolving disputes swiftly. However, where disputes involve issues about law, having a law degree becomes essential. If the dispute involves fact, a person who is an expert in that particular area may be a suitable arbitrator.
To perform this role, you will need to have an awareness of the nature of the dispute – which may be sensitive in many cases, problem-solving skills, have commercial awareness and possess excellent negotiating skills, with the ability to work well with teams. As an arbitrator, your expertise could be required in family matters – such as child maintenance, property disagreements, unfair employment dismissal, contractual commercial disputes, cross-border commercial disputes, sports disputes, shipping disputes, etc.
26. Policy Risk Analyst
Working as a political risk analyst (you may also be referred to as country researcher, intelligence analyst or geopolitical risk analyst) can be a gratifying and fulfilling job and one of the most popular roles if you are seriously contemplating alternative careers with a law degree. You will work with politicians and political bodies and examine issues such as eradication of crime, local conflict resolution, economic development programmes, governance, trade regulations, and human rights issues.
You may also work with a range of private business sector organisations to inform business and investment decisions, or on behalf of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to assist domestic and global policymaking and strategy. You must be able to think strategically and be a problem solver. Possession of a law degree will give you an edge to fulfilling this role, including an intrinsic knowledge of government and policy regulations.
27. Regulated Immigration Adviser
This is one of the most highly rewarding alternative careers with a law degree. Immigration advisers provide advice and services mainly on claims for asylum, applications for entry clearance or leave to enter or remain, immigration employment documents, nationality, citizenship, residence, deportation or removal, bail applications and appeals against deportation, etc.
You need experience in working in a related area (e.g., Citizens Advice Bureau) to gain entry into this profession. A law degree is desirable but not essential. This is a regulated profession and you may be classed as self-employed if you are working independently.