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What’s The Alternative?

Advice, General advice, Job hunting, Law, Postgraduate Study September 26, 2007

What's The Alternative?

What’s the Alternative?

The costs of attending law school without sponsorship can be off-putting for many would-be lawyers. But did you know there are many other options, besides becoming a solicitor or barrister, open to graduates who are interested in the legal field?

While the most obvious routes for a legal career are to become either a barrister or solicitor, many other roles with a law element are available to graduates. For example, did you know that, rather than paying your way through law school, a more cost-effective way to become a legal professional could be to undertake paralegal or legal executive qualifications?

Becoming a paralegal

The Institute of Paralegals reports that the term "paralegal" is relatively new in the UK. According to its website, a paralegal can be defined as "someone who is not a solicitor or barrister who works in or with the law. They may apply it, administer it, interpret it, use it, monitor it or advise on it, or they may do legal (as opposed to administrative) work in the civil or criminal justice court systems".

Although this is a very wide definition and can encompass all kinds of people in legal roles, it can also be more narrowly defined as those who decide to become a "certified paralegal" – take a look at our case study overleaf to find out more.

The Ilex route

Given the expense of undertaking the LPC and the fierce competition for training contracts, an increasingly popular method of becoming a lawyer is to become a member of the Institute of Legal Executives (Ilex). Legal executives are qualified lawyers, recognised by the Law Society and the Department for Constitutional Affairs.

Qualifying takes around four years of study, with the first two years set at A-level standard and the final two at degree level. The benefit of the Ilex route is that classes are flexible, so you can "earn while you learn". A further five years of on-the-job training is then required before you become fully qualified. To read more about the path to becoming a legal executive, read a case study on the following pages.

Police work

For those of you interested in working in a different kind of legal environment, joining the police could be a viable alternative. Chris Dreyfus, 27, is a newly promoted inspector with the British Transport Police (BTP). He reached this position relatively early via the fast-track high-potential development (HPD) scheme. He studied computing and business at the University of Greenwich and following graduation was an IT consultant, during which time he was a special constable with the BTP.

"I joined three years ago," he says of BTP. "For the past month-and-a-half I’ve been in a counter-terrorism role, managing three teams with eight police constables and one sergeant in each. We focus primarily on London. We conduct high-profile searches on the transport network, and work with the local community to gather information."
Working as a police officer is not the only option for graduates. There are many other opportunities in "civilian roles", such as intelligence analysts, call handlers and front counter personnel. Simon Fisher, 32, is employed by the Metropolitan Police as a press officer. He graduated from York St John University with a degree in American studies and history.

"About 50 per cent of my time is spent on external media enquiries from any aspect of the press – newspapers, radio, internet and so on. The other 50 per cent is spent on internal communications projects." He says one of thforensivee things he enjoys most about his job is that no two days are the same. Dealing with a variety of requests means that he never knows what to expect.

For more information on the HPD scheme and careers with the police, visit www.policecouldyou.co.uk.

Legal academia

For those of you who can’t get enough of legal study, one career to consider could be that of academia. Universities offer opportunities for fellowships, tutors and lecturers, as well as studentships. To be eligible for these vacancies, most universities require you to have completed some form of postgraduate study, and to have a proven interest in the research field. To teach law at A-level, you will need a law degree – and usually a masters – but also a teaching qualification, preferably in further and adult education teaching. For GCSE law, you will be required to undertake the PGCE. To find out more about positions available in universities, take a look at The Times Higher Education Supplement’s job section: www.thesjobs.co.uk

Forensic accountancy

If you like the idea of combining numeracy skills with legal knowledge, forensic accountancy could be the career for you. Amy Hawkins, 25, is an associate in the forensic and assurance division at PricewaterhouseCoopers. She gained a 2.1 in biological chemistry at the University of Leicester.

"At the moment I am working on a large investigation," she reveals. "The work revolves around gathering evidence before going to court. This involves reading emails, searching for clues, and trying to find out who might have been involved in fraud." To get a flavour of the work, Amy suggests students undertake work experience. For example, PwC offer summer internships, and you can do work shadowing too.

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