Few degrees, save perhaps medicine, lead so directly into a fixed profession as law. From the outset – those first few weeks of introductory lectures – people view the motivation to study law at undergraduate level purely as a way into the profession; a method of cutting a year off qualification.
This can be both a blessing and a curse. For some, those who have always dreamed of the shiny corridors of a corporate firm or the hallowed halls of chambers and courtrooms, a clear cut pathway leading to the dream just makes their journey easier. But for others – those studying law because of a general or academic interest in it, or those who have changed their minds along the way – finding a way out of the legal careers pit can be hard, especially when it seems that everyone is expecting you to qualify.
So what to do if you find yourself in your final year, with a law degree but a passion for a contrasting field?
Related Career Paths Are Out There
There are many fields related to law to explore if you’re looking to directly utilise your legal education. Becoming a paralegal is an obvious option if you’re interested in further exposure to lawyering.
But if it’s the firm environment you’re looking to avoid, yet still love the concept of law, think about which aspects you prefer, and in which you excel the most (don’t worry, those who have a completely opposing career path in mind – I’ll come to you later!).
If you’re a natural problem-solver, consider a career in mediation or arbitration. If you’re drawn to the commercial side of things, think about financial journalism or consultancy. If you’re motivated by justice, consider human rights. Or if you love academia, roles in research or policy could be for you.
Conversely, there are plenty of non-legal roles within firms; HR, marketing, sales, front of house… You get the idea.
This list is far, far from exhaustive; we’re trying to say that law is a broadly diverse area, and many roles exist beyond the well-trodden road of becoming a solicitor or barrister. You can still make direct use of your degree without qualifying.
Passions Outside of Your Comfort Zone
Alternatively, you may not want to follow a legal path at all. Maybe three years was enough for you; maybe you’ve realised that your true passion lies elsewhere. If you know what that is, there’s no reason to shy away from fully exploring any field, even if you feel constricted by your degree.
In reality, a law degree is incredibly versatile, and even in fields which seem wildly unrelated will utilise some legal skills: negotiation, commercial acumen, broad research and cogent argument forming.
In other words, your degree should not tie you to a specific field, and to feel it does would be a waste of your potential. Working in an area you’re passionate about will make you happier, more productive, and better at your job; this matters so much more than the subject on your degree certificate (although make sure to remind potential employers of everything you gained by studying a well-respected and demanding course!).
And If You Don’t Know At All
Well, this is a problem common to many – particularly if you ask students from more open-ended courses. Go ahead and ask around, you’ll find you aren’t alone.
Our only advice here is to do some soul-searching. Think about your outside interests, and how you can turn this into a viable, stable (and hopefully profitable!) career. See what those with similar skill sets and interests to you have done – although don’t copy; only your path will be right for you! Take some time out. See an earlier post from our author on LawCareers.net.
When It All Comes Together
Whilst your dream job may not be your first, it will come later, with hard work and determination. By this point, you’ll have realised how helpful all of your experiences really were.
So don’t be disheartened: look at this as an exciting new adventure. Be passionate, and demonstrate that it’s you and your skills – not just your degree – that got you that job.
Anastasia is a law graduate turned marketing professional writing on behalf of Vincents Solicitors.