Law Career Prospects

Most people who study law hope to practice as professional lawyers. You may practice with a firm of lawyers, at the independent bar, or as a legal advisor in a company or in the public service. After completing the LLB, a graduate must serve a period of one year as an articled clerk. You are then qualified for admission as a legal practitioner, but must then work for another year (the ‘restricted practice year’) as an employee of a qualified lawyer or law firm before working independently.

There are different aspects to a lawyer's work depending on which field they specialize in. Here are a few examples.

Private lawyers focus on civil or criminal law, representing private individuals. In civil law, they pursue private law suits or litigation, or deal with wills, contracts, trusts, mortgages, leases, etc. A criminal lawyer career entails arguing a client's case in court, following the client being charged with a crime. Some lawyers only handle larger, public interest cases that have wider social importance.

Trial lawyers spend more time in court than other lawyers. However, the majority of their time is spent conducting research, interviewing clients and witnesses, and preparing for trial.
Corporate lawyers work solely for corporate clients and advise them on legal issues around their business activities. A career as a corporate lawyer might involve sorting out issues relating to contracts with other companies, government regulations, patents, etc.

Intellectual property lawyers help to protect clients' claims to copyrights, creative work under contract, product designs, and computer programs.

Patent lawyers advise their clients on patent law, which allows them to protect their invention of a new product or process. A career as a patent lawyer therefore requires a lot of research as a patent can only be granted if the product or process is new, inventive and capable of industrial application.

Insurance lawyers advise insurance companies about the legality of insurance transactions, writing policies that are legally correct. They also help to protect companies from unwarranted action by reviewing claims and representing the company in court.

Environmental lawyers may represent pressure groups, interest groups, and companies whose work touches on environmental issues, such as construction, geological and waste management firms. These lawyers help their clients to apply for licenses and applications for activities which may affect the environment, or defend their clients if prosecuted by the authorities over environmental breaches.

Government lawyers who work as prosecutors and defenders on behalf of the state within the justice system. Some help to draft and interpret laws and legislation on behalf of the government.

Other areas of specialization include bankruptcy, probate and international law. Some lawyers work in law schools, or teach in non-academic environments. Other lawyers work for not-for-profit organizations or disadvantaged people, usually being paid with legal aid monies. They usually handle civil cases, rather than criminal.

However, the study of law should not be considered merely as a path to professional legal practice and, as with all professions, employment opportunities reflect market demand. There are many other career opportunities for law graduates, especially those with a combined degree.




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