So you’re dreaming of witty courtroom banter, 6-figure salaries and a holiday home on the French Riviera? Law is certainly a decent route into the world of corporate fun and rich city life, but here’s the bit they don’t tell you: there’s a whole host of dull cramming, ladder climbing and late nights nosing around the finer points of legal principle to be done first. If that doesn’t put you off, there are several ways to get started.
The most common route into law is also the most simple: take a law degree. It’s intense, but three years of undergraduate study will put you in the perfect place to make an informed choice about exactly what area of law you’d like to go in to. If you do well, you’ll get to choose from a number of lucrative routes, and (if you’re right at the top of the class) might even have the pick of a host of training contracts and further qualification options from the top law firms, who regularly headhunt from courses at the most prestigious universities. The first decision you’ll have to make is simple but important: solicitor, or barrister?
To be called to the bar (as those in the profession refer to the process of becoming a barrister), you’ll need to follow up your degree with further qualifications. If you took a law degree to start with, this is a relatively simple process involving a challenging entrance exam, and a yearlong intensive course (which can also be fulfilled over two years, somewhat less intensively). It’s worth remembering, of course, that though it’s generally considered to be the higher position for a lawyer, barristers tend to have a much harder early professional life than solicitors. Barristers rely on reputation, and newcomers can find court assignments (and therefore income) hard to come by. The flipside is that established barristers can earn quite ludicrous amounts of cash working an endless stream of high profile cases. But you have to get there first.
If you’re look for the stability of a regular monthly salary, as well as a strong workload and the chance to work your way up to partner (and that French seaside villa), becoming a solicitor is probably the route for you. Sadly, simply having a law degree doesn’t make you a solicitor. You’ll need to wiggle your way in to a firm – perhaps the hardest part of the process – and win a coveted position as a trainee solicitor. From here, you’ll be taking on minor cases and assisting the firm’s solicitors for the following year, and ultimately hoping to win a full time contract. After 11 months of long hours, small cases and coffee fetching, you’ll still be fully qualified solicitor, even if you don’t win the long term contract, and many take the option to hunt around for a firm that suits in terms of location and legal specialties at this point.
Those who’ve come from a different academic background have a slightly longer road to take. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing: a degree in other areas – particularly a science, language or engineering based field – can be a great advantage in the legal profession. But you are going to need to take a crossover course (or ‘diploma in legal studies, as they’re more formally known), which often takes as long as two years to complete. If you’re highly academic, you might find a law firm willing to sponsor you, but most mere mortals have to settle for part time courses mixed with moneymaking employment.
The long-term rewards of the crossover route can be financially lucrative, however, as a mixed background often appeals to law firms, enabling them to take on specialist areas such as environmental cases, or accidents revolving around structural claims. Patent law – which examines the originality and technical accuracy of patent claims – is another particularly lucrative area for multi-discipline students to aim for. Employment law – protecting employers from the overzealous employee (or vice versa!) – is another high-demand niche area, and has its own specialist courses.
Of course, there are other routes into the legal profession. If you’re not the type to battle it out in the courtroom, you can still spend your days at the solicitors by pursuing a career as a legal secretary, which will give you access to all the juicy courtroom drama without needing to make the speeches yourself. Several institutions offer course targeting the legal secretary position specifically; this can lead to secure positions working alongside bright minds in a vibrant workplace.
Ireland’s best universities all offer law as a basic degree, and are best researched through their own websites. For more details on full tima and part time law courses on this website use the following link on Legal Courses on Findacourse.ie