There are so many careers within the legal framework in this country. Not everyone wants to or can be a solicitor or barrister. An alternative, requiring much less qualification but of course, not offering the solid life time career, is perhaps paralegal. These are law profesisonals who have a clearly defined supportive role. They are the folk that do rather a lot of running about and background legal tasks. Paralegals work in all kinds of legal organisations or departments. These would include law firms in chambers and private. They also work alongside professionals in the public sector and for not-for-profit organisations. This role is important within a legal team with tasks quite often mirroring work of a trainee and sometimes that of a newly qualified solicitor and in fact can sometimes count as preparation towards qualifying as a solicitor. Job or tole titles often vary – this depends on the legal make up of the department, and could be described as legal executuives, legal assistants, caseworkers and even just legal clerk.
These days it is much easier to get information about particular careers. Take the legal profession fir example, we know there are solicitors, lawyers and barristers. Then above these are the judges. Many layers of these exist too. But there are lots of other careers for those with less lofty ambitions. A barristers’ clerk for example is a very busy and much respected role. In fact they do still rule the roost in Chambers, dealing with the essential administration and organisatin of barristers’ workloads. There are fee paid and employed (partners) within chambers and their cases come to them via the barristers’ clerk. Who, of a certain age, can forget ‘Enry, the affable and much lamented barristers’ clerk from Rumpole Of The Bailey tv series! But jesting aside, you can get into this line of work via university or college or through working towards the role in the industry and of course, an apprenticeship can be obtained. A diploma Level 3 in Providing Legal Services would be an excellent preparatory route.
There are many good reasons fior deciding on the law as a career. There are so many facets to it for one thing. Not everyone needs to be a solicitor, barrister or judge. The number of other roles is lengthy and all are very absorbing and lifetime career worthy. Knowing a little about the system and how it came about will be useful for the would be trainee . . . The legal system in our country is one of the oldest, having evolved over the last 1000 years. It still continues to change and develop according the the needs of society and although it throws up some eye watering contradictions and oddities in places, is generally regarded as one of the safest and most independent in the world. Whereas for the anglo saxons, justice was a metered out in a combination of local courts presided over by the local lord or his steward. Sometimes the king presided himself, these were called the curia regis, i.e. kings court. Some of the punishments were too terrible to contemplate here. We are thankful that things definitely moved on!
For anyone who has set their mind to a legal career, kowing the various layers of the judicial system is critical. There are several layers of courts and tribunal services providing what we call ‘the law’ in UK. There are Circuits, High Court, appeal Court and eventually the very top of the tree is the Supreme Court. This was formed in 2009, creating complete separation between the senior judges and the Lords – the upper house of parliament. This makes an absolute emphasis of the independence of the ‘Law Lords’, ensuring the utter transparancy between parliament and the courts. These full time, highly qualified judges carried out judicial work of the House of Lords until July 2009 when they left parliament to become Justices of the new UK Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court is the final court of appeal in UK and hears appeals on arguable points of law of the greatest public importance for the whole of the UK, including Scotland for civil cases but only England, Wales & NI for criminal cases. Scotland has their own High Court Of Judiciary to which appeals can be made from lower courts in criminal cases. A many faceted system offering thousands of good careers!
When you’ve gone through university or law school, done all that study, completed and handed in the work and sat those finals . . . . it is hoped you will already h ave had some work experience out in the field of your chosen discipline. The time to start looking for employment is well before the end of those studies. Getting in at a really good law firm is critical and can be aided by taking a post as a free internee to see what the real world of law is like. The most successful students and internees get marked out for discussion by the elders and professional colleagues. Showing a talent in any sector will stand a possible pupil in good stead and as in previous years, the two most popular specialisms remain commercial litigation and corporate law. As is often the case NQ vacancies are so often filled by a law firm’s own trainee force and openings rarely get advertised. Being in the right place, at the right time and being absolutely prepared for interiews or off the cuff ‘coffee machine’ chats.
When we go through upper or senior school, we are asked many times, ‘what do you want to do when you leave school. . . ‘ It’s a really difficult question to pose to a teenager – many have absolutely no idea what they might fancy doing in ten years time. Unless a youngster comes from a family that has long connetions with a particular career, then they may not necessarily think of taking up medicine or law for example. But taking a law degree could open up so many career options. You can break this down further by looking at jobs directly related to a law degree such as becoming an arbitrator – this is a relatively new career. Arbitration is one of several ways legal disputes can be resolved without going hrough the courts or involving international boundaries. It’s a voluntary means of all sides in a dispute agreeing to follow any final deciion made. The arbitrator is the neutral middle person who makes decisions on the evidence present by all the parties. Their decision is not always legally binding but in cases where it is, any party feeling the other/s have dfaulted on that agreement has recourse through the courts.
We are now living in a very agressively litigant world and it seems very much the norm for folks to resort to the local courts to settle disagreements rather than tackle the odd fall out themselves ‘over the garden fence’. At one time the only way to sort out a problem amongst the neighbours was literally to go round and sort it out, usually over a strong cup of tea. We don’t know our neighbours in the same way anymore. In fact, many people live in the same cul de sac or avenue and never think of going round to the neighbour to say hi, or to invite them round for a drink, or even supper. The massive selection of entertainment ideas and availability of electronic devices means that families ar not so together anymore and there’s not the friendly banter between them. We older folk think that the millennial generation are far too easily bruised verbally – in fact they are very often referred to as snow flakes – so easily hurt and can’t stand up to any kind of discussion, let alone conflict or argument even. So the sher number of cases going to court is higher these days. This needs a robust system of justice and many more solicitors out in the provinces. This job now needs to be very wide ranging with the ability to take a case and literally run with it. Good training up front is essential to become a successful family law specialist.
These last few weeks whilst it’s been a damp and miserable winter, I’ve been inclined to stay put indoors a bit more than usual. I’ve immersed myself in hours of watching old detective shows from the best of commercial television. The ludicrous story lines are only watchable because of the fantastic level of acting by the main set. There’s always the dependable chief inspector who plods around like a junior at times – perhaps all police inspectors in the ’20s were male and plodders. Then we see a court room with the male judiciary and legal eagles plus the jury of 12 good men and true . . . not many women feature here either. We do see women – in the frilly roles as secretaries and housekeepers. So different today in the world of crime solving and punishment. There are more women solicitors than men and things are beginning to even out with being called to the bar. Getting the right qualifications and training to be absolutely anything we want to be is as available to women as men but they need the burning desire to succeed!
There is much change around the corner for our legal system if we do finally break from the EU. Our lawyers and barristers, Judges and juries may need to take new directions. For many of the last forty odd years we have adhered to the Eruopean courts and everything in our domestic legal system is run along those lines. However before our entry into that system in the 1970s, we had a what was apparently as the most admired legal system in the world. With every new phase there come benefits and compromises – on the one hand we eventually gave up capital punishment as it is to many it is abhorant to put any person to death as a punishment for doing exactly that. We felt we should be seen to be above the criminal side of human life. Getting rid of this extreme punishment, has sent the message down through two generations of youngsters that they can get away with anything now. We have drug fuelled violence and complete break down in law and order in some rough neighbourhoods as a direct consequence of there being no punishment worth being scared of!
There are many stories floating about at the moment – mostly gossipy celebrity stuff. The royal family, especially the younger set, do provide a truly awe inspring record of the visits and public service they carry out. They do try to always do the right thing and turn up for public shows and openings, wearing appropriately sober attire – always suiting the occasion or venue. They never give interviews. Another feature of the royal household is the huge number of support jobs created. From being a Lady In Waiting – one of those very loyal almost royal ladies who come from very aristocratic families and usually have the title ‘The Honourable . . .” or are born Lady ….. They carry out flunky tasks like accompanying the queen to her engagements and follow just behind, smiling and taking all the surplus gifts, flowers and good will gestures. Nice job that one.