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Explore your Career Options- Law

Explore Your Career Options

  • Destinations of QUB graduates of Law

    A survey of graduates 6 months after graduation reveals that Queen's graduates from these programmes have recently gone into the following:

    Trainee Solicitor Legal Professional
    Para Legal Legal Executive
    Legal Analyst Compliance Officer
    Trainees Accountant Financial Engineer
    Business Analyst Management Trainee
    Audit Associate  

    Some Recent Employers: : A& L Goodbody, Allen & Overy, Baker and McKenzie, CitiGroup, Deloitte, EY, First Derivatives, PWC, Wilson Nesbitt, Herbert Smith Freehills

    Non-graduate jobs: As with all programmes at all universities, some graduates have not gone into graduate level work. Recent roles have included: Court Clerk, Customer Assistant, Team Leader.

    There can be many reasons to explain this including saving for further study, getting relevant work experience, wanting to take some time-out, but often it is due to a lack of career planning prior to graduating. Reviewing these careers resources and taking advantage of opportunities to Go Further will help to ensure that you fulfil your career potential. If you wish to book an appointment to discuss your options and plan your career you can do this through myfuture.

    The National picture: What do graduates do? is an annual report showing the national picture of graduate destinations.

  • Some typical career areas:
  • Pathway Overview

    The legal market place in the UK and Ireland jurisdictions can differ in terms of how you train and qualify with England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland having differing processes for applications and training. The professional practice area (solicitor or barrister) you are considering as a career will differ also.

    If you are a ‘non law’ student interested in barrister or solicitor careers you should research graduate conversion courses including Masters in Law at Queen’s Belfast or Graduate Diploma in Law(GDL).

    Pathways to the professions generally include an academic stage, vocational training and training contract period. The academic stage includes a qualifying law degree or equivalent but it is important to check that you meet the criteria for your chosen profession and jurisdiction in terms of academic requirements, degree and module content. Research and planning is key for the vocational stages eg IPLS, LPC or BPTC as there are deadlines to meet for entrance exams, exam costs, application and submitting paperwork to regulation authorities. The training contract element requires research and planning as applications for training contracts with law firms or pupillages with chambers can have differing methods of application. Some are directly to the firm/chambers and others are via a centralised system. A general overview can be found below but please refer to signposted links for more details and up-to-date information including deadlines and specific entry requirements. When researching professional pathways it is important to consider the financial cost of undertaking training as it is expensive and in some cases there are restrictions on part-time work. Consider also the marketplace, the reality of training, retention and an early career in your chosen pathway. There are options for firms to fund training and Inns of Court to offer scholarships but these are highly competitive.

    Research materials are available to take away in the Student Guidance Centre HUB including Chambers Student Guide, Target Jobs Law, Lex 100 and the websites listed here (link to useful websites) will give you a more details to help with planning for your career. Individual law firm and chamber websites are useful research tools to differential, research them specifically and including opportunities for training and work experience.

    **Please note from no earlier than 2020 qualifying as a solicitor will change. See

  • Northern Ireland– General Overview

    To qualify as a solicitor or barrister in Northern Ireland you normally apply to the Institute of Professional Legal Studies (ILPS) early in semester 1 of your final year (application normally closes mid-November) to sit their entrance exam in December. The IPLS hold an information session around this time and if you are considering application this is a useful way to find out more. In 2016 the IPLS offered 120 places for candidates to train as solicitors and 20 for candidates wishing to train as barristers.


    To qualify as a solicitor in Northern Ireland after completing a qualifying law degree or equivalent you complete a 2 year apprenticeship that combines time in your Masters office and at the IPLS. You must find a Master and register with the Law Society of Northern Ireland. Finding a Master can be difficult so planning ahead is crucial.

    Time at the IPLS is split as follows:

    September – December in Masters office, January – December full time in IPLS (returning to Masters office for vacation work), January – August post course in-office training. This is being reviewed for 2018. Although qualified after this stage, there are restrictions on practise for up to two years following qualification. Further details are found on the IPLS website and Law Society NI website.


    After completing a qualifying law degree or equivalent, to qualify as a barrister in Northern Ireland you attend the IPLS fulltime from August – June. Prior to this you must be admitted as a student to The Inns of Court. Between August – September you will be on structured 4 week work experience supported by Citizens Advice and organised by the IPLS. After attending IPLS trainees undertake a 12 month practical pupillage with a Master. Further details are found on the IPLS website and Bar of Northern Ireland website.

  • England and Wales- General overview


    **Please note from no earlier than 2020 qualifying as a solicitor will change. See

    Currently to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales with a qualifying law degree or equivalent you would complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC) which takes up to a year (some accelerated LPC’s are shorter). The LPC is then followed by a 2 year ‘training contract’ (period of recognised training) with a law firm or legal department authorise by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Almost all authorised LPC providers manage applications via the Central Application Board (CAB). Details of the vocational stage and authorised LPC’s can be found on the SRA website Central Applications Board (CAB) website. Law firms can pay for GDL’s and LPC’s as part of successful application to their training contacts and use specific GDL and LPC providers that can tailor the training to the specific firm. Larger law firms close training contract applications in July but be aware some close as early as December. In some cases firms can close application early if they have filled training contract places so never leave application too close to the deadline if possible. Penultimate year law students can apply up to two years in advance for a training contract. Retention by a training contract provider is not always guaranteed after qualification. Further details are found on the Law Society of England and Wales website.


    After completing a qualifying law degree or equivalent eg GDL, complete the vocational Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) in one year and a one year practical pupillage approved by Bar Standards Board eg with barristers chambers or other approved legal environment. Prior to this you will need to apply to BPTC providers as applications for BPTC courses are processed here. A test called the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) must be passed before applicants can enrol in a BPTC. Please check providers for deadline details. The BPTC opens in December and you can apply to BPTC before you pass the BCAT but please give yourself time in case the result is not positive on first test. You must join an Inn of Court before you can start the BPTC. Deadline for this is currently end of May of the year you are due to start BPTC. There are four Inns- Gray’s InnInner TempleLincoln’s Inn and Middle Temple. It is important to research the Inn you plan to join as membership is for life and each differ eg scholarships available. It is possible to make contact with them and arrange a visit.

    Middle Temple offer an annual Access to the Bar Award that involves 1 week mini-pupillage and 1 week marshalling placement. The Award is open to level 2,3,and 4 undergraduates. You apply to Queen's University Careers Service first and are shortlisted by the School of Law. 

    For pupillages you can apply to the pupillage gateway as over 100 chambers use this system to manage applications. This opens in November to view vacancies and see a sample application form but application opens early January and closes early February. Chambers that do not recruit through Gateway are live all year round and you apply directly to them. Most sets of chambers recruit a year in advance. After pupillage the next step is applying a permanent position or tenancy with a set of chambers. Retention is not guaranteed.

    For more information see Bar Standards Board and Bar Council website. This contains more information on barrister career path and a useful document ‘Health Warning’ that covers reality of studying for the Bar in England and Wales.

  • Middle Temple Access to the Bar Awards – gain a 1 week mini-pupillage and 1 week marshalling placement – PAID

    Are you in Level 2,3,or 4 and interested in finding out more about a career as a barrister?

    The scheme aims to encourage students from different backgrounds to gain experience relating to working as a barrister and assists with the cost of attending. Successful students (and we have had from Queen’s) will be given the opportunity to undertake both a mini-pupillage and marshalling with a judge.

    You do not make you application directly to the Middle Temple but submit it to Careers, Employability and Skills for shortlisting by the School of Law. A maximum of 2 nominated applications will then be sent to Middle Temple for further shortlisting.

    For full details, including eligibility see here. This opens in December and closes in January for 2020. 

    If you are interested in applying please read the information on the website and download the application form and information at

    Each application must include the following:

    • Application form, completed, signed, and dated.
    • Transcripts of degree examination results to date
    • Two references from university tutors. Referees should be approached by the student and written references need to be submitted together with the application. 

    Application requirements can change annually so when the Award is open please check on for furthern information.


    Student Profile - My Access the Bar Award Experience

    From the first moment that I came across the information regarding the Access the Bar Award on the website of Middle Temple I knew that the opportunity was one that could not be missed. 

    My interview was short, lasting less than 15 minutes. It was in Middle Temple, London in front of a panel comprised of senior QC’s and benchers of the Inn. I was grilled on the who, what, why, where and how of my decision to pursue a career at the bar, there wasn’t much in the way of preparation for the interview that I could do as I simply didn’t know what to expect but the practice of having to think on my feet under pressure is a stand alone important lesson that applying for an Access the Bar Award has taught me.

    I had specified on my application that I wanted to specialise in family law at the Bar and I was so fortunate to have both of my placements, the court marshalling and the mini pupillage be family law specific.

    I experienced such a vast variety of work that is available at the family law bar in London from multi million pound divorce hearings and financial dispute resolutions in the High Court to the handing down of a special guardianship order in the County Court, to emergency international child abduction hearings, back in the High Court. I watched some of the best QC’s in London advocate expertly on behalf of their client, I experienced life in a busy set of chambers and got an insight into the dynamic of working within such a set.

    My days on mini pupillage were long, I was awake most mornings before 6am and didn’t finish most evenings until after 7pm. My mini pupillage supervisor made my experience as close to the real deal as possible and I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The experience was challenging and at times very daunting, but more than anything else, it was thrilling.

    Nothing could have prepared me for how much the Access the Bar Award and my placements would change the course of my future. I set out on my Access the Bar Award journey wanting to explore London as an option, a possibility, a route that I hadn’t properly considered for myself before. Now, having completed my placements, I am now beginning my BPTC scholarship applications and planning to relocate my entire life and future to London in just under a year. 

    If you want to inform yourself better of the world of opportunity that is available to you and make a decision on where you want to take your future career at the bar but don’t necessarily have the financial means to travel to London to complete work experience or the personal contacts to arrange a mini pupillage then the Access the Bar award is most definitely for you. You have nothing to lose, only a wealth of knowledge, experience and insight to gain. 

  • Republic of Ireland- General overview


    Training to be a solicitor in Ireland after an approved law degree is with The Law School - The Law Society of Ireland in Blackhall Place. The Law Society of Ireland is the regulatory authority for solicitors in Ireland. Here you take the Final Exam (First Part) or FE1 which is held twice a year and is entry to the Law School. If you pass you apply to the Law Society of Ireland to commence the Professional Practice Course or PPC I. The PPC I leads to the Final Exam (Second Part) or FE2. The PPC I normally starts September and ends April. Before applying to the PPC I trainees must have secured a two year training contract with a solicitor or ‘training solicitor’. See The Law Society website for further details as to the definition of a training solicitor and how they are eligible. The training contract is a mixture of time spent in-office and attending the Professional Practice II or PPC II course. After eleven months of the training period, around April, the trainee returns to the The Law School - The Law Society to start the PPC II which runs for around 11 weeks and is in the middle for the training period. The PPC II leads to the Final Exam (Third Part) or FE. After this trainees return to their firm for the final 10 months. Trainees that compete the requirements and pass all exams apply to have their names entered on the Roll of Solicitors.

    For more information check the Law Society of Ireland website


    After completing an approved law degree with appropriate content (applicants should check with King's Inn for degree content required) apply to the Honourable Society of King’s Inns and sit an entrance exam for a one year Barrister-at –Law Professional Vocational Degree course. The course normally runs from October to June. If you pass this you are ‘called to the Bar’. You must pass a specific exam in the Irish Language.  Following this a year is spent working unpaid with a Master as a pupil know as ‘devilling’. Many train with a second Master for another year if they want to work outside the Dublin circuit. More details including scholarship information can be found on The Honourable Society of King’s Inns and Bar of Ireland Law Library website.

  • Importance of Work Experience

    Work experience can be a useful way gaining an insight into the pathway you are considering early in your career decision making process. Spending a few days shadowing a barrister or even a week on experience in a law firm can help with decision making. Taking action and even attending your local law Court can help you understand legal roles.

    Larger law firms offer competitive structured work experience referred to as ‘vacation schemes’ and in England and Wales work experience in barristers chambers are referred to as ‘mini pupillages’. Smaller firms can offer work experience if you contact them speculatively and ask for the opportunity for work experience or shadowing. First year students should look out for formal 'Open Day' opportunities with law firms. Applying for vacation schemes and mini -pupillages is an important way of strengthening your application for training contracts and pupillages in the future. It is important when doing your research to understand how to apply for these opportunities. Generally vacation scheme applications for London firms close at the end of January but others are earlier. For the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland application deadlines vary from firm to firm. Work experience provides a career focus and commitment to law and useful contacts. Some solicitors use vacation schemes as a route to recruiting for training contracts. 

  • Working in Law but not as a Solicitor or Barrister

    Legal Services in Northern Ireland

    A number of international players including Herbert Smith Freehills, Citi, Allen & Overy, Baker & McKenzie and Axiom Law have located their legal and business services teams in Northern Ireland. Collectively they employ around 1,200 people in a range of legal roles. Roles can involve document review, assisting with M&A transactions, research, due diligence and regulatory investigative services. Graduate roles available include Project Reviewer, Legal Professional, Document Reviewer, Contract Analyst and Legal Analyst.

  • Other Graduate Options

    Some Law graduates choose not to pursue a career in Law. Approximately 50% of graduate vacancies are open graduates of any subject. Some may require some additional, specialist, post-graduate training but some do not. The list is extensive but includes fields as diverse as accountancy, IT, housing management and recruitment consultancy.  You can get an idea of the variety of opportunities plus find summer work opportunities by looking on the general Graduate websites below.