law degree
11
Jun

What to do with your law degree

The Irish legal market is in a period of sustained growth, particularly in light of the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union this year. Legal industry professionals believe there is potential for Ireland to capitalise on this due to its Common Law System and the use of English in its courts. Three firms have opened in Dublin since the Brexit result in 2016 – Pinsent Masons, Simmons & Simmons and DLA Piper.

There is a strong demand for legal professionals with Investment Funds, Aviation, Property, Corporate, Banking and Construction across all areas from Legal Secretaries and Legal Executives up to NQ and Associate Solicitors.

For many of you, becoming a Solicitor or Barrister has and will be the reason you choose to study Law at University but for others having a Law Degree doesn’t mean that is your only option. So this made me think; do people know what can come from studying Law? The answer is; anything! The skills you obtain from your 4 years of studying at university are invaluable and transferable into almost any industry. For the sake of this article, here are 6 options to consider;

You can sit the FE1s, apply for Traineeships and become a Solicitor

This is the most straight forward route many take after university; the FE-1 is the entrance examination to the Law Society of Ireland and are sat twice a year – Spring and Autumn and consists of eight papers.
Upon completion and having passed all exams you can apply to the Law Society to commence the PPC I. However, before applying to the PPC I you must have secured a training contract with a training solicitor to provide training and experience over a 2 year period. This training, known as the in-office training period, commences after completion of the PPC I and it is the core of the solicitor training programme.

Qualify as a Barrister

The Honourable Society of King’s Inns is responsible for the training of barristers and provides full and part time courses for law graduates who want to become a barrister –(called to the Bar of Ireland.

To practice as a Barrister there are 6 subjects required to have studied during the course of your law degree and you must have completed the relevant entrance exams.

Following admission to the bar, barrister must complete an apprenticeship for a year with a qualified barrister (Master) before they are able to practice.

Go into Compliance

Having a LLB or LLM, is highly favourable within compliance roles and is attractive to many employers as a key transferable skill in this area is the ability to interpret legislation and assess how it impacts a business.
A career in compliance is appealing as it is a fast track into an in-house position; meaning you do not have to have PQE years to enter into this role. You can work more closely with the business and influence senior management and key stakeholders. To further your career in Compliance what you do need is usually to be ACOI qualified; the Professional Certificate and Professional Diploma in Compliance are offered jointly by the Association of Compliance Officers in Ireland (ACOI). If you are interested in learning about the business side, having a career in Compliance will definitely give you that.

Become a Company Secretary

In Ireland every company is legally obligated to appoint a company secretary. The Co-Sec is a spokesperson for the company and responsible for developing and implementing processes to promote good corporate governance and ensure they operate successfully within the law. The ICSA describes becoming a company secretary as a fast track to get into an organisation’s boardroom – the heart of any organisation.
There are many ways of becoming a company secretary; you can take professional qualifications such as the ICSA (Institute of Chartered Secretaries and Administrators) Qualifying Programme. This route requires you to pass all seven exams, however if you have a degree in Law or Finance some exceptions may apply. Another option is to study a MSc in Management in Corporate Governance from Ulster University that is available to study part time through Marino College in Dublin.
To succeed in a career as a company secretary you will need to have an interest in company law and governance and the ability to be highly organised and have excellent communication skills.

Become a Data Protection/GDPR Officer

A Data Protection Officer (DPO) oversees and implements a company’s Data Protection Policy. They ensure the correct policies are in place from how personal data is collected and stored and the security measures that are put in place to keep it safe. Since the implementation of the EUs new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) came into effect in 2018, DPO’s are mandatory for any organisation that handles large amounts of personal data.
As the DPO you will need to think logically and have a good understanding of laws and regulations around data protection. As such, many DPOs have a previous background in legal, compliance or data management. There is training and courses you can take with the ACOI and Data Protection Officers Ireland.

Become a career Legal Secretary or Legal Executive

If you are unsure if you want to go down the expensive and long road of solicitor/barrister but still want to be in the heart of a legal environment there is a lot to be said for the benefits of a long term career as a Legal Secretary or Legal Executive.
Having extra qualifications isn’t necessary for this type of career but many legal secretaries or legal executives may sit a Diploma in Legal studies and get certified by the Irish Institute of Legal Executives (IILEx). Alternatively many Legal Executives may sit the FE1s to broaden their knowledge.
The benefits of these types of roles is that you still get exposure to clients, projects and cases that a solicitor would work on. There is a better work life balance for Legal Secretaries and Legal Executives as they don’t have to work the long hours Solicitors and Barristers would. It is a competitive market for legal secretaries and legal executives and as such, their salary and benefits packages are increased to address the high demand.

To put it simply, there are more options to do with your law degree than being a qualified solicitor/barrister. This of course will be the main reason many of you study law but for others if you are unsure what your options are, you have invaluable transferable skills from studying a law degree and these can be applied to almost any discipline.

If you want to hear any more information on any of the mentioned career options and job opportunities in these areas contact me on 01-6854414 or email a.mackin@masonalexander.ie