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Facing a Fork in the Legal Careers Road

Facing a Fork in the Legal Careers Road

Besides deciding where to study law, one of the most significant choices facing anyone in the legal profession is which career path to follow. After graduating with a law degree, most young solicitors in the U.K. may be unsure of their employment options.

Depending on their area of practice and personal goals, most new graduates will have two primary options to consider when seeking work. While some new lawyers will have additional opportunities, a majority will embark into private practice with some going to in-house legal positions immediately.

Two Paths — Similar Journeys to Being a Lawyer

The legal market is more complex than just two choices imply. The number of solicitors who fit into, or choose to practice in general law or niche areas is limited. For everyone else, private practice or sometimes, in-house employment remain as the staples of the legal profession.

There are nearly 140,000 practising solicitors in the UK. Most chose to work in private practice, and those who pursue in-house employment find themselves scattered among the UK’s many law firms, financial institutions, and other corporations. 

Private practice and in-house solicitors typically engage in the same duties and achieve similar ends by different means. In private practice at a firm, lawyers may earn a lower salary and may focus on different areas of law. Depending on the size of the firm, they may be expected to complete some tasks on their own, without the support of other lawyers or paralegals.

At a small firm with few solicitors, the size of the practice may frequently limit resources. New solicitors will find themselves writing more of their own briefs or documents. At some point, they will also be responsible for securing their own clients. When working at a larger firm, solicitors frequently enjoy a more varied experience while engaging in many of the same tasks as those at a small, or niche, practice.

Private practice solicitors offer their services to many clients while in-house lawyers have one client: the company they work for. Landing an in-house position with a larger established firm or commercial company can be a challenge. Opportunities are limited and competition for coveted positions with the best companies is fierce.

For newly graduated solicitors with a limited C.V., beginning as an in-house lawyer can be counted as a small career victory. It usually requires some component of commercial or business knowledge, glowing recommendations, and a law-school career punctuated by some significant accomplishment.

Weighing the Benefits

Learning potential accompanies both in-house and private practice opportunities. However, the nature of large firms and their abundant resources offers solicitors in their employ unlimited growth. Extensive and established in-house libraries, mentors, and support personnel are among the various benefits that accompany working as in-house solicitor, especially at a large law firm.

In addition, in-house lawyers may also enjoy regular — though long — hours; the security of a set salary and benefits like stock options; and the comfort of not having to pursue clients. Private practice solicitors on the other hand, play a greater role in their own destinies — setting their own hours; securing new clients; and helping manage the practice as a business. Private practice solicitors may also enjoy greater geographical freedom, as they may not be tied to a corporate office or firm in the city. 

Make an Informed Choice

Each path features a wide range of benefits and considerations. Working with a recruiter who knows the region, legal environment, and typical employment standards and expectations are the best way to educate yourself about which path may be right for you.

Symphony Legal has the knowledge, resources, and experience to help you decide your ideal career path. We know the legal profession, have established contacts, and can lead you to a rewarding and successful opportunity, no matter which direction you choose.