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Legal and Political Services

The Job Market

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The Legal Sector 

  • Major employers include private legal firms, Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). However the CPS suspended its legal trainee recruitment in 2009 and 2010 due to lack of funds.
  • Political researchers and political/constituency agents are employed by political parties.
  • Some people working in legal services are self-employed, including most barristers.

Bailiffs

  • Certificated or private bailiffs work for private companies. County court bailiffs and high court enforcement officers are civil servants employed by Her Majesty's Courts and Tribunals Service. There are self-employment opportunities.

Barristers

  • Although most barristers are based in London, barristers practise in most large towns and cities which have a court including regional centres such as Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.
  • Training to become a barrister is a very competitive and often costly process. At each stage there are more applicants than places. Once qualified, it is usually difficult to secure a permanent place (known as a tenancy) in a set of chambers
  • Over the last five years, about 22% of those undertaking pupillages were from an ethnic minority background (Although ethnic minority lawyers are over-represented in the profession in proportion to the population as a whole, some groups are significantly under-represented such as African-Caribbean men and Bangladeshi women.)
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Court Administrative Officers

Legal Executives

  • Legal executives are employed by law firms, local authorities, the civil service, the Crown Prosecution Service, and the legal departments of industrial and commercial firms.
  • There are opportunities throughout England, particularly in large cities such as London, Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds
  • Law graduates without a training contract are sometimes encouraged to enter the profession as a legal executive.

Paralegals 

  • Paralegals may work for a range of non legal employers such as the National Offender Management Service, central and local government departments, charitable bodies such as Citizens Advice, the uniformed services and large companies in commerce and industry.
  • Overall, opportunities for paralegals are growing as their professional status becomes increasingly recognised - law graduates without a training contract sometimes become paralegals as a way to gain experience

Solicitors

  • Most solicitors work in private practice (e.g. City law firms, high street solicitors' offices, etc). Other employers include central and local government, the legal departments of commercial and industrial organisations, charities and voluntary organisations, law centres and the armed forces.
  • Although there are plenty of opportunities, entry to the profession is very competitive. According to 2011 figures from the Law Society, the number of solicitors is rising much faster than the population as a whole! 
  • The Law Society's data also show that around half of all working solicitors are female - just over 10 years ago, one third were female. A survey in The Lawyer of the country’s 50 biggest law firms highlighted that fewer than one in six law firm partners are female, with the most prestigious organisations among the worst for retaining and promoting women

The Political Sector

  • This is a small sector with only a few thousand people employed in politics.
  • Jobs in both the legal and political sectors can be found across the UK, but many are concentrated in major towns and cities, particularly London.

Political Researchers

  • Many jobs are based around Westminster in London. There are also opportunities linked to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh and the devolved assemblies in Cardiff and Belfast.
  • The field is growing, though competition is strong. Gaining voluntary or paid work experience - eg for an MP, a political party or pressure group - is important. Involvement in student politics, canvassing for a political party or campaigning for a pressure group is also useful

 Political/Constituency Organisers

  • The main parties employ full-time organisers. Smaller parties are more likely to use volunteers, only appointing paid organisers during election campaigns. There are 650 constituencies throughout the UK, each electing one MP to represent the people who live within the area, by voting at a general election or at a by-election held when a seat becomes vacant.
  • Jobs are limited and competition is fierce.

Politicians

  • All of the major parties have rigorous application and assessment procedures.
  • There are more than 25,000 elected politicians in the UK, of whom the vast majority are local councillors.
  • Around 500 of the 650 MPs are male
  • In some areas it is relatively easy to become a councillor but selection as an MP/MEP is extremely competitive.
  • Standing for Parliament is also an expensive process. Prospective MPs who are unsuccessful may lose their £500 deposit (£5,000 for MEPs). The cost of mounting an election campaign tends to be around £20,000, but can be very much more.