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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 Service and the Crown Prosecution Service. Solicitors, in particular, may also find work in local government, industry and commerce.
  • Political researchers and political/constituency agents are employed by political parties.
  • Some people working in legal services are self-employed, including most barristers and many solicitors.

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 Service (HMCS). There are self-employment opportunities.

Barristers

  • There are more than 12,700 barristers and most are self-employed.
  • Around 3,000 barristers are employed by specialist commercial law firms and other companies, and about 1,300 work in government departments and agencies such as the Crown Prosecution Service and the Government Legal Service. Others may work for voluntary organisations or charities.
  • Although most barristers are based in London, barristers practice 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 may be hard to secure a permanent place (known as a tenancy) in a set of chambers.

Court Administrative Officers

  • Administrative officers may work in magistrates' courts, crown courts, county courts as well as specialised courts and for the tribunals and probate services. Her Majesty's Courts Service (HMCS) website lists courts in England and Wales and the Tribunals Service website lists tribunal locations in Great Britain.
  • In total, more than 26,000 people work for the Courts and Tribunals Services in the UK. There is a steady demand for court administrative officers.

Legal Executives

  • There are around 24,000 people registered with the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX), of whom 7,500 are qualified legal executives. Numbers have remained stable despite recent job losses in the legal sector. The availability of vacancies, whilst low, is starting to improve.
  • 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.

Paralegals

  • There are around 500,000 paralegals in the UK, with around 150,000 working for law firms. Around 50,000 work for solicitors' firms.
  • 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.

Solicitors

  • There are around 117,000 solicitors practising in England and Wales and about 75 per cent work in private practice. 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 as it is a popular career choice.

 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

  • There are more than 25,000 elected politicians in the UK, of whom the vast majority are local councillors.
  • There are currently 650 MPs of whom 507 are male and 143 are female. The current average age of an MP is 50 years of age.
  • In some areas it is relatively easy to become a councillor but selection as an MP/MEP is extremely competitive.
  • All of the major parties have rigorous application and assessment procedures.
  • Candidates must also win an election.
  • 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.