Legal degree surprisingly general with a range of career opportunities

Career Guide: Law

Raymond Friel, head of School of Law at the University of Limerick pictured during a demonstration of the new UL courtroom. Photograph: Don Moloney/Press 22

Raymond Friel, head of School of Law at the University of Limerick pictured during a demonstration of the new UL courtroom. Photograph: Don Moloney/Press 22

Tue, Jun 17, 2014, 01:00

The legal profession dipped slightly in the immediate aftermath of the property bubble bursting, as demand for conveyancing dried up. It is still, however, a popular and often lucrative profession. It is a surprisingly general degree which can lead to a range of career options – many law graduates don’t go on to become lawyers.

Law students learn the arts of analysis, research and logical reasoning. They find creative and imaginative ways around problems. They also become excellent oral and written communicators.

Despite the impression created by American TV shows, law isn’t just about exciting criminal trials or international human rights interventions.

Criminal law is just one route, but the majority of law is much more sedate. Most solicitors and barristers work in property law, family law, company law, EU law, banking law, intellectual property law, tax law, competition and trade law and employment law.

Where to study

There are many options for studying law in Ireland, with Trinity College, UCD, NUI Galway, UCC, NUI Maynooth

and UL all offering general law degrees. Griffith College, a private third-level college, has also acquired a strong reputation for the quality of its law courses. DIT, WIT and Letterkenny IT also offer them, while Athlone IT and IT Carlow have business and law degrees.

In many third-level institutions, students can choose a second subject or a language, leading to a much more flexible qualification. UL’s law plus degree is a popular option, where students take on law with either psychology, economics, sociology, history, politics, Irish or a European language.

UCD’s business and law course is a consistently popular option, but the university also offers law and Chinese studies, law and French law, law and philosophy and a law with social justice degree which has a particular focus on injustice and social inequality.

Career opportunities

Law students don’t just get their degree and become lawyers; they have to pass further exams if they want to become a barrister or solicitor. It has become more difficult for newly qualified lawyers to walk straight into work.

However, many non-legal employers are hiring law graduates because they recognise that their skill sets are broadly useful.

The most obvious employment routes, of course, are those of solicitor and barrister. Put simply, a solicitor offers legal advice and prepares a case for court, while the barrister represents the client in court and argues on their behalf.

Many law graduates go on to work in banking or tax or they become accountants after a postgraduate conversion course.

Others, meanwhile, may go on to work in the Civil Service or public service organisations such as the Human Rights Commission or Law Reform Commission, personnel management, or probation services.

Salary expectations

Not every law graduate

goes on to become a fabulously wealthy millionaire lawyer. Barristers in Ireland are self-employed, so while the best rise to the top and can command high fees, it can be a struggle, particularly in the early years.

According to gradireland, an experienced barrister can earn between €55,000-€110,000 a year, but a top earner can take in more than €280,000.

According to irishjobs.ie, a newly-qualified solicitor with one to two years of experience in a medium-sized firm can expect to make between €47,000-€55,000 in Dublin and €40,000-€45,000 in Cork.

Many years down the line, a salaried partner can take in between €105,000-€150,000 in Dublin and €100,000- €160,000 in Cork.

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