Qualified lawyer opportunities
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Departments (in particular the Government Legal Department) fill vacancies when there are gaps in their legal capacity that cannot be filled from the existing population.
Qualified lawyer posts are open to barristers, solicitors and chartered legal executives who meet the professional qualifications criteria.
The level of entry is dependent on your level of experience and the role on offer. Details of this are included in a department’s Vacancy Notice.
The Civil Service is an equal opportunities employer.
To be eligible to apply for a qualified lawyer post, you must ensure that you meet all the eligibility criteria stated in a department’s Vacancy Notice. The four main areas are:
- professional qualifications
- academic qualifications
- immigration status
You must be (or about to become) qualified to practise as a barrister, solicitor or chartered legal executive in England and Wales.
If you are a barrister, you must have successfully completed your 1 year pupillage or have been exempted from this by the Bar Council.
If you qualified outside England and Wales you will be required to complete the Bar Transfer Test.
If you are solicitor, you must have completed your training contract or have been exempted from this by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
If you qualified outside England and Wales, you will be required to complete the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme.
Chartered Legal Executives
If you are a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) you will be eligible to apply if you either:
- hold a qualifying law degree or
- have completed the Graduate Diploma in Law or Common Professional Examination or
- have passed exams (i.e. achieved 50% or above) in all seven of the foundation subjects in law taken at CILEx Level 6
The foundation subjects in law are:
- contract law
- criminal law
- equity and trusts law
- European Union law
- land law
- public law
- law of tort
All applicants will need to meet the following requirements:
- you should have a minimum of a 2:1 degree in any subject
- if you have a lower degree classification or do not hold a degree, some departments may consider your application where you can demonstrate equivalent high level academic and/or professional achievement
- chartered legal executives should note that, where a department is willing to consider applications from candidates who do not meet the minimum 2.1 degree criterion, an overall average score of 65% across exams passed in the seven foundation subjects in law (where studied at CILEx Level 6) will be accepted as demonstrating 2.1 degree equivalence
You must meet all aspects of the civil service nationality rules to be eligible to apply for qualified lawyer posts.
Applications are accepted from:
- European Economic Area (EEA) nationals
- Swiss nationals and, in some circumstances, Turkish nationals
- Commonwealth citizens
If you have dual nationality, with one part being British, you may apply.
In addition to meeting these nationality requirements, you must also be legally entitled to work in the UK.
If you are a national from a country outside the EEA or Switzerland, you may need a visa to work in the UK. You can check whether you need a UK visa on the UK Visas and Immigration website.
There are around 2,300 lawyers providing civil advisory and litigation services to central goverment departments.
The Government Legal Department (GLD) is the largest single provider of legal services within the government legal community. GLD currently employs around 1,800 lawyers who deliver advisory, commercial, employment and litigation services to the majority of Whitehall departments and to many other government organisations.
Lawyers work with their legal managers to develop their own career path. Lawyers aren’t expected to specialise in one area of law for their entire careers.
Departments never assume that, because a lawyer has specialised in a particular field, they won’t have the capacity to take on a new challenge. Lawyers are encouraged to develop transferable skills which they can apply to the variety of legal work on offer.
However, departments do recognise that, while some prefer variety, others prefer to establish a career in a particular field. Both choices can be accommodated.
Legal teams’ primary duty is to provide their department with an effective service and make sure that their business needs continue to be met.
Departments have clear policies surrounding the amount of time they expect their lawyers to remain in a particular post. This is usually between 3 and 4 years. After this time, lawyers considering a move are advised to work with their legal managers and consider what their next post might be.
Legal teams are willing to consider requests for flexible working. The most common flexible working arrangements include part-time working, flexible hours, home-working and job-sharing.
Lawyers can expect to receive a fair and flexible pay and reward package.
Individual departments have responsibility for their own pay and grading structure. Consequently, starting salaries for lawyers will vary according their department, location and experience.
Information on the salary range is included in a department’s Vacancy Notice.
However, you might expect:
- Legal Officer - generally equivalent to 0 to 3 years’ post-qualified experience (PQE), around £42,000 (dependent on location and experience)
- Lawyer (Grade 7) - generally equivalent to 3 or more years’ PQE, around £48,000 (dependent on location and experience)
As civil servants, lawyers are eligible to join the civil service pension arrangements.
Civil Service pensions are part of the overall pay and rewards package.
Members contribute toward their pension and their employing departments also pay a significant contribution to their pension.
The pension scheme is set by statute and is managed by the Cabinet Office. It’s supported by a governance group of representatives nominated by Cabinet Office and the Council of Civil Service Unions.
Government Legal Training Programme
A training programme is available to government lawyers which includes a wide range of topics such as:
- EU law and International Trade law
- Constitutional, Administrative and Information law
- Commercial law
- Employment law
- Legal Professional Skills
The training programme has been created by government lawyers. It concentrates on the specialist legal issues and broader skills essential to provide the government with a responsive and adaptable legal service.
Lawyers who are new to the Civil Service are required to attend a 3 day induction course in London which provides an insight into all aspects of government legal practice.
Civil Service Code
As civil servants, lawyers will be appointed on merit on the basis of fair and open competition and will be expected to carry out their role with dedication and a commitment to the Civil Service and its core values: integrity, honesty, objectivity and impartiality:
- ‘integrity’ is putting the obligations of public service above your own personal interests
- ‘honesty’ is being truthful and open
- ‘objectivity’ is basing your advice and decisions on rigorous analysis of the evidence
- ‘impartiality’ is acting solely according to the merits of the case and serving equally well governments of different political persuasions
The core values are set out in the Civil Service Code.