Information on a lawyer career
Gail Jones is a European Union (EU) lawyer dealing with cases heard at the European Court of Justice and the European Court of First Instance. Her team provides legal services to government departments and other publicly funded bodies in England and Wales.
What are your responsibilities?
I am responsible for several different cases. For each case, I liaise with the government departments involved to find out their views on how we should structure our argument. If there is a difference of opinion between departments, it is my role to co-ordinate discussions until an agreement is reached.
I will then instruct barristers to act on the UK's behalf. The barrister will prepare written arguments that we submit to the European Court.
Do you go to court?
Yes. When a case is heard at the European Court, I attend the hearing and this takes place in Luxembourg. I am accompanied by the barrister who makes the speech on the UK's behalf, the lawyers and the policy officials from the relevant departments. We normally fly out the day before the hearing and return once the hearing has finished.
How did you get into this work?
I worked in the direct marketing industry for a few years before deciding to become a lawyer. When I completed my training, I joined the Government Legal Service (GLS). After working at the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) for about three and a half years in order to gain wider experience, I applied for my current post within the European division of the Treasury Solicitor's Department (TSoL).
Why did you choose this career as a lawyer?
My work is interesting and varied. It is usual for GLS lawyers with my level of experience to work in different areas of law, and sometimes, to work for different departments. This allows us to develop a wide range of experience and expertise. My current post in the European division is improving my knowledge of European law, which is an essential skill in today's world.
What training do you receive?
As government lawyers, we receive continual training in areas of law relevant to our work. At the moment, I am receiving training in European law and I have weekly French lessons.
What hours do you work?
I start work between 7.45am and 8.30am, and usually finish between 5pm and 6pm. When we are preparing for a hearing, we often work on the case until about 8pm or 9pm the night before.
What do you like best about being a lawyer?
I enjoy the opportunity to attend the European Courts in Luxembourg on behalf of the UK.
What are the skills needed?
It is important to have good organisational skills and the ability to prioritise work. We also need strong interpersonal skills to work with lawyers and other civil servants in different departments and countries. For my current job, it is desirable to have a reasonable understanding of written French, as this is the language of the European Court.
Gail's route to her career as a lawyer
- A levels.
- Degree in Maths.
- Degree in Law (LLB).
- Legal Practice Course.
Gail's lawyer tips
- Try to get the best results possible at school and university, as it is a very competitive field.
- Try to get some work experience in a legal environment.
- Speak to someone working in law to find out what it's really like.
Lawyer related jobs
- Barristers' clerk (England and Wales)
- Crown prosecutor
- Legal adviser/Court clerk
- Legal executive
Salary of a lawyer
- Starting salaries for legal trainees are over £20,000 in London.
- Salaries for qualified lawyers vary according to the government department.
- Relevant experience is taken into account and future salary levels are determined (at least partly) by performance, which is annually assessed and reviewed.
Hot to become a lawyer
- In England and Wales, entrants require either an approved law degree (at least 2:2), or a non-approved degree (at least 2:2) followed by the Common Professional Examination (CPE), or a Postgraduate Diploma in Law (PgDL).
- In Scotland, they need a degree with honours in Scottish Law from a Scottish university (2:2 or above), or an ordinary degree in Scottish Law as well as an honours degree (2:2 or above) in another subject from a university elsewhere in the UK, or an ordinary degree with distinction in Scottish Law. They then need to complete a one-year full-time postgraduate course at a Scottish University which leads to the Diploma in Legal Practice.
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