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There are three different legal systems in the UK, with England and Wales sharing the same system, while Northern Ireland and Scotland each have their own separate judicial systems. A wide range of jobs is available, with solicitors making up the largest occupational group. Some legal jobs are concerned mainly with court work. Others involve advising clients, transferring property, investigating deaths, securing patents or supporting other legal professionals.
In politics, of the 646 Members of Parliament (MPs) who have been elected to the House of Commons, 529 represent English constituencies. MPs are supported by researchers, political advisers, party workers and lobbyists. Politicians are also elected to serve in the European Parliament or as councillors in local government.
Many people in the legal sector work typical office hours, Monday to Friday, but evening or weekend work can be necessary. Much of the work is office based, while some people spend time in court. A number of jobs involve travelling to see clients, the police and other organisations. Political work can involve long, irregular hours and a lot of travel.
Some people working in legal services are self-employed, including most barristers and many solicitors. 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.
There are over 100,000 practising solicitors in England and Wales, around 17,000 barristers, and many others employed in the legal sector. A few thousand people are 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.
People working in legal and political services need excellent communication skills, both in speech and writing. They must also be discreet and respect confidentiality.
Many legal careers require degrees or specialist professional qualifications. However, many other posts are filled by experienced clerical and administrative staff with GCSEs or work-related qualifications, such as NVQs. A few jobs are open only to qualified barristers or solicitors. There are no set entry requirements to enter political work, but entrants generally bring experience and qualifications from other career backgrounds.
Some jobs offer a combination of on-the-job training and in-house courses. For others, it may be necessary to study for qualifications on a part-time or distance-learning basis. Continuing professional development is a requirement for many legal jobs, in order to keep up to date with changes in legislation. All jobs in this sector have the possibility of promotion to a higher level. In some cases this may mean seeking a partnership in a private practice.
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