This is the central question that the panel will be discussing at Legal Cheek‘s Google Campus event this evening.
The boom era narratives that attracted students to the law are fading. City law salaries are no longer spiralling; instead they’re stagnant, with trainee numbers falling and many corporate firms desperately scouring the horizon for merger candidates.
Meanwhile, the Inns of Court-related glamour that has traditionally drawn students to the publicly-funded Bar is giving way to a sense that the hardship involved just isn’t worth it.
Amid the gloom, however, there are some interesting new legal career options developing…
The prospect of being involved in the development of a legal frameworks to regulate social media and other online innovations will surely prove a big draw to wannabe lawyers over the next few years.
As will the opportunity to write about it, as part of the ongoing fusion between lawyering and legal journalism we’re seeing – with this new willingness to mix and match also extending to other areas like academia.
Then there’s the opportunity for entrepreneurship – facilitated by the internet – as existing business models come under ever more strain. At a talk recently Helena Kennedy QC spoke about how she and a group of colleagues founded their own chambers when they were straight out of pupillage. Why? Because there was no set out there which did the sort of work they wanted to do, in the way they wanted to. Have we reached a similar point in time again?
Below are some questions we’ve had submitted in advance for discussion by the panel – which includes New Statesman legal correspondent David Allen Green, UK Human Rights Blog editor and practising barrister Adam Wagner, magic circle lawyer-turned-Queen Mary University of London academic Jill Marshall, Accutrainee founder Susan Cooper, Seed Academy organiser and trainee solicitor Mark Needham, Artesian Law co-founder Jonathan Rose, and social media journalist Emily Jupp of The Independent.
1. Can law students and junior lawyers tap into the wave of optimism and energy you see around the London tech scene, or is being a lawyer at odds with the start-up mentality? (This question follows the story of a 19 year-old Londoner who sold his start-up to a Californian company for £500,000 and did all the legal work on the deal himself using information he’d found online.)
2. How viable is it for lawyers to be entrepreneurial at an early stage of their careers? What’s realistic – and what’s not?
3. Could a new, low overhead online model help mitigate the cuts to legal aid – and make it viable to be a junior lawyer specialising in publicly funded work?
4. Where next for law blogging/legal journalism? (As David Allen Green has pointed out in the past, Fleet Street newspapers originally arose out of the legal publishing industry. Are we going full circle? Will, for example, pupil barristers of the future be expected to serve time working as reporters on UK Human Rights Blog-style websites?)
5. Will legal careers become more flexible? i.e. Is it possible to be a lawyer/legal journalist/legal academic at the same time – or at least jump around much more in your career?
6. How should law students approach mediums like social media, blogging and YouTube? Many are petrified about saying something that offends a potential employer. How much risk should they take?
This evening’s event, which is sponsored by Kaplan Law School, is fully booked, but there may be chance to get in on the night if there are last minute cancellations. Keep an eye on the Legal Cheek Twitter feed for more details. The Google Campus is on 4-5 Bonhill Street, London, EC2A 4BX.