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Rise of the barista: 20% of employed law graduates work in retail, bars or catering

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What Suits lifestyle?

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A new study into tuition fees and graduate prospects will prove a tough read for City chasers seeking out the Suits lifestyle.

A paper by the Intergenerational Foundation has shockingly revealed nearly one in five (19.8%) newbie law graduates who are employed have retail, catering, waiting or bar jobs.

Employment of graduates by degree subject in retail, catering, waiting and bar jobs six months after completing a first degree

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Though graduates from other courses — like fine arts (29%), media studies (26.7%) and performing arts (23.5%) — are more likely to end up falling foul to what the foundation terms “the barista factor”, law graduates are considerably more likely to recourse into low-level, low-paid employment than some of their non-law peers. Only 9.3% of maths, 7.9% of economics and 15.4% of politics graduates who are employed find themselves in this position.

Other key findings sure to stun aspiring lawyers include the revelation that the average starting salary for a law grad is — no, not the six-figure sums paid by US MoneyLaw firms — about £18,000.

This is a hell of a lot less than is paid to economics, social work, business management, social science and education graduates.

Mean graduate starting salary by subject

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But are these stats really as shocking as they first sound?

Data like this can often be skewed when looking at law degree holders in isolation, as more often than not you need to go on to do further study (most obviously the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC)) before you earn a decent salary in law.

That said, when enrolling on an undergrad law degree it needs to be borne in mind that the disparity between big money areas of law (corporate, banking) and less well paid areas of law (crime, family) is huge, regardless of your post-grad education.

Of the 5,000 training contracts offered to aspiring lawyers annually, less than 2,000 are up for grabs at the UK’s top 60 firms. Away from these, salaries dips substantially.

So while a select few law grads can make double, triple or even quadruple the national average salary, most won’t. Make sure you tell your non-law friends this when they ask you to get the next round of drinks in.