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Legal job but not as our parents know it

By Margaret Canning

Any meeting of employers to discuss the workplace in Northern Ireland will inevitably turn to the career choices that people here tend to make.

There is a definite bias towards the traditional professions, such as law, medicine, pharmacy, accountancy and teaching.

All those professions have faced upheaval in the past 10 years, but generally, the day-to-day job of being a doctor, pharmacist or teacher consists of the same type of task, albeit probably with considerably more pressure, as before.

But the legal profession and the choices which await law graduates in Northern Ireland have changed immensely.

Up until the downturn, those law students who were fortunate enough to pass the dreaded Institute exam could usually be assured of a job and a predictable career in a law firm – probably a small practice covering bread and butter issues such as conveyancing, divorce, personal injury and criminal law.

But changing trends in how massive global firms handle the mundane tasks of their lucrative workload has led them to set up support offices around the world – and four of those, most recently world leader Baker & McKenzie, have now set up support offices in Belfast.

Few parents who encourage their kids to take up law would foresee such a career path, as there is no partner track in those firms. But it is clear they provide interesting work that would otherwise not be within students' grasp – even if partner status no longer is either.

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