Many Engineers find themselves on a career path that is not satisfying anymore. Perhaps you are overworked, not making enough money, or simply not enjoying or feeling fulfilled in your professional life as an engineer; leading to the question of how to change your career from Engineering to Law.
If you decide to pursue a career in Law instead of engineering, you can prove your desire by exploring the legal profession in-depth. Speak to other law professionals, particularly ones with similar backgrounds. Learn about the different areas of Law that interest you and choose a path. Then get qualified either by completing a 3-year LLB or postgraduate diploma in Law.
While the process of becoming a lawyer is not easy, it is definitely possible with enough hard work and dedication. In this article, I break down the simple steps that you need to take to make a smooth transition from engineering to Law. I also discuss the different areas of Law that you can specialize in and the perks and disadvantages of having a career in Law.
So, if you are determined to make the switch, keep reading!
Steps to take to transition from engineering to law
With an engineering background, you can transition to a field in Law through the steps below;
1. Validate you really want a Career in Law
You have to be sure that a career in Law is what you want regardless of what comes with it.
Going back to school to pursue an undergraduate or postgraduate degree can take a lot of effort, time, and resources.
Getting a degree in Law only to discover that it is still not what you want can take a toll on you.
To avoid this, clearly list out your priorities and your reason for choosing Law instead of engineering. People change careers for a lot of reasons. However, it should be for a valid reason.
Validating your career choice does not mean that when you encounter a challenge, you turn back or quit.
It means that regardless of the complex courses long hours of study, you are willing to give the time, energy, and resources that it takes.
Therefore, take out time to sit back and think again about the reasons for the choice you have made. It will give you more clarity, so when things get serious, you go back on your reasons and stay motivated.
Use this simple doc I created to guide you.
2. Take Counsel from Other professionals (especially those with a background in engineering)
When considering a new career, I have found it helpful to speak with professionals in the field who have also transitioned from engineering to Law.
On my path, I don’t hesitate to reach out to people that have taken the path that I want to take. I do this because I know they have valuable lessons and counsel to share with me.
It is always said that a tree does not make a forest, and a single string cannot make music.
Although this is a part that you have to take on your own, you can get help from others to make you stay on the right track.
Don’t limit it to one person. Find as many as you can on social media platforms such as LinkedIn.
Although lawyers are busy most of the time, they can still make out time for you if they relate to your story.
I remember reaching out to one alumnus in the field I was planning to study back in school.
Although she did not respond immediately, after some days, I respectfully recalled her attention to my message, and I got a response.
Most times, they are often busy and are not intentionally ignoring, or perhaps they planned to reply, but it skipped their mind. Remember to be respectful and not feel entitled.
3. Get Qualified
Law is one of those professions that you can’t practice without a certified qualification. Ignore what you watched on suits!
If you strongly believe that Law is your true calling, you need to get the right qualifications.
There are several ways to do this:
Take an Undergraduate or Postgraduate Degree in Law
Getting a law degree is one of the conventional ways to get qualified as a lawyer.
It takes, on average, three years to graduate from an accredited law school. This varies from location to location, country to country, and state to state.
Most schools often list their requirements on the school website, so you know what you need to get or do for admission.
If you already have a school in mind, you can search the requirements of the school to know how you have to prepare. Most school websites are easy to navigate.
If you already have a job, you can study part-time or sign up for evening classes so you can work during the day.
Someone who transitioned from engineering to Law mentioned how they chose a part-time study for their 3-year LLB, so they didn’t have to quit their job for the degree program.
You can also take a postgraduate degree in Law or postgraduate diploma courses. However, this may have higher requirements than a graduate degree.
To proceed further, you may have to take standardized tests such as the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) or the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) General Test.
You can also check the school website to see if there are other requirements for admission to the school.
4. Acquire Relevant Skills
Asides from the skills that you already have with an engineering background, there are some skills that you’ll need to build up while in law school and after your law degree.
This will help you prepare yourself for legal practice.
Lawyers are known to be critical thinkers and writers. This is a skill that you will have to develop before and while in law school.
You will have to be able to analyze situations and memorize a lot of theories and laws.
You also need to build up the skill of paying attention to details.
Any single mistake or omission can alter the meaning of a word or document.
You would need to be careful as a lawyer and pay attention to simple things such as spelling, punctuation marks, grammar, and other things.
A way to build up this skill is by offering or volunteering your service as a proofreader for student publications. This will help you develop great attention to detail over time.
These are other foundational skills relevant to your career in Law that you should build up to ease your transition into Law.
5. Acquire new work experience
You may think it is impossible to gather relevant work experience while in law school or before. However, there are several ways to get work experience in Law.
From my research and experience, I have put together some ways to get new work experience in Law.
Ways to get experience in law
A. Participe in Mooting competitions
This is a very good way to gain experience in Law. Mootings are usually a mock trial of what a court activity looks like. Students participate by analyzing a fictional case by acting as counsel.
It is like a debate where you argue intelligently while following stipulated Law. They also carry out research and make written and oral presentations.
With this, you can have an experience of what a real court case will look like. This will also prepare you for possible cases, what to expect and how to handle the defending or prosecuting attorney.
B. Part-time jobs
Consider getting a part-time job as a Company Secretary, paralegal, patent agent, or legal assistant. This will provide you with legal experience and is valuable for the experience section on your resume.
Target small to medium size law firms as this will bring you closer to your dream of becoming a lawyer. It will bring you in contact with other lawyers, and you can impress with your skills.
Don’t completely discard your engineering knowledge and skills. This might be your entry point to a legal company, and you can work your way out depending on the law path you choose.
Volunteering is another option. You could volunteer at an election campaign to review ballots, ensure communication compliance, and support fundraising campaigns.
It will expose you to politics and the legal environment.
You could also volunteer at a charity or business that has a legal department. You can help to compose and review employee and partnership contracts, help create employee policies, and be a part of the team to handle any legal issues that come up.
D. Document and Share your knowledge
This one is unconventional, but have you heard the saying, don’t ask for permission; ask for forgiveness?
As an engineer looking to transition to Law, you could start a blog or youtube channel to begin documenting your learnings.
Yes, you are not a lawyer yet, but you are learning and are simply sharing your thoughts.
This is not conventional, but I have seen it work multiple times. I know a professional who worked as an engineer as a day job but was interested in legal issues and would always share their opinion on matters of the Law.
Provide legal explanations and perspectives on issues happening around the world.
This bold act led to an offer to work in a company’s legal department.
So consider leveraging your social media network or starting a blog to document your journey of transitioning into Law.
Share legal perspectives on everyday happenings and issues.
Alternative career paths in law for engineers
You have a lot of options when choosing a profession in Law. You should know about them in advance so you can discover the one that interests you and proceed to a career in it.
Arbitrators help people settle disputes outside of a courtroom in a less formal way. The hearings are always private and confidential. They are usually handled by attorneys, retired judges, or business experts.
When you are getting your law qualifications, find courses in Arbitration if this path interests you.
2. Personal Injury Lawyer
Personal injury lawyers often work with clients who got injured due to another person’s negligence or arrogance. They help their client get compensation from the person or entity who is to be blamed for the damage.
As a personal injury lawyer, you have to be able to communicate with people such as witnesses to get evidence that will be useful to your case.
As an engineer, your teamwork and communication skills will be useful for the case. You also have to be able to make a critical analysis of the situation to be able to present your client’s case in court.
3. Contract Lawyer
As a contract lawyer, you will work with different law firms for a short period. You will carry out legal duties on their behalf for as long as you have been contracted for.
The only distinction with this job is that the company will not fully hire you, but you will work with them for as long as they hire you.
4. Patent Lawyer
Patent lawyers work with clients who want to trademark their work or patent their invention. They also help clients handle copyright issues.
If anyone is trying to lay claim on or use their trademarked work without permission, you are to stand in for them as recover the cost of any damage caused by the infringement.
Solicitors offer advice and assistance on legal matters. They are the first point of contact for those looking to seek advice and representation.
Advantages of working as a lawyer
- You have many career options to choose from as there are many areas in which you can specialize in law.
- The job comes with honor and prestige as people highly regard and recognize lawyers. This is most likely because of what it takes to become one and the unmatched assistance they render to their clients.
- The work is intellectually stimulating. You need to strategically think and analyze situations to win cases for clients.
- You can combine law with non-law degrees such as engineering or other fields.
- It is highly flexible. You can decide to carry out your study or preparation for court cases at any time. The only thing you have to keep in mind and note is the day of hearings or court cases.
Disadvantages of working as a lawyer
- It can take long working hours to prepare for court cases. A lawyer has to study and think strategically to help their client win cases. This sometimes takes a toll on them and causes stress.
- You have to spend so much on law school as it is expensive. Some lawyers finish their school with loans that they have to pay off.
- The profession can be competitive as more and more individuals are taking up the law profession.
- Therefore, for you to stand out, you will need to have more than a law degree—employers look out for relevant work experiences to pick their lawyers.
The fact that some people made a move from engineering to Law should demonstrate that you can also transition from engineering into the legal profession.
Exert hard work by using the valuable guidance in this article, and you will be on your way to a fulfilling legal career.
Don’t make slips when things get hard, and remember to remain persistent.
I believe you can do this, and I’m rooting for you.