Employer perspective: Want to be a government lawyer?

Posted in: Advice, Career Choice, Employer Visit Report, Sector Insight

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Employer perspective: Want to be a government lawyer?

A couple of weeks ago I had the chance to go to 1 Kemble Street, London, and visit the Government Legal Department, Civil Service, which I have to admit I didn't know much about! I got to meet the Treasury Solicitor, the Solicitor General, the Legal Director, and several trainees and it was an eye-opening and exciting day. This is what I found out.

What is the Government Legal Department (GLD)?

GLD is a part of the Civil Service and has 2500 civil lawyers across the government, most of them in the Government Legal Profession. It is a growing sector and recruitment is increasing.

The work of government lawyers span have a huge range of topics, it was stated it spans the most interesting legal work you can do anywhere; commercial law, employment law, drafting litigation, environmental law, trade, immigration, animal welfare, space travel and much more. Basically, government lawyers can work with anything that affects the country and its citizens, including public services and security. he volume of cases are far more than any other legal organisation. A third of the cases in Supreme Court are government legal cases.

In addition, government lawyers have a close relationships with ministers and parliament. Government lawyers are lawyers without political interference, without bias, supporting different political parties, without favours. Government lawyers have to adapt and grow with the times, there are always lots of new and fresh challenges. The MPs respect legal views and they can’t make proper decisions without the right advice.

GLD recruit around 60 trainees a year, through their trainee scheme, mostly in London, but also some across the country in Leeds and Bristol. Generally, the recruitment is 75% solicitors, 25% barristers.

What is the GLD training scheme?

As said above, GLD recruit around 60 trainees a year, both solicitors and barristers. This year they also opened a specific GLD Commercial Scheme, with 9 trainees. However, the application process for both schemes is the same. Trainee solicitors have four 6 months seats (placements), which is is a mix of litigation and advisory seats in different teams. Pupil barristers have four 6 months seats spent in Chambers.

GLD provides legal services to all major Whitehall depts. In addition, trainees work in Attorney General’s Office, FCO, HMRC, CMA; NCA and devolved administrations (Scotland, Wales, NI). GLD deals with Civil Law, not really criminal law (so trainees do not work in Crown Prosecution Service).

At this moment of time, anyone from UK, EEA or Commonwealth can apply, and they recruit from non-law and law disciplines, minimum 2:2. The top applicant in 18/19 had a 2:2. Candidates studying a non-law degree can't apply earlier than their final year, and you apply up to 2 years in advance. 

Key benefits (as of 2019):

  • 1st year trainee salary £28000 and this increases every year
  • LPC/BPTC course is paid in full, however they don’t usually pay for law conversion course.
  • Healthy work/life balance and flexible working available. A trainee I spoke to said his usual working hours are 08:30-17:30, with few or no late nights. Trainees may be able to work over 4 days, and working from home is possible.
  • Trainees get stuck in from the very beginning, with lots of responsibilities.

There are lots of career opportunities and opportunities to work with many different teams, with different areas of law and policy.

What is the GLD scheme looking for in applicants?

Key piece of advice is to have a look at the competency framework and match your skills and experience to this (this is vital for any jobs in the Civil Service). It was stated several times that you do not need legal experience to succeed in the application process.

Competency framework:

  • Making effective decisions - this is a key competency in the GLD especially covering skills such as analytical and innovative thinking
  • Communicating & influencing
  • Working together
  • Delivering at pace
  • Developing self & others
  • Motivation


Application process:

  • Online application
  • Online tests; Situational Judgement Test (SJT), verbal reasoning and critical reasoning tests
  • Assessment centre (½ day): written exercise (written advice on a scenario, not interested in legal knowledge) and interview (strength - based + questions about the written exercise).

Be aware that reasonable adjustments are available. E.g. online tests/written exercise extra time provided, or time is virtually switched off. SJT is not timed. Talk to the recruitment team about your specific needs. In 18/19 21% of successful applicants had declared a disability.

Please note: GLD doesn't know at this moment in time how SQE will affect the scheme and its recruitment, however it won't affect recruitment at this moment in time. Applicants are advised to keep up with news and updates on SQE - see this blog for more information.

What are the attributes of a good government lawyer?

  • integrity
  • genuine interest in unique interface of politics & law
  • impartiality is important
  • inquisitive and brilliant, with intellectual curiosity
  • be able pick up new areas of law and not be frightened of it.

Who should not apply?

The scheme doesn’t appeal to people who want high salaries and a city career, it doesn’t appeal to those who want to specialise in criminal law, and who does not have intellectual curiosity.

Where can you find more information?

All the typical websites: GLD website / Civil Service Jobs / lawcareers.net / allaboutlaw/ Linkedin GLD pages. Interested students may want to join the mailing list.

Have a look at Solicitor and Barrister job profiles on Prospects for more general information.

Posted in: Advice, Career Choice, Employer Visit Report, Sector Insight


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