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Law specialisations: Which type of lawyer do you want to be?

What degree do you need to be a lawyer? Use this guide to find out about law specialisations including business, maritime, commercial, and criminal law.

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What comes to mind when you think about law? For many, criminal law is the obvious choice, particularly as it is the predominant type of law portrayed in film and television. But there are many different specialisations within the field of law. So, if you want to pursue this subject at university, you might want to consider which type of law that appeals to you most. While you can choose to study a generic law course, you can also specialise at the postgraduate level, focusing on the areas that most pique your interest. In this article, we’ll guide you through a selection of law specialisations to help you decide on the right route for you.


Studying law at university


Law is a popular course of study for several reasons including promising employment prospects, high salaries, and intellectual stimulation. There are several types of law degree accreditations on offers such as the LLB (Bachelor of Laws Degree), Bachelor of Arts in Law, LLM (Master of Laws) and Juris Doctor. In many cases, you will be required to study this degree before specialising. This will provide you with a foundation of knowledge that you will need to become a solicitor, advocate or barrister. Compulsory modules tend to include:


  • Constitutional/administrative law
  • Contract law
  • Criminal law
  • EU law
  • Land law
  • Public law
  • Tort law


However, there can be some variation depending on the country you choose to study in. For example, in the U.S., Hong KongCanadaAustralia and Japan, law degrees are offered at postgraduate level (Juris Doctor) and may include additional modules such as tax law, litigation and public interest law. 


Check out the following institutions offering law in the USA:



Discover the top law schools in the USA.


Now we’ll take a look at some of the law specialisations you may wish to explore and how you can train to work in these areas.


What is marine law/maritime law?


Maritime law, also commonly referred to as shipping or marine law looks specifically at the laws governing the sea. This discipline applies both international and domestic laws and treaties concerning cargo, shipping, and trade. To become a maritime lawyer, you will first need to study a standard law degree before specialising in maritime law at postgraduate level or completing a certificate course.


Some law courses will also offer optional maritime modules that you can apply to study. As a maritime lawyer, you might work on cases such as working conditions at sea, complaints, shipping, environmental and waste issues. The typical salary for a maritime lawyer in the UK is GBP 60,000 per year (The Lawyer Portal). 


Want to study law in the UK? Check out the following universities:



Find out more about the top law schools in the UK.


What is criminal law?


This area of law looks specifically at criminal behaviour, with proceedings taking place in criminal courts. Cases involve serious offences such as murder, rape, assault, theft, burglary, drug dealing and so on.


To train as a criminal lawyer, you will need to study a standard law course at undergraduate level, where this qualification is available, or if you choose a different undergraduate subject you will then need to pursue a year-long Graduate Diploma in Law. You will also need to complete the following:


  • Legal Practice Course (one year) – vocational training
  • Professional Skills Course – training while working (usually lasts for two years)


To become a criminal barrister/lawyer, you will need to complete:


  • Bar Professional Training Course – vocational training
  • Pupillage (one year) – training 


It is also recommended that you gain work experience to become a criminal lawyer, such as marshalling (shadowing a qualified judge), pro bono work (free legal advice) or short-term placements in a criminal law firm etc. Criminal lawyers practising in the UK can earn an average salary of GBP 52,500 in London and GBP 32,000 and GBP 42,000 outside of the capital (The Lawyer Portal)


Check out the following universities offering postgraduate law degrees in Canada:



Read more about top law schools in Canada.


What is environmental law?


Do you care about protecting the environment? Environmental law is in place to safeguard the planet, preserving the environment for ourselves and future generations. Some environmental lawyers might choose to work with large corporations and businesses, providing advice on the risks and responsibilities when it comes to building or any other activities which might impact the environment.


Environmental lawyers may also work for charities, governments, and environmental protection agencies. This area of law is complex and litigation cases can involve large sums of money taking place in both criminal and civil courts. Environmental lawyers tend to earn an average salary of GBP 64,300 per year with starting salaries of GBP 28,900. With experience, top environmental lawyers can earn more than GBP 165,000.


To become an environmental lawyer, you will need to study law or take the Graduate Diploma in Law if your undergraduate degree is in another subject. You could then choose to specialise by gaining an LLM in environmental law.


Want to study law in Australia? See the following universities for inspiration:



What is business law?


Business law, also known as commercial law, deals with the formation, operation and dissolving of businesses which requires a lawyer to handle any issues relating to tax, contracts, and tort law for example. As a commercial lawyer, you will need strong negotiation skills to support your client, particularly when it comes to agreeing on the terms of a contract. 


Commercial lawyers can choose to work in-house for a business/organisation, representing just one client, or you can also choose to work for a law firm, managing a variety of clients and cases. This type of law is particularly popular, and firms will be looking for candidates who can demonstrate commercial awareness and understanding of the business market. Commercial lawyers tend to earn some of the highest salaries with starting solicitors earning between GBP 58,000 and GBP 65,000. Large city firms are known to pay over GBP 80,000 per year (All About Law 2018).


As with any of these specialisations, you will need to gain a law degree where you may be able to choose optional commercial law modules. You can then study a postgraduate in commercial law if you want to further your interests before completing the necessary vocational training. 


Didn’t find what you were looking for? Check out our course matcher tool to find the right programme for you.


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