The Ins and Outs of Justice

Judges, lawyers, police officers, prison staff, crime scene investigators and legal secretaries are just a handful of the people dedicating their working day to keeping Britain safe. We take a look at the employment opportunities available to you…

If you’re a fan of Bones, CSI and the Good Wife, chances are you already know how thrilling the world of law and order can be. The UK’s justice system is just as exciting as our favourite US TV shows make out, offering big challenges and excitement to thousands of workers every day. Why not get involved?


Over 23,000 people are employed by Scotland’s police forces, and they’re not just police officers. There are lots of support roles, such as admin assistants, finance controllers, press officers and human resources employees.

If you’d rather be fighting crime than working in an office, you can become a police officer straight from school or enter with a degree into the graduate programme. You’ll start as a police constable, with the possibility of working your way up to management level as a chief inspector or superintendent.

There’s the opportunity to work as a specialist within the police too, whether it’s something you’ve already learned about before joining the force such as forensics, or by learning skills on the job in the likes of dog handling, drugs or as a specialist investigator.


There are lots of different strands to law. There’s buying and selling property, criminal cases or family law, settling divorces and custody. There’s also wills, employment law, personal injury, human rights – areas in which people need representation and expert advice from trained lawyers, both in and out of court.

Becoming a lawyer involves a four-year LLB at university or an honours degree in a relevant subject followed by a law conversion course. To qualify as a solicitor in Scotland, you need to do a one-year Diploma in Professional Legal Practices followed by two years in a trainee solicitor post.

The legal profession isn’t just for lawyers. Legal secretaries are vital in law firms, dealing with preparing letters, transcribing notes and other general admin tasks, while paralegals are involved in preparing legal documents, researching cases, interviewing clients and witnesses and going to court, without being a qualified lawyer.


Courts employ lots of different people too. There’s the court clerk, who offers legal advice without being involved in the judgement and oversees courtroom proceedings as well as administrative staff, court reporters, court managers and legal advisors.

Scotland’s prisons offer employment opportunities too. They’ll require administrators, mangers, psychologists, catering staff, IT specialists, legal services, training staff and maintenance workers like plumbers joiners. There’s also the need for prison officers, whose job it is to oversee the prison’s inmates.

Whatever your interests or qualifications, the world of law and order has so much to offer hard-working, inquisitive, loyal and enthusiastic people – we’ve only just scraped the surface! If a job where you’re making a real contribution to society while no two days are the same sounds like your thing, get researching your options now…


Skills for Justice

The people behind the jobs…


24-year-old Laura Mitchell from Airdrie is preparing herself to step into her first job as a fully-qualified solicitor. The Strathclyde Uni graduate tells us more about life as a lawyer…

You’re just about to start your first job as a qualified solicitor with a top law firm. What sort of law will you be working in?

I’ll be working in Banking, Restructuring and Insolvency, in the fourth top law firm in Scotland.  I’ll work on a variety of different types of legal work including acting for the top Scottish and English banks, advising on the law which regulates the banking sector, dealing with the insolvency of UK companies, and even the financing of aircraft and ships.

What’s the best thing about your job?

For me, it’s the best job in the world: I get paid to read, write, think, talk and argue –all things I would do anyway!

What are the downsides? 

It can be a high pressured and demanding job. Last year at the office Christmas party, I had just stayed long enough to see the buffet open before being called back to the office (in my party dress and heels!), to assist with the completion of a corporate deal which had just kicked off. Sometimes being the social butterfly has to come second to client needs!

Where do you hope your legal career will take you?

After seven years of studying at university and legal training, it may sound a little crazy but I’m hoping to study again, while working, to become dual qualified, allowing me to practice law in England and Wales as well as Scotland. After that, I am hoping to climb the career ladder and head for partnership in a top 10 law firm.


Matthew White joined the Scottish Prison Service ten months ago working at HMP Shotts. He tells us more about life on the other side of the prison bars…

What does your job involve day to day?

As a member of the Operations Group – this is the group that all new recruits start in – I can find myself performing various roles, such as overseeing visits, taking prisoners on escort, moving prisoners to and from the health centre, cell searches, outside fence patrols, escorting contractors and responding to staff alarms.

People have a lot of preconceived ideas about what the prison service is like – what’s it really like for you?

The thought of entering a prison establishment for the first time, in any capacity, is daunting. Fortunately, within a short space of time, you begin to understand how a prison operates. Although it is a unique environment, it’s not a place to be feared.

What skills and qualities make a good prison officer?

Being a good people person helps, as well patience and understanding combined with decision making and assertion skills.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Compared with other employers I have worked for, the SPS management empower the staff so much more. Because of the nature of the job it will take several years before you can say you are a competent prison officer.  It feels like an apprenticeship in many ways.

To find out more about careers in the Scottish Prison Service, head to

Source Autumn 2012

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