If you’d asked me what I wanted to be when I sent off my UCAS application to do law, I would have told you I was going to be a Barrister. The topic interested me, the subject had a good employment rate after university and the earnings potential meant I could earn a decent wage, so it seemed like the perfect plan. In my first week of university the careers adviser at my law school asked everyone to put up their hand who wanted to become a solicitor or barrister. As expected nearly everyone did and he said half of us would change our minds by the time we left. At the time, I did not realise just how right he was!
Throughout my first year I still intended to go into law, but my complete apathy towards competing in any mooting competitions (mock trials) proved that becoming a Barrister was not for me. I still thought I wanted to be a Solicitor though, so sent off vacation scheme applications during the Christmas break of second year. Just after the 31 January deadline passed I realised that a career in law was not really what I wanted anymore as I enjoyed learning about law but wanted to work with it in a more business advisory context, rather than giving legal advice to clients My careers adviser had always placed emphasis on professional services and banking as alternatives to traditional law, even though he was a highly successful barrister himself. We spoke about what could really work for me, as opposed to just what may be expected from a law graduate.
Rather than working in a law firm I wanted to work in a business environment using the legal skills I had learnt. I realised I had only applied to law firms because it was what was ‘the usual path’. I didn’t want to rid myself of law completely as it was a subject I enjoyed, but the professional services route seemed more attractive. By the time I realised this it was already too late to apply for any other internships as deadlines had already passed. Exams passed and I was back at home working in a fast food restaurant before I knew it. However, after plenty of research and careers sessions at university, I decided that I wanted to go into tax. So I took a module in Revenue Law and wrote my dissertation on the GAAR (General Anti-Abuse Rule in tax law) in my final year.
By Christmas I was enjoying these two modules so much that I decided to apply for tax internships as I wanted to do a master’s after my degree. Thankfully, I was lucky enough to make it through to the telephone interview at Grant Thornton after passing the initial application and online testing. After the telephone interview I was invited to the assessment day and was told an hour after I left that I had secured a place!
Very few 18 year olds decide they want to be tax consultants so; why tax? A question I have been asked quite a few times. I feel fortunate that my law school gave equal time in careers sessions to both law and professional services. It allowed me to see an array of careers that a law degree can enable you to do and also showed me how interesting tax is despite the stereotype. The variety of tax issues stemming from the United Kingdom having the longest taxing legislation in the world means that no two clients are ever the same and even the same client will always different tax issues. I also enjoy that it is an area which is constantly changing (the Finance Act each year incorporating the budget always contains tax changes) and this means I will never stop learning. Furthermore, I want to continue learning even after university so the accountancy qualifications gained during a career in tax means I will be constantly challenged to broaden my knowledge.
Overall, as much as the legal sector is fascinating and some people on my course will go on to have glittering careers, I’m happy to admit it was not for me. I much prefer working with business issues with law involved and tax is the perfect mix of business and law for me. I will also say that I do not feel I have been disadvantaged at all compared to those who have done finance based degrees.
If I had to condense my entire post into one sentence I think I would say that before embarking on the traditional route of your degree, consider all the other alternatives to decide what you really want to do. You will probably be surprised by the number of fascinating professions you are capable of doing which you would have either never considered as being remotely interesting or thought you had the skills for!