Charity law covers the rules relating to the setting up and operation of charities and non-profit organisations. It is an ideal way to combine a career in law with a passion for anything charitable, such as the arts and culture, the environment, human rights, working with young people and sport.
What does a charity lawyer do?
Charity lawyers either work for a firm specialising in this area or in-house at larger charities.
This type of work includes working on wills and trusts, advising on governance and managing charitable statuses and relationships with the Charity Commission. Charity lawyers often deal with enquiries regarding tax and VAT, inheritance law, data protection, contracts, mergers and takeovers, partnerships, fundraising, political activities and campaigning, trading, gaming and lotteries.
These lawyers may also deal with other areas that affect not-for-profit organisations such as employment law, dealing with land, intellectual property, financial services and media enquiries.They need help to navigate the charity sector's unique legal and regulatory requirements and balance these with commercial objectives.
What skills are required?
To succeed as a charity lawyer, you will need to proactively communicate with all stakeholders on key matters and handle matters of a complex nature. Building strong and trusted relationships and being able to influence at a senior level will help you drive decisions on compliance, governance, and best practice issues.
You need empathy and an interest in the charity sector. Charity lawyers are likely to be generalist rather than a specialist to cover the wide-ranging needs of charities.
It is also useful for a lawyer working in this area to be familiar with the law in areas in which they operate such as education, health and social care.
You will also need to bring a sustainable approach to risk management, corporate governance, business continuity, assurance and problem-solving.
How to become a charity lawyer?
If you've completed an undergraduate law degree, you will need to do a one-year Legal Practice Course (LPC). Once you complete this course, you need to get a two-year training contract with a law firm specialising in the charity sector.
If you're a non-law graduate, you will need to take a conversion course called the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), which will eventually replace the LPC. Then you need to start a two-year training in the law firm as mentioned above.
Once you complete your two-year training contract, you can apply to the SRA to be admitted as a solicitor.
Keep up-to-date with charity news on the Third Sector website and The Guardian newspaper has a voluntary sector on their website.