Law Career Path
Want to become a lawyer? Fancy yourself as a solicitor, barrister or legal executive? Awesome. Not sure how to get there? Not to worry, we’ll outline the different career paths you can take on your way to becoming a lawyer (you’re welcome).
After you’ve picked up your GCSEs, applied for the LLB through UCAS, and celebrated your A-level results, it’s time to pack up your bags and stroll off to university.
Tuition fees will set you back £9,000 a year, but don’t worry, you don’t have to pay anything upfront as most students are eligible for a student loan.
The original route to becoming a solicitor was to take the Legal Practice Course (LPC), followed by a two year training contract with a law firm. Law students would tend to start looking for vacation schemes and training contracts in their second year, as firms recruit two years in advance.
However, the new SQE route applies to all students who start their legal training after September 2021. Instead of having to complete the LPC, you’ll have to complete two exams, the SQE1 and the SQE2.
Both of these exams are designed by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), so these are standardised exams that all solicitors must take. You will also need to complete two years of legal work experience, this can be a training contract, pro bono work or a placement. You can even combine work experience from up to four different entities to total two years.
You were jubilant at your GCSE results and overjoyed at your A-level results. You rushed off to university, barely taking the time to kiss your parents goodbye. A couple of months and a few career advice talks later and you decided you wanted to pursue a career in law. “Why on earth did I not study law?” you cry, as multiple strands of hair are forcibly removed from your hair by your very own hands.
Calm down! You can still become a lawyer even if you aren’t studying law at university. At the moment, you can study the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), followed by the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and a training contract to become a qualified solicitor. But, the rules are changing to make becoming a solicitor a little more accessible. If you haven’t started the GDL by September 2021, you will need to complete the SQE1 and SQE2 exams.
These are standardised exams that all solicitors must take, ensuring all aspiring solicitors are assessed to the same standards. The exams are also a lot cheaper than the previous route, with completing the GDL and LPC costing close to £30,000 in total. Completing both the SQE1 and SQE2 exams costs £3,980.
The new SQE route also removed the requirement to do a training contract, so you can include pro bono work or a placement as part of your two years mandatory work experience.
If you’ve always dreamed of donning a barrister wig, the route to become a barrister is now easier than ever.
Once you finish your law degree (or GDL if you didn’t study law), the next step is the new Barrister Training Course (BTC). This was introduced in 2020 to replace the long standing Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). The BTC is shorter (eight months instead of a year), and can be divided into two teaching blocks. This means you can pause your studies to gain some paid work experience or to just take a break.
There’s also the option to take a LLM Legal Practice (Bar), which qualifies for a postgraduate loan. If you complete this course, you can qualify to become a barrister or a solicitor. The final step is to undergo a period of training while being supervised by an experienced barrister. This is known as a pupillage.
Legal Apprentice Route
Want to be a lawyer but don’t fancy going to university. Good news! You can undertake an apprenticeship after your GCSEs or A-levels which can then lead to you completing the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice or Level 6 Professional Higher Diploma in Law.
You may work as a paralegal whilst studying for these qualifications but after you gain them you will be a fully chartered legal executive! Legal executives often perform the same role as a solicitor and specialise in one area of law
. If you want to become a solicitor, the SQE makes it even easier for paralegals and legal executives. You’ll have to pass both SQE1 and SQE2 exams, and you’ll have to complete two years of work experience. With the new SQE, your work as a paralegal or legal executive counts as legal work experience, so you won’t have to do a training contract.