May 23, 2024

Written By Skye Slatcher

A Non-Law Student's Path to Becoming a Solicitor

May 23, 2024

Written By Skye Slatcher

Can you become a solicitor without a law degree? Absolutely!  A law degree is not the only way into the solicitors’ profession, but there is a slightly different path for those studying a non-law degree. The legal industry is now full of non-law graduates, who have undertaken a unique journey to get there. Recruiters value the perspectives and skills these graduates can offer.  There are some essentials to be aware of when considering embarking on this non-traditional pathway. Keep on reading to find out the path you need to follow as a non-law graduate to become a solicitor!

Understanding the solicitor profession

Solicitors play a fundamental role in the legal system. Their work involves drafting documents, representing clients, and facilitating transactions.

It is also important to understand the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which is the official body ensuring that solicitors and law firms maintain high professional and ethical standards. They also control the SQE and relevant industry expectations. 

Completing Conversion Courses and SQE Courses

If you would like to become a solicitor as a non-law graduate, there are a few things to consider. 

Pre-2021, non-law graduates entering the legal profession had to complete the Graduate Diploma in Law. However, after the SRA introduced the Solicitors’ Qualifying Examination (SQE), universities have updated  their conversion courses and now offer them under different names, to better align with SQE content. The most common is the Postgraduate Diploma in Law (PGDL).

The one-year course is offered by several institutions. In some cases, it is offered as an LLM (Master of Law), which can make it easier to receive student loans. Or, if you have secured a training contract when you finish your undergraduate study, your firm might sponsor your studies for this course. 

A big change is that the new conversion courses are technically optional. However, non-law students are still strongly encouraged to complete additional training before attempting the SQE. Also, if you secure a training contract with a specific firm, they may require you to complete a conversion course with their preferred provider, before allowing you to begin SQE prep. 

How is the SQE assessed?

The SQE is a compulsory assessment that every aspiring solicitor must pass to qualify. It is comprised of two sections. 

SQE1 tests ‘functioning legal knowledge’, meaning your understanding of black-letter law and how it applies to real-life scenarios. There are 2 exams for SQE1, each containing 180 multiple-choice questions. 

SQE2 tests ‘core legal skills’, including oral and written assessments. It assesses your practical abilities, requiring you to complete typical solicitor tasks, like client interviewing, advocacy, and research.  

There are several providers, and once you secure a training contract, firms will typically tell you which you will attend. 

As well as the SQE, aspiring solicitors must complete 2 years of Qualifying Work Experience (QWE).

What is Qualifying Work Experience and why does it matter? 

QWE is essential for non-law students to gain practical experience. It may be done before, during, or after the SQE, and completed in up to 4 different organisations. It can include a range of experiences, from working as a paralegal to volunteering at a law clinic. There is no requirement for the minimum length of each placement if you do more than one, but in total two years must be completed. 

The traditional route of a two-year training contract remains the most common and is offered by most firms. 

QWE is invaluable. The real-world exposure you will get to the work of solicitors allows you to develop essential skills for success in the industry and strengthen professional networks. Typical tasks will include legal research, drafting documents, interacting with clients, and for some, attending court proceedings. 

To make the most of these experiences, it is so important to volunteer for challenging assignments – pushing yourself is one of the best ways to make progress. Taking every chance to get feedback from those around you and building meaningful relationships with your team will allow you to maximise your time and be successful in your QWE. 


What happens after you finish QWE?

After the two years, you will have to complete the Profession Skills Course. This is how the SRA ensures a minimum standard of performance and it allows your employer to be confident that you meet a professional standard. It takes approximately two weeks to complete and is assessed with a 90-minute open-book exam and an appraisal of your advocacy and communication skills. 

This is the final step before becoming a fully qualified solicitor. Once you have completed it and proved that you can meet the demands of professional practice, you can apply for admission to the Roll of Solicitors (the official register of all lawyers regulated by the SRA). 

The application involves completing a character and suitability assessment to ensure your integrity and submitting paperwork and relevant fees. If successful, you will be invited to your admission ceremony, which will be an opportunity to recognise all the hard work that will have gotten you to that point - an incredible achievement. 


To summarise, as a non-law graduate there are 5 steps to becoming a solicitor: (1) complete your conversion course; (2) take the SQE preparation and pass the exams; (3) undertake two years of QWE; (4) finish the PSC; (5) apply for admission and be proud of the work that you have put into being admitted to the Roll of Solicitors!

The important thing to remember is to stay determined. It might feel like a long journey, but embracing the challenges and getting support when you need it will make the result more rewarding. For non-law students, the path is unique but filled with incredible opportunities. Persistence, adaptability, and clear goals are a recipe for success on this journey!


Non-Law Students