Landing a career in law is no easy feat. Firstly, you have to decide whether you want to become a solicitor, barrister or legal executive. Following that, you have a wealth of options. Do you go for a law degree? Would you prefer to study a subject you’re more passionate about and convert to law later? It’s quite expensive to follow a traditional route into law, are there more cost effective options?
Law degree or conversion course?
A big decision that you have to make is what route you take after school. Each route has its pros and cons. For example, undertaking a law degree at university, will give you a good understanding of academic law questions, but will not teach you much about the practice of the law – that’s what the Legal Practice Course (LPC) is for.
With 52% of vacation scheme places going to non-law students, studying another subject at university and converting to law by studying the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), is a popular option. However, this will add a year on to your route of becoming a solicitor and is going to cost you more money too; the GDL costs around £9000, whereas a student loan can be taken out for an undergraduate law degree.
School leaver routes
The university route is viewed as the ‘traditional’ route to a career in law. However, the legal sector has become much more diverse recently, creating opportunities for school leavers, i.e. those aged 16 or 18. Legal apprenticeships and school leaver programmes allow students to pursue a career in law without going to university.
A legal apprenticeship can lead to a career as a paralegal or legal executive, whereas a school leaver programme such as Fieldfisher’s Step2Success legal school leaver programme allows students to start work after their A-levels, and earn while they learn for five years before becoming a fully qualified legal executive. These routes into law are a great option for those who aren’t keen on the university route. There's plenty of information about alternatives to university over at AllAboutSchoolLeavers.co.uk.
For the debt ridden student
Whilst a school leaver programme allows you to sidestep student debt completely, but some people just want the university experience. However, with postgraduate study an absolute necessity if you want to follow a career in law, most debt ridden students don’t have a spare £20,000 lying around. So other than securing a training contract with a law firm that will fund your LPC (and GDL, if applicable), what are the other options for graduates who can’t afford the sky-high law school fees?
Combining part-time study and paralegal work allows you to get relevant experience in a law firm and pay for law school at the same time. Your plate will be constantly full, but it’s worth it in the long run, right?
Another alternative would be to train with CILEx to become a legal executive on their fast track graduate programme. According to CILEx, “48% of members say that they chose the CILEx route as they couldn’t afford either uni or the GDL/LPC”.
At the end of the day, there’s not one single best route into law. However, with a range of options, you’re likely to find at least one route that works well for you!