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How do You Become a Lawyer in The UK?

With pencil cases restocked and brains refreshed, students are gearing up for the start of the new academic year.

While many relish university life, there are others who couldn’t think of anything worse.

Well the good news for those interested in a career in law is that you no longer need a law degree to do it.

If the idea of returning to Monday to Friday lessons fills you with dread, there are other routes you can take.

We decided to explore the various options available and speak to some of our employees about the route they took.

There are a few options which someone could take if they are looking to go into law:

  1. A Law degree
  2. A Legal Apprenticeship
  3. A Legal Diploma
  4. A CILEx qualification


A Law Degree 

The traditional route to becoming a lawyer was to get a law degree. You’d then have to do a Legal Practice Course (LPC) which takes one year full time and designed to put the theory into practice.

After that you’d complete a training contract (also known as a period of recognised training) which is where you put into practice the knowledge and skills you have learnt and develop them further within a working environment, under the supervision of a qualified solicitor. Training contracts are usually two-years working at a law firm where you cover at least three areas of work. Typically you’ll spend six months in each of four different departments or ‘seats’.

This is the route personal injury solicitor Steve Hill took.

He said: “I knew I wanted to be a criminal lawyer at ten years old. I did A Levels in subjects which I thought would be conducive to working in law and then I did a law degree followed by the LPC.

“I worked in crime for two weeks and realised it wasn’t for me. I found my way to personal injury which I love. I did a year as a paralegal before being offered a training contract.

“I’m glad I took the route I did but what really interests me now is the apprenticeship route. If I was a young person looking to get into law now I wouldn’t hesitate to take that route rather than compete for a training contract. People doing apprenticeships can get better experience in an area which interests them.”


A Legal Apprenticeship


Echoing Steve’s sentiments about the benefits of apprenticeships is Alice Robinson who works in the serious injury team. Having completed her paralegal apprenticeship, she is now studying a law degree part time and hopes to become a solicitor.

There are a number of different apprenticeships you can do. A legal administration apprenticeship takes between 18-21 months, two years for the paralegal, four to five for the chartered legal executive apprenticeship and six years to become a solicitor.

Alice said: “I had a place at university but I decided that life wasn’t for me – I wanted to work. As well as assisting with cases I run my own as well. I go to university one day a week and the company pays for some of it which is great. I’m in year three of my degree and have another two years to go. I won’t qualify any sooner than    someone who did the law degree route but the experience I’m getting is great.”





A Legal Diploma 

Many people now opt to study for a degree in another subject before starting their legal qualifications. If you take this route, you need to complete the Graduate Diploma in Law after your degree and then continue to the LPC.

Employment solicitor James Watkins decided to take the GDL (also known as the Common Professional Examination) because he was interested in both law and journalism.

He said: “I decided to study for an English Literature degree in the hope this would give me some flexibility and time to assess my options. I used my time as an undergraduate to research a career in law and do some work experience.

“When I graduated I enrolled onto the GDL course. It’s basically a one-year crammer course where you study the core modules that you’d find on a three-year law degree. I also had to complete an individual research project.”


A CILEx Qualification 

There are qualifications you can complete if you don’t have a degree. If you have GCSEs or A-Levels, you could take a legal administration or paralegal qualification, or commence the CILEx (Chartered Institute of Legal Executives) qualification depending on how much experience you have already.

Property solicitor Linda Kirk took this route while working full time and raising two children.

She said: “I left school at 15 to work as a typist before becoming a legal secretary. I decided to take a course with CILEx before enrolling to do a degree. Because of my CILEx qualification I was exempt from certain modules and managed to complete the three-year course in 12 months. I then did a conversion course which took me 12 months. I then did the LPC in the evenings to fit around my other commitments.”