22 January 2018
How to Become a Lawyer
If you’re interested in learning how to become a lawyer, we can help. We’ve put together a guide containing useful information to make it easier for you to plan your career in the legal profession.
What qualifications or training do I need for a career in law?
If you want to take the traditional, academic route into a law career, you can gain a qualifying degree in law, known as an undergraduate Bachelor of Law (LLB) degree. Many universities throughout the UK offer these courses, which include core elements covering topics such as:
- Ethics, professional conduct and client care
- Litigation and advocacy
- Business law and practice
- Property law and practice
- Taxation and revenue law
- The Human Rights Act
- European Union law
Such courses aim to give students a solid grounding in the essentials of a career in law. You may also be able to take elective modules to suit your interests.
Alternatively, there’s the option of studying another subject at undergraduate level and then taking a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) conversion course, which lasts one year, or the Graduate Entry LLB two-year course available at certain UK universities.
If you don’t wish to undertake a degree, you could pursue on-the-job legal training instead. Details of the training options on offer with law firms are available from the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives Law School. There’re also apprenticeships on offer that can enable you to qualify in various legal roles while working and making money.
Becoming a solicitor
If you want to become a solicitor, the next stage is to undertake a vocational programme that’ll prepare you for the role and give you the training and skills you need to practice professionally. Both solicitors and barristers must acquire practical skills based on real experience, learning from seasoned legal professionals with many years’ experience working within the industry.
Solicitors have to complete the vocational Legal Practice Course. Lasting around 10 months if completed full time, this programme is designed to bridge the gap between academic learning and professional practice and it covers areas such as:
- Business law and practice
- Civil and criminal litigation
- Property law
- Essential skills such as advising and advocacy, writing and drafting, interviewing and conducting legal research
In essence, this course builds on the core elements studied at university, but at a much more intense and practical level.
Another path to becoming a solicitor is to embark on a Solicitor Apprenticeship. This is a programme which lasts around five to six years and provides post A-level students, chartered legal executives and paralegals with an entry into becoming a solicitor without going to university.
To complete your journey to becoming a solicitor, you must take and pass a Professional Skills Course. Once you’ve done this, you can apply for admission to the roll of solicitors in England and Wales. This is a register of all individuals and companies providing legal services and it entitles you legally to practice as a solicitor. You can also become a member of the Law Society once you’re registered on the roll of solicitors.
Becoming a barrister
To become a barrister, after acquiring a law degree or another degree followed by a GDL, you’ll need to take and pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT). You can then apply for the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).
Once you’ve completed this, you’ll have to go through a period of practical training called ‘pupillage’. This consists of practical experience working in barristers’ chambers. After this, you can go into practice as an employed barrister or become a self-employed barrister in chambers.
What’s the difference between a barrister and a solicitor?
If you wish to know how to become a lawyer, an important point to grasp is the difference between a solicitor and a barrister.
A barrister mainly defends clients in court litigation and will often take on cases in higher level courts, while a solicitor primarily provides expert legal advice, drafts legal documents and undertakes negotiations. However, there are exceptions. Barristers don’t come into contact with the public as much as solicitors do, but they’re sometimes called on to provide legal advice, while solicitors often represent their clients in court and sometimes work on higher profile litigation cases.
Other options for a career in law include being a paralegal or a chartered legal executive. Paralegals support lawyers by doing tasks such as interviewing witnesses and clients and preparing briefing notes. Chartered legal executives are qualified lawyers who specialise in certain areas of law, such as corporate law, public law or criminal litigation.
Are you the right fit for a career in law?
Law is a rigorous and competitive profession, so it’s not the right fit for everyone. Law courses tend to have highly demanding workloads to equip students with the knowledge and skills they need and to prepare them for the real-life challenges they’ll face while working as lawyers. However, if you’re prepared to put in the hard work required, you may find it to be an extremely rewarding career path.
Skills such as analysis, research and communication are highly prized in this industry. If you’re a young person considering a career in law, it’s a good idea to choose subjects at A-Level that will help you to develop these skills, such as history, modern languages, geography, science or maths. It’s also important to ensure you attain the highest possible grades at A-Level, as universities and law schools are looking for evidence that you can cope with the demands of a law degree. Bear in mind that depending on the educational institution you apply to study at, you may also be required to take the National Admissions Test for Law. This assessment focuses on your aptitude for the career rather than your knowledge of law.
Whichever route you take into the career, whether it’s academic or vocational, you’ll need to be ready to work hard and invest the time it’ll take to achieve your goal. You won’t become a lawyer overnight, but as long as you’re suited to this type of role, your efforts should be rewarded.
For information on the legal services a lawyer will provide to his or her clients, please feel free to browse the Slater and Gordon Lawyers website or contact us for further details.
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