What do you need to become a lawyer?
There is not just one route to becoming a lawyer in the UK. This helpful guide aims to set out the different routes to becoming a qualified lawyer. You should look through the different options at each stage and consider which one is best for you based on your interests and ambitions.
Step one of How to become a lawyer UK : undergraduate degree
The first step to becoming a lawyer is taking an undergraduate degree. You might think that this needs to be a law degree, but that’s not necessarily the case. Here are your options at degree level …
You can take a LLB law degree or a qualifying BA law degree at a university in England or Wales (Scottish law is different and so you should research into the impact of studying law in Scotland before choosing a Scottish university).
If there is a subject at A-Level that you really want to study, it is possible to take a degree in a non-law subject and then convert to law using a ‘law conversion course’ (a course that covers all the mandatory topic needed to move onto step 2). The downside is that this course takes a year so you will be one year behind people who choose a law degree, but, it does allow you to study a subject you might be really passionate about. Some common subjects to convert from include
Step two of :How to become a lawyer UK: LPC/SQE or BPTC
Once you have graduated with a law degree or alternative degree and law conversion you will need to choose whether you want to sit the LPC or the bar.
- This is a ‘legal practice course’ covering the essential aspects of legal practice (remember at university you largely learn law in the abstract rather than learning the practical requirements of a lawyer)
- The course takes one full year (with the option of taking it across two years part time)
- The LPC sets you up for training in a solicitors law firm
- Note that from 2021 the LPC is being gradually phased out for the SQE a solicitors qualifying examination
- The bar professional training course sets you up to becoming a practicing barrister
- Once you have concluded the course you will have to sit an exam
Step three of How to become a lawyer UK: training or pupillage
As a trainee solicitor you will be employed by a law firm and you will likely get the opportunity to work in a number of different parts of the firm. This is a great opportunity to try different areas and decide which part of law is for you.
Pupillage is essentially training for barristers and happens after you have completed the BPTC. Pupillage involves supervision and shadowing a practicing barrister as well as assistance with the work of a barrister.
Step four of How to become a lawyer UK: qualification
Once you have successfully completed your training or pupillage you will be able to qualify as a solicitor or barrister. As a solicitor you will hope to gain a position as a junior associate with a law firm, and as a barrister you will look to find a tenancy at a chambers.
The pathway to becoming a lawyer is not straightforward, and can be lengthy. But, the good news is that there is more than one route to becoming a lawyer, and this allows you to bend your route according to your preferred subject of study and your preferred way of practicing. This guide should have given you an idea of where your career path might head post university and what the early life of an aspiring lawyer entails.