Do I need a law degree?
Simple answer: No. It’s a common myth that you need a Law degree to become a lawyer but it simply isn’t true. In fact, having a degree in another subject can actually work to your advantage. Many law firms are looking for candidates with other areas of expertise, such as STEM and Language students, and you can easily get the qualifications you need after graduation. Here’s how it works:
If you’ve got an undergraduate Law degree, great! If not, you can take the one-year Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) conversion course. This will place you on an equal footing with those who have a law related degree.
It’s a common myth that you need a Law degree to become a lawyer but it simply isn’t true.
To become a solicitor:
You must take the Legal Practice Course (LPC) before, in most cases, completing a training contract with a law firm. However, if you don’t manage to secure a training contract, it can be possible to qualify as a solicitor with extensive paralegal work instead. You must also pass the Professional Skills Course, before you can apply for a place on the roll of solicitors and become officially qualified.
To become a barrister:
You must take the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) followed by a pupillage, which is a period of work shadowing and practical experience in a barristers’ chambers. In order to do this, you must join one of the four ‘Inns of Court’. You would then usually aim to secure a tenancy at a chambers, working alongside other barristers.
Didn’t go to uni?
You can still qualify for a role in Law through routes such as a solicitor apprenticeship or by taking the Chartered Legal Executive qualification.
So how long does it take?
Perhaps not as long as you’d think. Taking into consideration the qualifications outlined above and including your undergraduate degree, it takes six years to qualify as a solicitor (seven if you don’t have a law degree) or five years to qualify as a barrister (six if you don’t have a law degree). Not as bad as you were expecting, eh?
Do I need a first to be a lawyer?
You don’t necessarily need a first, but Law is a very competitive industry so without either a first or 2:1 you might struggle. If you do have a 2:2 or a 3rd, extensive work experience and some pro bono work (more on this to come), might help make your application stand out from the crowd.
Make sure your undergraduate Law degree is approved by the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Bar Standards Board, or else you’ll still have to complete the GDL after graduation.