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Legal career paths

GCSE

The foundation of your career and the essential first step - good grades are vital if you want to progress in your legal career.

A level

The academic stage between GCSE and undergraduate level - again, good grades are essential. Some universities favour traditional, academically rigorous subjects such as history (A-level law is not usually specified).

Non-law degree

Lawyers are not required to have studied law at university! It is possible to do a non-law degree and then do the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL).

Law degree

The qualifying law degree, or LLB, covers seven compulsory subjects: public, criminal, contract, tort, property, equity and trusts, and EU law.

GDL

Like the law degree, the one-year Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) concentrates on the seven foundations of legal practice. When combined with a non-law degree, it is equivalent to a law degree.

BPTC

The one-year Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) is the vocational stage of training to be a barrister.

LPC

The one-year Legal Practice Course (LPC) is the vocational stage of training to be a solicitor.

Pupillage

Pupillage is a compulsory, year-long apprenticeship before qualification as a barrister. Pupils practise under the guidance and supervision of a pupil supervisor.

Training contract

The training contract is a compulsory, two-year paid employment contract with a law firm or other approved organisation before qualification as a solicitor.

Barrister

Barristers offer advice on specific legal issues and are on the front line, representing clients in court.

Solicitor

Solicitors give advice and assistance on matters of law; they are the first point of contact for those seeking legal advice and representation.

CILEx chartered legal executive

It is also possible to practise law as a chartered legal executive - a qualified lawyer (though not a solicitor) who is trained to specialise as an expert in a particular area of law. The route to qualification is to complete CILEx 3 and CILEx 6 (or CILEx Graduate Fast Track for those with a law degree) and three years' qualifying employment. For more info, go to www.cilex.org.uk

Legal apprenticeships

A legal apprentice is someone who joins a law firm straight from school, rather than going to university, to work in a role similar to that of a paralegal. Apprentices receive on-the-job, paid training that takes them towards a formal qualification. Note: this is a relatively new, developing area of the legal market, so to keep up to date with the latest on who can become an apprentice and how, visit our Legal apprenticeships section