If you’re thinking of becoming a barrister, take a look at our specific barrister finances page here.
The total cost of qualifying as a solicitor is not to be underestimated. Prospective trainees should investigate potential sources of funding at each stage of qualification.
Firstly, there are your undergraduate degree tuition fees to consider. From 2012, the government has allowed universities to charge fees of up to £9,000 per year; as universities are free to determine how much they charge up to this amount, you should check the cost of with individual institutions. However, be aware that the majority of universities have opted to charge the maximum tuition fee of £9,000 per year.
For this stage of your education there are two types of student loan available:
- A student loan for fees (commonly called the ‘tuition fee loan’) covers the full amount of your fees – the full amount available being set at £9,000 for the academic year 2013-14.
- A student loan for maintenance (usually called the ‘living costs loan’) will depend on your city of study and whether you live independently or with family. For example, for the academic year 2013-14, the grant if living independently and studying in London was is £7,675. In 2014-15, that will rise to £7,751.
Most students have to borrow both, but the loans are repayable only after graduation and even then you pay only 9% on earnings more than the repayment threshold; this is set at £15,000 if you started your course before September 2012, and over £21,000 if you started your course in September 2012 or later.
Some grants are also available from your university or indirectly when you have gone through the normal loans application process (the money actually comes from your local education authority). Maintenance grants, based on your earnings or those of your parents, can be up to £3,354 a year (until 2013-14; up to £3,387 from 2014-15) and you don't have to pay them back.
The body that administers financial support for students is called Student Finance Direct.
If you did a non-law degree and have to study the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), expect to pay up to £9,820 (for a full-time course in London in 2013-14). Added to these fees are your own living costs.
Expect to pay up to £14,000 for the Legal Practice Course (LPC), for a full-time course in London in 2013-14. Added to these fees are your own living costs.
The GDL and the LPC are not funded under normal grant and student finance arrangements because they are not usually eligible for local education authority funding. However, occasionally some funds are available, but these depend on your personal circumstances and you’ll have to contact your local education authority for more information.
The standard way of funding the GDL and/or the LPC is with a high-street bank loan. Some banks (eg, NatWest) used to offer special loans to postgraduate law students which had preferential rates and allowed longer time for repayment, but in 2011, these were withdrawn. Nevertheless, most banks should see you as a good investment because you will be a professional and should be able to earn enough money to repay them. However, unlike the government student loans, you will have to repay your bank loan as soon as the course is over, regardless of what you earn.
If you study the GDL or the LPC at BPP Law School (and hold a UK passport), you are offered the possibility of 'The Law Loan' from Investec Bank. This allows you to take out a loan to cover the cost of multiple courses, up to a total of £25,000. BPP students can find out more information here.
Note that the government-subsidised career development loan offered by some banks does not cover the GDL (because it leads to another course rather than employment).
Sometimes international, City or large regional law firms provide GDL and/or LPC sponsorship to those students whom they have already selected for training contracts. Sponsorship is sometimes (although rarely) available from other bodies that take on trainees. For instance, the Government Legal Service offers limited financial help for trainees who have secured a training contract with it. Use the sponsorship offered filter on the training contract search to find firms that offer sponsorship.
If you are recruited during your degree and the firm offers to sponsor you through your postgraduate course(s), it will probably recommend a particular provider. You’ll then often study several modules tailored to the firm’s practice.
Some grant-making trusts and charities may offer financial assistance to those seeking to qualify as a barrister. You can find information about grants, loans and other funds from your local education authority awards officer.
Finally, the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) website funding page can provide all prospective and current students with information regarding financial help. The page also provides information about the Law Society’s Diversity Access Scheme.