updated on 21 January 2022
Confused about the stages of becoming a lawyer? With the simple career timetable below, there's no need to be! Just hover over the map to reveal an outline of each stage in the process.
Change ahead: the Solicitors Qualifying Examination
Anyone who starts an undergraduate degree after Autumn 2021 will have to take the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), a new two-stage assessment that must be passed to qualify as a solicitor, in addition to two years’ qualifying work experience. The SQE replaces the LPC and also means that a law degree or GDL are no longer compulsory – although in reality you will need either an LLB, law conversion or other preparation course to be able to pass the new exams.
For more information, updates and advice head to the SQE hub on LawCareers.Net.
The foundation of your career and the essential first step.
Universities and employers will likely look at your A-level grades. Some universities favour traditional, academically rigorous subjects such as history but A-level law isn’t a requirement to becoming a lawyer.
Head to LawCareers.Net's Non-law hub for everything you need to know about getting into law, including advice on how to use your degree to stand out and guidance on how you can get ahead.
The qualifying law degree, or LLB, covers seven compulsory subjects: public, criminal, contract, tort, property, equity and trusts, and EU law.
Head to LawCareers.Net's First-year hub for everything you need to kickstart your career in law.
A law conversion course packs the key learning of a law degree into one year (if studying full time). Following the introduction of the SQE, a law conversion isn’t required to become a solicitor.
The mandatory stage of training to become a barrister that follows your law degree or law conversion course. There are a range of options at different law schools, serving different learning styles and budgets.
The Legal Practice Course is being replaced by the SQE.
The SQE was introduced in September 2021 as the exam you must take to qualify as a solicitor. To qualify through the SQE you must have a university degree (law or non-law), pass SQE1 and SQE2 exams, pass the SRA’s character and suitability assessment and have two years’ qualifying work experience (QWE). For more information, see LawCareers.Net’s SQE hub.
SQE preparation courses
It isn’t mandatory to complete an SQE preparation course before taking the SQE, but it is advised. There are a range of available SQE preparation courses for law and non-law graduates, differing in length, price and content. You can search SQE preparation courses via LCN’s course search tool.
Pupillage is a compulsory, year-long period of on-the-job training before qualification as a barrister.
QWE (which may take place in the form of a two-year training contract) is a period of paid training before qualification as a solicitor. The work experience requirements of the SQE are more flexible and can be completed in up to four separate placements taking place before, during and after SQE study. However, many law firms will prefer to train their future lawyers themselves.
Barristers offer advice on specific legal issues and represent clients in court.
Solicitors give advice and assistance on matters of law; they’re the first point of contact for those seeking legal advice and representation.
CILEX chartered legal executive
A chartered legal executive is a qualified lawyer (though not a solicitor) who is trained to specialise as an expert in a particular area of law. The CILEX Professional Qualification provides three outcomes: CILEX Paralegal, CILEX Advanced Paralegal and CILEX Lawyer.
Intermediate legal and paralegal apprenticeships
A legal apprentice starts their career straight from school. You receive paid, on-the-job training in legal skills, commercial skills and professional conduct. For more on the different types of apprenticeship, read The Law Apprenticeships Guide.
The solicitor apprenticeship is a six-year programme of paid training, integrating a law degree, which ends in qualification as a solicitor. The entry requirements are usually five GCSEs graded 9 to 4 and three A levels (grade requirements vary), or equivalent work experience. Solicitor apprentices will take the SQE in order to qualify.
Paralegals have traditionally worked as support staff, but in practice many experienced paralegals do the same work as solicitors. Paralegal roles provide a good route into the profession for students and graduates, either as valuable work experience before applying for a training contract or as a way to fulfil QWE before taking the SQE and qualifying as a solicitor.