Undergraduate degree

updated on 09 March 2023

Find out which institutions offer qualifying law degrees by using our course search.

It’s not necessary to have a law degree to become a lawyer. Perhaps half of all qualifying solicitors and barristers didn’t study law at undergraduate level –you’ll find a variety of degree backgrounds at most firms and chambers.

Many non-law degrees are particularly useful for specialist areas of the law; a science background can be advantageous (but not essential) for specialist intellectual property lawyers, for example.

This isn’t meant to discourage you from studying law at degree level; it’s a great subject to specialise in at university. But it’s important to note that a law degree is not part of the essential requirements to become a solicitor, barrister, legal executive or paralegal. See Legal career paths to learn more, as well as the following information covering the undergraduate degree stage.

Wondering about the legal executive pathway? Check out this blog on qualifying via this route.

Solicitor qualifying requirements

As of September 2021, the way that solicitors qualify changed with the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE). The SQE is a new centralised assessment that all prospective solicitors must pass to qualify.

Technically, no legal qualifications (a law degree or law conversion) are required to attempt the SQE assessments, but realistically students will still need legal education and training to pass the exams. This means that law degrees and law conversion courses are here to stay. In fact, many firms will likely require non-law graduates to complete a law conversion before embarking on training and the SQE with them.

Non-law students: SQE and law conversion courses’ – find out more about the changes in this Oracle.

Barrister qualifying requirements

To qualify as a barrister, you’ll need a law degree or non-law degree with a law conversion (such as the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL)), before you can take a Bar course and then progress onto the final stage: pupillage.

Undergraduate degree advice

  • The downside of not doing a law degree is that you’ll have to acquaint yourself with law through a postgraduate course. Bear in mind the extra fees and living costs that this will involve. On the other hand, a different undergraduate degree will increase your knowledge and depth of experience outside of the law. 
  • Take your studying seriously, as when you apply to a law firm or chambers, you’ll be asked to include your end-of-year grades for your first and second years.

As with A levels, choose an undergraduate degree subject that you think you'll do well in; most firms and chambers require a 2.1 or first. The majority of recruiters we speak to say that excellent academics are a given, so make sure that you put in the time when studying.

Course content

Qualifying law degrees and GDLs cover the seven foundations of legal knowledge:

  • contract;
  • tort;
  • criminal;
  • equity and trusts;
  • European Union;
  • property; and
  • public/constitutional.

Where to study

Many institutions offer degrees in law – as either single, joint or combined honours courses. Our Course search section provides a comprehensive list of institutions that teach qualifying law degrees, as does the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

An exempting law degree integrates the academic and vocational stages of training. Currently, the only institutions offering an exempting law degree are:

Please note that you can only qualify via an exempting law degree if you meet the SRA’s transitional arrangements for the SQE. Otherwise, you’ll have to qualify as a solicitor via the SQE.

For those not intending to study law at undergraduate level, the choice is enormous. You should consult your careers adviser and as many guides to courses as you can.

How and when to apply

University applications are managed by UCAS in your A-level years. You should consult the website and your sixth form/college careers adviser for details.