Back to overview

Features

Law course fees: a guide for students

updated on 06 December 2022

The cost of studying for the qualifications to become a solicitor or barrister is obviously of paramount importance to the majority of people pursuing a career in law. Here’s our guide to the loans and scholarships available for law degrees, as well as the GDL, LPC, SQE and Bar courses.

Reading time: seven minutes

Training to become a lawyer isn’t cheap. If you have to pay for all your university tuition fees and vocational courses, you could incur debts of many tens of thousands of pounds. And it's not just course fees that must be considered – there are also the costs of books, accommodation, a laptop or tablet, food, transport and smart clothing to wear to careers events and interviews. This is a huge financial investment with no guarantee of a training contract or pupillage at the end of it.

You’re likely to be looking at fees of more than £9,000 per year for your undergraduate studies, but that's just the beginning. In 2023-24 Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) course fees can be around £13,600. Fees for the Legal Practice Course (LPC) in 2022-23 are even higher – as much as £17,950 – and for the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), preparation course costs vary depending on programme content, with some education providers charging upwards of £12,000, the cost of taking the exams (£4,115) isn’t included in the preparation course costs. 

For more information on the SQE, head to LawCareers.Net’s SQE hub. You can also read LCN’s guide to SQE preparation courses for details on education providers offering these programmes.

Meanwhile the new Bar courses (that replaced the Bar Professional Training Course) range in price from around £13,000 – £18,350 (plus living costs). These fees represent the upper limits of what you can expect to pay, and you can generally find lower fees outside London, but the courses are always a significant financial undertaking – especially given the rising cost of living.

Read LCN’s guide to barrister training for more information on the education providers offering Bar courses.

So, with that in mind, how do you go about financing your studies?

Undergraduate law and non-law degrees

There are two types of loan available for your undergraduate degree:

  • 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 £9,250 for the academic year 2022-23.
  • Student living costs loans vary in amount depending on your city of study and whether you live independently or with family. For example, for the academic year 2022-23, the grant for a student living independently and studying in London is up to £12,667.

Most students have to use both types of loan, but the loans are repayable only after you’ve graduated at which point, you pay 9% on any earnings over the repayment threshold of £27,295 a year, £2,274 a month or £524 a week. If you earn less than that, you don’t repay the loan.

Some grants are also available from your university or indirectly when you’ve gone through the normal loan application process (the money actually comes from your local education authority). Government maintenance grants were scrapped by the government in 2016.

Visit the government’s student finance website for more details on how financial support is administered.

In addition, education charity Brightside has a free online budget calculator, which is a useful tool that can help you to manage your money once you’re at university. 

Postgraduate courses

GDL fees

With the introduction of the SQE in September 2021, the GDL is no longer a requirement for non-law graduates pursuing a career as a solicitor. It will remain part of the route for non-law graduates looking to qualify as barristers.

That said, non-law graduates are being encouraged to take a law conversion course before embarking on any SQE preparation courses. Fees range up to £13,600 (for a full-time course in London in 2022-23) but can be significantly less outside London. Added to these fees are your own living costs.

LPC fees

Expect to pay up to £17,950 for the LPC for a full-time course in London in 2022-23 – although you can pay considerably less outside London (from £13,200). Again, added to these fees are your own living costs.

Check the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s transitional arrangements to find out whether you can continue to qualify via the LPC.

SQE prep fees

The SQE prep course fees depend on the type of course you choose to take. Some education providers have developed master's programmes that include prep for SQE1 and SQE2 and can cost as much as £16,950 in London. However, individual preparation courses (eg, The University of Law's SQE1 Preparation Course and SQE2 Preparation Course) can cost as much as £5,900 in London (2023-24).

Other training providers are offering cheaper alternatives, for example, BARBRI's SQE1 Prep and SQE2 prep cost £2,999 and £3,499, respectively.   

It's worth doing some research on what individual providers are doing in this regard. 

Use LCN's guide to SQE preparation courses to help too. You can also read LCN's 'Funding the SQE' Oracle for more specific insight on paying for the SQE.

Student Loans Company postgraduate funding

Postgraduate loans from the government are available only for master’s courses, not diplomas or professional certificates, meaning that postgraduate loans aren’t available for the GDL, standalone LPC or SQE preparation courses.

However, much like they did with the LPC, many law schools and universities have developed SQE preparation courses that include a master’s qualification, meaning that you can get a postgraduate loan if you choose to study one of these.

Postgraduate loans go up to a maximum of £11,836 if your course starts on or after 1 August 2022. It’s up to the student to decide how they want to divide the loan between paying course fees and living costs. 

Graduate bank loans

Loans for postgraduate study are also available from many high street banks.

Loans range from £1,000 to £15,000 and are subject to a suitability assessment. Contact your bank to find out what support it can provide.

Sponsorship

Some law firms – particularly international, City or large regional firms – provide GDL and/or LPC/SQE sponsorship upon your acceptance of an offer of a training contract. In some cases, this includes paying back a loan you’ve already taken out.

Sponsorship is sometimes (although rarely) available from other bodies that take on trainees. For instance, the Government Legal Service offers limited financial help for its future trainees. Use the ‘sponsorship offered’ filter on LawCareers.Net’s training contract search to find firms that offer sponsorship.

If you’re recruited during your degree and the firm offers to sponsor you through your postgraduate course(s), it’ll probably recommend a particular law school or university. You’re then likely to study several modules tailored to the firm’s work areas.

Scholarships

All universities and law schools offer a limited number of scholarships, awards and bursaries. Some may be for students who show exceptional ability, while others exist to support students who couldn’t otherwise afford the course fees. Learn more about what scholarships are available on your university or law school's website, or contact the scholarships team directly. 

Inns of Court

Aspiring barristers must join an Inn of Court and four Inns provide various scholarships and financial aid. For information about the scholarships available at each of the four Inns of Court, go to the Inns of Court Scholarships section. 

Between them, the four Inns of Court offer millions of pounds in awards every year. The umbrella term 'award' is used to describe all scholarships, bursaries and grants.

Each Inn is a completely separate entity and so the rules governing scholarships differ. Amounts vary and all are awarded on merit, although some Inns have awards for certain achievements. Most awards are given to students on the Bar course, but the Inns also have funds available for those on the GDL.

It’s advisable to apply in the final year of your degree or in the year before starting the GDL or Bar course. The Inns’ websites have application forms that ask for character details, legal experience, income/funds and references. You can apply for scholarships only at one Inn. If the scholarships committee likes your application, it will invite you to an interview.

For a summary, read our guide to joining an Inn of Court. Contact the Inns direct for more detailed info: 

Further support

Some grant-making trusts and charities may offer financial assistance to those seeking to qualify as a solicitor. You can find information about grants, loans and other funds from your local education authority awards officer.

Finally, the Junior Solicitors Network 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.

So, what can we say? Training to be a lawyer is expensive and there are no guarantees. Hopefully, you’ll be rewarded with a training contract or pupillage. If so, great – it was all worth it. If not, move on – try and broaden your view on where your career might take you, and think of alternative sectors/industries that will value your skills. Either way, taking care of your financial wellbeing is vital.

Katherine Bryant is the content and engagement coordinator at LawCareers.Net.