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Beginner's Guide

Legal career paths

updated on 04 October 2021


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

A level

Again, good grades are essential. Some universities favour traditional, academically rigorous subjects such as history (A level law is not a requirement).

Non-law degree

Lawyers are not required to have studied law at university! You can 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.

Law conversion

A law conversion course such as the Graduate Diploma in Law packs the key learning of a law degree into one year (if studying full time). It is studied after gaining a non-law degree and makes your qualifications equivalent to those of a law graduate.

Bar course

Completing a Bar course is a mandatory stage of training to become a barrister that comes after your law degree or law conversion. The old Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) has been replaced by a range of new options, as of September 2020.


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


Pupillage is a compulsory, yearlong period of training before qualification as a barrister. A pupil works as a barrister under the guidance and supervision of a pupil supervisor.

Period of recognised training/training contract

The period of recognised training (‘training contract’) is a period of paid employment and training with a law firm or other approved organisation before qualification as a solicitor. In most cases this will take the form of a two-year formal traineeship.


Barristers offer advice on specific legal issues and represent clients in court.


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

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 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. You can also do a chartered legal executive apprenticeship. For more info, go to

Intermediate legal and paralegal apprenticeships

A legal apprentice is someone who joins a law firm straight from school, rather than going to university. You receive paid, on-the-job training and gain competence in legal skills, commercial skills and professional conduct. For more info, visit the Legal apprenticeships section on LawCareers.Net.

Solicitor apprenticeship

The solicitor apprenticeship is a six-year programme of paid, on-the-job training, integrating a law degree, which ends in qualification as a solicitor. The general entry requirements are five GCSEs graded A* - C and three A levels graded B or above (or equivalent work experience) – but A level requirements vary between employers.


Paralegals have traditionally worked alongside solicitors in law firms as support staff, although in practice many paralegals do the same work as trainees or newly-qualified 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 the SRA’s qualifying requirements without doing a training contract.

Change ahead: the Solicitors Qualifying Examination

Anyone who starts an undergraduate degree after Autumn 2021 will have to take the Solicitors Qualifying Exam, a new assessment that must be passed to qualify as a solicitor. This will replace the LPC and the training contract may also see changes. For more information, see LawCareers.Net’s Solicitors Qualifying Exam page.