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Beginner's Guide

Legal career paths

updated on 23 March 2018

GCSE

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 The old Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) has been replaced by a range of new options, as of September 2020.

LPC

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

Pupillage

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.

Barrister

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

Solicitor

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 www.cilex.org.uk.

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

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.