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.
Lawyers are not required to have studied law at university! It is possible to do a non-law degree and then do the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL).
Like the law degree, the one-year Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) concentrates on the seven foundations of legal practice. When combined with a non-law degree, it is equivalent to a law degree. For more on the GDL, including what you learn and which institutions offer the course, visit the GDL page in the Courses section.
Pupillage is a compulsory, year-long apprenticeship before qualification as a barrister. Pupils practise under the guidance and supervision of a pupil supervisor.
Period of recognised training/training contract
The period of recognised training (traditionally known as a ‘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 twoyear traineeship.
Barristers offer advice on specific legal issues and are on the front line, representing 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
It is also possible to practise law as a chartered legal executive – 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. For more info, go to www.cilex.org.uk.
Paralegals have traditionally worked alongside solicitors in law firms as support staff, although in practice many paralegals do the same work as their trainee or newly-qualified solicitor counterparts. 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 undertaking a formal period of recognised training. For more detail on what paralegals do and how to become one, visit our Paralegals section.