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If you want to become a lawyer there are a number of ways for you to achieve your goal, from studying a traditional law degree to embarking on an apprenticeship. Find out more about qualifying to work in the legal profession
What qualifications do I need to become a lawyer?
Becoming a lawyer via the university route requires you to complete a qualifying law degree (LLB) before taking the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), which is set to replace the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and Legal Practice Course (LPC) for all new entrants in September 2021, although there are transitional arrangements in place for those already studying these courses.
Those who studied an unrelated subject at undergraduate level will need to embark on a SQE preparation course before sitting the exams. The next step is to complete two years of qualifying legal work experience, which can include a training contract, before passing the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) character and suitability requirements. You can then apply for admission to the roll of solicitors.
It’s also possible to complete a Solicitor Apprenticeship, which is a six-year, Level 7 programme aimed at A-level graduates, paralegals and chartered legal executives. Find out more about law apprenticeships.
To become a barrister in England and Wales you need to complete at least three stages or components of training. These include the academic component (law degree), vocational component (a Bar course, traditionally the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC)) and pupillage also known as the work-based learning component. After completing all training components you’ll be ready to apply for tenancy as a self-employed barrister in chambers or go into practice as an employed barrister.
You can also become a CILEx Lawyer through the new CILEx Professional Qualification (CPQ) route. Combining work with study you’ll progress across three stages:
- Foundation – aligned to the role of a paralegal
- Advanced – for those handling cases at an advanced paralegal level
- Professional – for those who want to be CILEX Lawyers in their chosen specialist area of law and with full practice rights.
Students who already hold an undergraduate or postgraduate legal qualification will not have to start at the beginning. Qualifying as a CILEx lawyer through the CPQ will cost a maximum of £12,500 – less for those with some kind of legal qualification, making it considerably cheaper than university study. The CPQ route opens for enrolments in June 2021. Students can study through CILEX Law School or through a number of approved providers.https://www.youtube.com/embed/D4olt_DPRwk?feature=oembed&enablejsapi=1&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.prospects.ac.uk
This Prospects webinar aired August 2021.
What’s the difference between a solicitor and a barrister?
Lawyer is a general term referring to anyone who is qualified to give legal advice as a licensed legal practitioner. This includes solicitors and barristers.
Solicitors provide legal support, advice and services to clients, who can be individuals, private companies, public sector organisations or other groups. Working in private practice, in-house for commercial organisations, in local or central government or in the court service, they may specialise in certain areas of law such as property, family or finance.
In England and Wales, barristers represent individuals or organisations in court, carry out research into points of law and advise clients on their case. Many are self-employed in chambers, while others work in government departments or agencies including the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and Government Legal Service (GLS). Advocates play a similar role in Scotland.
Besides solicitors and barristers, other jobs include:
- Chartered legal executives are qualified lawyers who specialise in particular fields of law such as civil and criminal litigation, corporate law or public law. Only those who complete the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives’ (CILEx) training programme can use this title.
- Paralegals carry out legal work without being qualified as a solicitor or barrister. They support lawyers by, for instance, preparing briefing notes and interviewing clients and witnesses.
Try to arrange work shadowing and work experience placements, and attend insight days, to help you decide which path suits you. Find out more about law careers and the different areas of law.