13 December 2016

How to become a lawyer

This is the time of year when many schools are holding careers fairs to help their students think about the path in life they might wish to follow next. The event pictured was at Gresham’s School, Holt and I am talking to students about careers they could pursue with a law degree.

There have been law schools in existence since the Roman Empire. Many famous people have trained as lawyers, and then followed other paths. The House of Commons is full of them; not that that is necessarily a recommendation! Notable ‘escaped lawyers’ include Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, the artist Matisse and author Victor Hugo, and the comedians John Cleese and Bob Mortimer.

The roles of lawyers vary hugely in terms of geography and specialisation. There is a wide spectrum of reasons why for becoming a lawyer; there are those who like people and want to help them and those for whom money is the driver. There is a role for them all.

There are different routes to qualification. It takes 3 years to train as a solicitor, once you are a law graduate, and 4 years if you have a degree in another subject. If you have studied a non-law degree it is important that it is an academic one to show the ability to think analytically. There are no set ‘A’ levels needed to study law at University and no preference for Maths, Languages, sciences, or humanities. Academic ‘A’ levels are necessary. You should study what you enjoy and are good at.

After a law degree, the aspiring-solicitor takes the 1-year full-time Legal Practice Course (“LPC”), followed by a 2-year on-the-job Training Contract with a law firm. With a non-law degree, a 1-year legal conversion course must be taken before the LPC. Part-time options are available but, of course, take longer. There are other longer routes, without a degree, which enable you to become a solicitor; this is far from a soft-option and is becoming more popular with the rising cost of a degree.

Not all lawyers are solicitors. There are 130,000 solicitors and 15,000 barristers, for whom the qualification route is the same as far as the LPC. To become a barrister this is followed by an academic training course (‘BPTC’) and practical training (a ‘Pupillage’).

Lesser-known, perhaps, is the Legal Executive (or CILEx), who works alongside solicitors. As well as law exams, 5 years of qualifying employment is required. There is a fast-track for graduates. Once qualified as a Legal Executive, one can take further exams and then progress to the LPC to become a solicitor; often this is done part-time, whilst working in a law office.

From 2016 legal apprenticeships are available and this route takes 5-6 years of on and off the job learning, after achieving good ‘A’ levels, and is likely to include a part-time degree.

One thing I tell all aspiring lawyers is that you need to be prepared to work hard and, in the absence of genius, there are no shortcuts. As well as academic ability, determination and motivation are fundamental; subject to that the law is worth investigating as a career by all.

by Miranda Marshall – Director


This article aims to supply general information, but it is not intended to constitute advice. Every effort is made to ensure that the law referred to is correct at the date of publication and to avoid any statement which may mislead. However no duty of care is assumed to any person and no liability is accepted for any omission or inaccuracy. Always seek our specific advice.

If you require advice on this matter please contact Miranda on 01328 710210.  If you require advice on any other legal matter please telephone our Holt office on 01263 712835 or email law@hayes-storr.com.


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