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Becoming a Solicitor- An Overview on the Routes to Qualification

Posted on October 07, 2016

Do you have a burning desire to be a successful, high powered Solicitor on track for Partnership at a top firm?

No idea where to start?

For anyone with an interest in Law and in becoming a Solicitor, one of the most important decisions you will make is how to enter the legal profession. Most people are aware of the more traditional route, which involves studying a qualifying Law degree at University, followed by the highly expensive Legal Practice Course and then acquiring the gold at the end of the rainbow- the ever elusive TRAINING CONTRACT, but it is surprising how many people I speak to on an almost daily basis, who are not aware of all of their options.

What this article aims to do is to give you an overview of the different routes to qualification.

The Traditional Route - Qualifying with a Law Degree

By far the most popular route is the ‘traditional’ option, which is the completion of a qualifying law degree.

Once you have completed the degree, you are then required to study the Legal Practice Course (LPC) either on a full-time or part-time basis. This can be an expensive route with prices dependent on the institution but ranging from £8,000 to £13,500.

Once you have your degree and LPC, you are then required to complete a Training Contract with the firm of your choice. Applications are notoriously competitive with only approximately 25% of graduates landing places.  Two years later with the addition of the Professional Skills Course under your belt, you are a newly qualified Solicitor ready to make your mark on the world!

Qualifying without a Law Degree

With the majority of people choosing their degree subjects before they are even 18 and with the variety of degree courses available, a lot of people are coming to the realisation after they have already completed a non-law degree that their actual career goal is to enter the legal profession. Fret not! It is not the end of the line. There is a course available for you to convert your non-law degree and continue with legal studies. This course is the GDL- Graduate Diploma in Law. This course usually takes 1 year to complete on a full-time basis, or between 18 months and 2 years on a part-time basis. Once the GDL is completed, you can follow the route outlined above- LPC, Training Contract, PSC- Qualification!

For people who would rather get straight into employment than attend University, there is the option to become a member of CILEx. Taking this route means you can earn as you learn. It does take a bit longer than the traditional route and there are some requirements you must satisfy, but overall it is an excellent alternative way to enter the profession. Depending on whether you start CILEx from scratch or with a Law degree already under your belt, the qualification and training element typically takes between 3-5 years to complete. Upon qualification, you become a Chartered Legal Executive. You can then cross-qualify and become a Solicitor (will go into more detail on a later article).

Apprenticeships

From 2016, new legal apprenticeships are being offered by some firms as an alternative way into the legal profession. Apprentices can qualify as Solicitors, Legal Executives or Paralegals. The entry requirements are minimal with firms requiring 5 good GCSES and 3 A’Levels. This route takes approximately 5-6 years and is a mixture of on the job training and formal assessments. It is a brand new scheme and not all firms will offer it at this stage, but it is definitely something to be aware of from the outset.

Qualifying from outside the UK

Are you a qualified lawyer from overseas looking to enter the legal profession in England and Wales? Under the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme, you may be able to join the roll of Solicitors without having to complete the full education and training requirements as set out by the SRA.

In order to be eligible; you would have to be a qualified lawyer from a recognised jurisdiction, pass the suitability and character requirements set out by the SRA and also pass the QLTS assessments. This can be a long, arduous process with candidates having to wait up to 1 year to secure a seat at the assessments centre and assessment costs of over £4,000.

So there you have it!  An overview of the main routes to take if you would like a career as a Solicitor in England and Wales. Pursuing these routes are not for the faint-hearted and certainly require a lot of passion and dedication but will pay off in the long run!

In my next article, I will go into a lot more detail regarding the ‘traditional route’ and what students can expect from the outset.  

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