You do not have to have a law degree before becoming a qualified solicitor. You do not need to have any degree before becoming a solicitor. However, that does not mean that you can become a solicitor without any recognised qualifications as that is not the case.
What are the main ways to qualify as a solicitor?
There the five generally accepted routes to becoming a solicitor:
- Take a three-year law degree, then complete your studies over three years with a firm of solicitors that will include taking and passing your Legal Practice Course (LPC) followed by undertaking a training contract with a firm of solicitors.
- Take a three-year degree course in any subject you choose, then take a Graduate Diploma in Law conversion course. This is then followed by your Legal Practice Course (LPC), followed by the undertaking of a training contract with a firm of solicitors.
- Take a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) over one or two years, followed by the LPC, followed by further studies and undertaking a training contract with a firm of solicitors.
- You can study to become a Legal Chartered Executive followed by additional coursework, before then taking your LPC. After that, you can join a firm of solicitors to take your training contract before finally qualifying as a solicitor.
- Join a firm of solicitors under a Legal Apprenticeship. This scheme ensures that you end up with a law degree and are then able to take your LPC.
Time is the main difference
Studying Law at university and then joining a firm of solicitors is the fastest way to become a solicitor. After obtaining your degree, you can take your LPC over a year and complete your training contract with a firm of solicitors over the next two years, before applying to become a qualified solicitor.
If you take a non-law degree, you have to spend an additional year then taking a law conversion course, the Graduate Diploma in Law, also known as the GDL. If you choose to study full time, you can complete that course in a year, but many choose to take it while also working and then complete the course over two years. Thus, becoming a lawyer via this route can take up to eight years.
Opting to become a Legal Chartered Executive or taking a Legal Apprenticeship generally means it can take up to ten years to become a qualified solicitor.
Financial hurdles to overcome
One of the main reasons people choose to go to university to study Law to become a solicitor is financial. While students can generate considerable debt while studying, the ability to earn a decent salary will be quicker in the long run. However, while working for a firm of solicitors while unqualified, your ability to earn reasonable fees is restricted, so the salary you will be paid before qualifying will also be low. Only once you have become a qualified solicitor will you then be able to command a good salary.
Progressing through a firm of solicitors can take a long time.
One of the principal problems faced when joining a firm of solicitors on an apprenticeship, or as a Legal Chartered Executive is that you will be seen as a full-time member of staff and will be treated as such. This means you will occupy a useful position within that firm. For your employers, that is not a problem, but if you are looking to work your way up the ladder, you have started well below university graduates. As a consequence, your chances of promotion will be limited as with a promotion comes the need to find a replacement for the job you currently do.
Finding a replacement causes two problems – first, finding a suitable replacement and, secondly, training that new recruit to do your old job. These are both time consuming and costly exercises, and so will not be undertaken as a priority.
Studying law provides flexible, affordable and accessible learning with study options to suit everyone. Whatever route you choose will require dedication and perseverance. You will be rewarded with a challenging and well-paid career.
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