For those wondering how to become a lawyer, the many different law qualifications can be confusing. You can simplify much of the English and Welsh legal professions by dividing them into two professions; barristers and solicitors. It is becoming more difficult to separate the work of barristers and solicitors as some solicitors can now stand up in court.
Since 1994 and the Access to Justice Act, solicitors have been granted what are called higher court rights of audience, which allow them to present cases in court as well as to prepare cases. Solicitors can, therefore, handle cases from the police station through to the highest court of appeal. Barristers, on the other hand, continue to focus solely on presenting cases in court and are specifically trained in advocacy and the skills needed to present a case.
It is important that you choose early on in your law education whether you want to be a solicitor or a barrister as the training varies. Read on to find out how to become a lawyer.
Law qualifications and training for barristers
- You must complete a law degree or a conversion course in law.
- If you want to be a barrister then you will need to take the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).
- You will also need to undergo a year-long pupillage.
For more information on becoming a barrister, read our job description.
Law qualifications and training for solicitors
There are several qualification routes you can take to become a solicitor:
Graduate route: This is the most common path. You will need to have completed a law degree or an alternative degree and the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). You can then take the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and complete a two-year training contract. The next step is to complete the Professional Skills Course (PSC) and get acceptance onto the SRA’s Roll of Solicitors.
CILEx route: You don’t have to go to university to qualify as a solicitor. You can take the CILEx Level 3 and 6 Diplomas to get you to an equivalent academic level. You will then need to complete 3 years qualifying employment to become a Chartered Legal Executive and fully qualified lawyer. You can then take the LPC and the PSC to meet the requirements for acceptance onto the Roll of Solicitors. The CILEx Fast Track Diploma is available to those who have a degree.
Equivalent means: This is a new route, established in 2014, that allows paralegals who have built up sufficient experience in 3 areas of legal practice to qualify as a solicitor.
For more information, see our guide on how to qualify as a solicitor.
For more on what being a solicitor involves, read our job description.
Requirements for working in the UK as a lawyer
- If you are qualified as a lawyer in a different country you will need to have your qualifications recognised by the Law Society.
- If the Law Society accepts your qualifications you will need to take a Qualified Lawyer Transfer Test.
- If you are a qualified lawyer from outside the EU then you will need to have two years practice of the UK law within the UK before your qualifications are recognised.
- As a lawyer, you will also need a CRB check which shows you do not have a prison record for abuse of children or other vulnerable people.
Browse our full selection of law jobs today.
For more on how to become a lawyer, take a look at our detailed job descriptions which explain which qualifications are required for each role.