There are many career options within the legal industry and not all of them require years of study or even a degree. With the high cost of a university education, an alternative route into a legal career might be attractive to many. There are legal apprenticeships available which will allow you to start earning while you study. There are alternative qualifications, such as the CILEx Diplomas for future Chartered Legal Executives, or the Legal Secretary Diploma from ILSPA.
If you want to start your career in the legal industry but university isn’t for you, read on to find out about the options available.
(If you’re looking for how to qualify as a lawyer with a degree that isn’t specifically a law degree, take a look at our guide to conversion courses which covers the Graduate Diploma in Law.)
List of jobs in the legal industry that don’t require a degree
- Legal Secretary
- Legal Assistant
- Legal Administration
- Legal Office Manager
- Chartered Legal Executive
- Licensed Conveyancer
- Court Usher
- Barristers’ Clerk
- Legal HR
- Legal IT
These are some of the jobs you might be able to qualify for even if you don’t have a degree. You may be surprised to see roles such as solicitor or chartered legal executive on this list. While the vast majority of solicitors do hold a degree there are several alternative routes into these careers which do not require you to go to university including legal apprenticeships.
We go into further detail about some of these roles and the qualification routes below.
If you do not wish to go to university, one option open to you is to do an apprenticeship. There are a variety of apprenticeships available for a range of legal careers. From 2016, new legal apprenticeships became available to help you qualify as a solicitor, paralegal or a chartered legal executive. These give you the chance to start earning while you train.
Legal secretary / legal assistant
Even though you don’t need a degree to become a legal secretary or legal assistant, employers may look for an alternative qualification such as a legal secretary diploma. The Institute of Legal Secretaries and PAs (ILSPA) offer a recognised and well-respected Legal Secretary Diploma Course, as do CILEx. Find out more about becoming a legal secretary or legal assistant here.
Although the most popular route to becoming a paralegal is now via university, there are several ways to secure a job without a degree. While it is technically possible to work as a paralegal with just your school qualifications, one of the following options might help to strengthen your CV.
- National Association of Licensed Paralegals (NALP) qualifications: NALP offers several qualifications on varying levels which will introduce you to the legal system and prepare you for a career as a paralegal.
- CILEx Trailblazer Paralegal Apprenticeship: You could become an apprentice through the Trailblazer scheme. You will study three units which will provide you with a grounding in essential legal knowledge while you work for an employer who will provide you with the rest of the skills you’ll need to become a competent paralegal.
Read our paralegal job description for more on paralegal qualifications.
It is even possible to become a solicitor without a degree.
- Equivalent means (sometimes called the paralegal shortcut): This is a new route established in 2014. Paralegals who have experience in at least three areas of law can qualify as solicitors. Their experience must stand up to standards set by the SRA and they will still have to pass the Professional Skills Course (PSC).
- Chartered Legal Executive route: You could qualify as a Chartered Legal Executive via the CILEx route and then become a solicitor after this. You would need to pass the CILEx Level 3 Diploma and the CILEx Level 6 Diploma before undertaking 3 years’ qualifying employment. You can then take the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and the PSC as you would if you were a law graduate.
- Apprenticeship: You can do an apprenticeship where studying for a degree isn’t necessary. You will need to reach the same standard of expertise as a solicitor with a degree and the apprenticeship may last around five or six years.
For more on becoming a solicitor, read our job description.
Chartered Legal Executive
- Apprenticeship: You can become a chartered legal executive by completing an apprenticeship. The new standards set out in 2016 are available on the government website.
- CILEx qualifications: To become a chartered legal executive via the CILEx route, you will need to pass the CILEx Level 3 Diploma followed by the Level 6 Diploma. You will then need to complete 3 years’ qualifying employment before you can become fully qualified.
Find out more about becoming a Chartered Legal Executive in our job description.
You don’t need to go to university to become a licensed conveyancer, however, you will need to pass the exams set by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC). You will need to pass both the Level 4 and Level 6 Diplomas in Conveyancing Law and Practice. You’ll then need to complete 1,200 hours of practical experience before you are eligible for a licence to practice.
If you want to find out more about what it takes to become a licensed conveyancer, take a look at our job description.
A court usher will ensure that proceedings run smoothly in court. If you want to become a court usher, things like practical experience in customer service or administration are generally more important than qualifications. You might benefit from taking a vocational qualification, like an NVQ in Court Operations.
Our Court Usher job description will tell you all you need to know about the qualifications required.
Barristers’ Clerks provide essential support to a set of chambers. Skills such as organisation and the ability to work well under pressure are generally prized above qualifications in this role. Work experience where you have proved yourself in these areas will be a valuable addition to your CV.
Read our Barristers’ Clerk job description to find out more.