A common misunderstanding is that you have to read law at university if you want to qualify as a solicitor or barrister. The good news is that this is simply not the case. You will, however, need to do an extra year’s postgraduate study.
If you have a strong academic record, your lack of a law degree will not be a disadvantage. Indeed, some firms have around a 60:40 split of law and non-law graduates. Traditional subjects such as economics and history are viewed favourably, as well as sciences and modern languages.
The Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and the Common Professional Exam (CPE) are the qualifications that transform non-law graduates into potential lawyers. The Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Bar Council recognise both qualifications.
Once the year-long GDL is completed, you will be on the same footing as a law graduate and able to embark on the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). Given that the GDL is a three-year course squeezed into a year, it is not for the faint-hearted. You will cover the seven foundations of legal knowledge – criminal law, equity and trusts, EU law, contract law, tort, property law and public law.
Applications for the course are made through the Central Applications Board. Application forms are normally available from November, with a closing date around February. There is tough competition for places and most applicants will have at least a 2:1 degree. You should be prepared to pay more than £9,000 at some colleges, especially the London-based ones. What’s more, securing funding for the GDL has become more difficult as it is no longer possible to use Career Development Loans towards the cost.
However, as is the case with the LPC, students who secure training contracts may receive sponsorship from future employers. Also, many law schools offer part-time courses, so you can combine it with paid employment.