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Routes Into Law and the Legal Profession

Home » News & Knowledge » Routes Into Law and the Legal Profession

ARTICLE BY: DARYL SMITH

Make no mistake, the path to working in the legal profession can be tough and involves a huge amount of hard work. However, it is also rewarding, fulfilling and leaves you with a sense of pride in your achievements.

While, in general, there are no specific subjects that are required to be taken at the A-level (or equivalent) stage, it can be beneficial to undertake subjects that in-depth research skills, communicate freely with others and analyse information to formulate a solution. History, sciences and mathematics are just a few examples.

LLB Course

After completing your A-Levels (or equivalent) there are several routes you may choose to follow to progress your career in law, the first being an LLB course. Legal work is demanding and competitive. As such, universities expect first-rate grades as their entry requirements – some top universities have been known to require AAA!

Bachelor’s Degree

Another option is to complete a Bachelor’s degree in any subject and then to complete a one-year Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) conversion course. The GDL puts students on equal footing with others who have completed the LLB, and they will not be prejudiced in any way when applying for future jobs.

It is at this point that the pathways for individuals aspiring to be Solicitors and Barristers diverge.

Solicitor

To become a Solicitor, the Legal Practice Course (LPC) is the next stage. This is a one-year postgraduate course that deals with the basics of how to conduct yourself in meetings with clients, hone your interview skills, advocacy and writing plus much more. You are, in essence, laying the foundations for your soliciting career. After the LPC comes the challenging process of being awarded and completing a training contract with a law firm before applying for admission to the roll of solicitors.

Barrister

To become a Barrister, the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) followed by a pupillage is the postgraduate route to follow. The BPTC is also a one-year vocational course which aims to train students with the skills they need to succeed in this field. As with the LPC, this is far more practicable course covering resolution out of court, advocacy and professional ethics.

Chartered Legal Executive

If you are eager to work as a lawyer in a specific area of law and also earn a bit of money, it may be more advantageous to pursue a career as a Chartered Legal Executive (CLE). A CLE may undertake all work that a Solicitor can do, but a CLE tends to specialise in a single area of law as opposed to a Solicitor who trains across several areas.

To qualify as a CLE, there are two routes available. The first – if you have not completed a degree in law or a GDL – would be to complete two stages of CILEx qualifications: Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice and Level 6 Professional Higher Diploma in Law Practice. If you are in the possession of a law degree/GDL – the CILEx Graduate Fast-track Diploma (GFTD) is the way to go.

Either way, along with finishing the Level 6 (or equivalent) stage, a three-year period of qualifying employment must be completed. It is important to note that work carried out prior to or during the qualifications counts towards the qualifying employment, but the final two years at least must have been worked consecutively, and the final year must be completed after finishing the Level 6 qualification.

Paralegal

Finally, it is important to address the role of a Paralegal. Paralegal work can be an acceptable end for some, but for others it can be used as a springboard into kickstarting their legal career after completing their undergraduate law degree, although you do not need a degree to become a Paralegal. You can undertake the Paralegal qualification/apprenticeship with an organisation if you would like a qualification in the same.

It is becoming the go-to job for an increasing number of law graduates, as the legal sector is becoming more saturated and a training contract is harder to come by. The main responsibility for a Paralegal is to support lawyers, this means work is extremely varied due to the large range of people you are likely to work with and the different fields you are bound to encounter. Work ranges from preparing case documentation to correspondence with clients, depending on the area of law you are working under.

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Meet the author

Daryl Ross Smith joined Oakwood Solicitors as a Paralegal in October 2018. Daryl finished his degree in Forensic Science at Northumbria University, before completing the GDL and the LPC LLM …

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