Article: A Guide To Becoming A Lawyer In England & Wales

December 2011

A rough guide on how to become a lawyer written by Music Law Updates editor, Ben Challis.

The ‘normal’ route to qualify as a lawyer in the UK – as a barrister or as a solicitor – is to firstly take a UK or other recognised university degree. A lot of students will take a law degree, but some students decide to become lawyers later on during their university course – this isn’t a huge problem, but those students who haven’t studied law have to complete an additional year studying for the ‘Graduate Diploma in Law’ (GDL) accredited by the College of Law. A degree takes THREE years. The Graduate Diploma in law would take a further ONE year for students who are not law graduates.

So, providing you have a law degree – either a Bachelor of Laws (LLB), Bachelor of Arts in Law (BA), Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) OR a Diploma in Law – you can then try to qualify either as a solicitor or a barrister: In very general terms, solicitors work in practices. Many solicitors work in ‘high street’ firms looking after legal matters such as family law, conveyancing, wills, property, trusts and criminal matters. Some are more specialised. Some solicitors now attend the more senior courts as advocates. Barristers are advocates and tend to specialise in one area of law – such as criminal law, property law, media law or libel. Barristers are the lawyers in ‘wigs and gowns’ and most senior judges begin their careers as barristers. But Solicitors can also now become judges.

You will need to take the Legal Practice Course (LPC). This is an intensive ONE year course. If you pass, you then spend TWO years as a (salaried) articled clerk with one or more firms of solicitors. You can then obtain your qualification as a solicitor and obtain a practicing certificate.

Useful Links:
The Law Society –
Student Enquiry Line 0870 606 2555
College of Law –
The combined LPC and CPE/Dip Law Courses Central Application Board –
Online Legal Education –
BPP Professional Education –

You will need to take the Bar Examination. This is a ONE year course and includes practical exercises. You will need to join one of the ‘Inns of Court’: Inner Temple, Middle Temple, Grays Inn, Lincolns Inn and complete your ‘dining’ there – yes, eating dinner with other students and lawyers. Then, if you pass the exam, you will be ‘called to the Bar’ as a barrister. You then need to complete a ONE year pupillage as a pupil barrister. Part, or all, of this pupillage might be unpaid.

Useful Links:
The Bar Council –
Online Legal Education –
BPP Professional Education –

There is a separate qualification as a LEGAL EXECUTIVE. Legal executives tend to work in solicitors offices’ as support staff to lawyers, but some legal executives can become specialised and very experienced in the law. The qualification is a TWO YEAR course, but five years of relevant employment will also be needed. Legal executives can move on to qualify as solicitors.

Useful Link:

New law degree to offered by the College of Law for students converting to law
The Privy Council has awarded the College of The Law the right to award its own degrees. This means that students who take the post graduate conversion course (The Common Professional Examination or Diploma in Law) and then either the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or the Bar Vocational Course (BVC, previously the Bar Examinations) will be entitled to a degree in law – a Bachelors of Laws (LLB). Successful students would be awarded a second degree in addition to the original degree that the student already holds.

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