If you want to become a solicitor in the United Kingdom and like any other professional career you will be expected to put in both time and money in order to achieve your goal. The amount of money that you have to spend will depend on the route that you choose to take. Here is some information about the costs which are associated with various different routes.
For many people, the first step towards becoming a practicing solicitor is to complete an undergraduate degree at university. In England and Wales, the majority of undergraduate degrees take 3 years to complete. Although fees can differ between universities, the majority choose to charge the maximum permitted fee of £9000 per annum. Student financing support, such as a loan, may be available to help to cover these costs. If you are Scottish, you may be able to complete your undergraduate degree at a Scottish university for free, however Scottish law differs from English and Welsh law, so it is important to think about where you want to practice.
If you choose to complete an undergraduate degree, you will also need to think about living costs, including accommodation, food and transport for the period that you will be at university. Fewer financial resources are available to support student maintenance.
Law Conversion Course
If your undergraduate degree is not in law, then you can do a law conversion course to prepare you for the next stages of legal training. You will either have to complete the Common Professional Examination (CPE) or the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). Differences between the two are explained here. The fees of these courses can vary widely, depending on the location that you study at, and the type of course that you choose to do. A full-time course will only last for a year, but the fees could be as much as £9000. At the lower end of the spectrum, some conversion courses are available for just £3300.
Legal Practice Course (LPC)
After your law undergraduate or your conversion course has been completed, you must then progress on to the vocational part of your training, which is known as the LPC. This can be completed on a full time (one year) or part time (two year) basis. Part time courses allow students to spend more time undertaking paid work whilst completing their degree. Some students also choose a part time course to enable them to do part time work experience in other areas of the legal profession. Fees for these courses can range from £8,500 up to £12,900 for the full course.
Not everyone who becomes a practicing solicitor has followed the traditional university route towards qualification. It is sometimes possible for people without a degree to take a mainly vocational route to a solicitor position. As part of this, you must maintain employment in a legal office for a prolonged period of time, and pass a series of examinations from the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx).
It is hard to give an estimate of costs for those who qualify via this route, because costs vary from year to year, and it takes such a long time to complete that these costs are likely to change over the working lifetime of the candidate. Many people who qualify by this route are also sponsored by the firm that they are working for.
For most people, the cost of a 3 year degree and maintenance costs is around £26,000. Depending on the route that you choose, the places that you decide to study at, and your costs of living whilst you are completing your academic qualifications, you can reasonably be expected to carry as much as £50,000 of debt by the time that you take on a training contract. Although senior lawyers can earn three figure salaries, there is no minimum figure for training contracts, other than the national minimum wage.
If you do decide that you want to train to be a solicitor, you should think very carefully about how you are going to finance your training. There are some options available to help to fund candidates, however these options tend to be very competitive and require a lot more input throughout the course of your training.