If you want to become a solicitor, it is important that you complete a range of different qualifications which are required as part of your training structure. One of the qualifications that you may be required to complete is the Common Professional Examination (CPE).
Common Professional Examination
The CPE is a post-graduate conversion course which is designed to give candidates the academic background that is required to continue on to further vocational legal training. The CPE is also referred to as the “Law Conversion Course” or the “Graduate Diploma in Law” (GDL).
A CPE course normally lasts for about 1 academic year, and it can be very demanding, due to the large quantity of material which is covered during the course. Students must expect a high workload and they will be expected to complete work outside of class hours. The majority of material which is covered in a Law degree LL.B (Hons) is covered in these courses; however the conversion course takes just a third of the time. It is possible to complete the CPE over a 2 year period, if you choose a course which offers a part-time study option.
Who Needs to Complete the Common Professional Examination?
If you have graduated with an undergraduate subject in a degree which is not law, but you are still interested in becoming a solicitor, then you may take the CPE as a conversion course. If you are a mature student, you may be accepted onto a CPE course if you can demonstrate that you have qualifications or experiences that are deemed to be the equivalent of an undergraduate degree.
If you have already completed an LL.B (Hons) Law degree, you will not normally be expected to take this course as part of your progression towards becoming a qualified solicitor.
Why Do People Do an Undergraduate Degree Followed by a CPE?
Most people choose their university course when they are just 17 years old, and maybe do not know exactly what they want to do with their lives. Many people change their minds over the course of their first undergraduate degree, and decide that they would like a career in law.
It would be costly and restrictive if people were expected to do a second undergraduate course to enable them to become a qualified solicitor. This course allows people to keep their options open throughout their undergraduate degree, and also gives them the option to return to law later in life. Many mature students take a CPE after spending years working in other industries.
Alternatively, some people prefer to take a different undergraduate degree and then convert, as it will help them with their specialism later in their career. For example, a student who was wishing to become a climate change solicitor may begin their training by studying for an undergraduate degree in environmental sciences, and then doing a CPE later.
Where Can I do a CPE?
CPE courses are offered by universities around the country, as well as being offered by a number of different private training providers. As a general rule, the majority of universities which do undergraduate law degrees also offer CPE or GDL conversion courses. The Law Society offers a list of providers who are authorised to offer these courses in England and Wales.
Private course providers include City Law School, Kaplan Law School, The University of Law and BPP Law School. Some of these organisations have multiple sites across the country to help to give candidates the maximum amount of flexibility when it comes to completing their course.
How Much does the CPE Cost?
The cost of the CPE depends on which institution you choose to attend to complete your course. At present, the least expensive course costs about £3300 to complete and the most expensive course on offer is around £8900. Although some financial support may be available, many people choose part time options to allow them to continue in paid employment and gain further work experience in a legal environment.
When you are working out whether you can afford to complete a CPE, you should also factor in living costs, including accommodation, food and transport costs. These also vary, depending on which area of the country you live in.