If you want to become a solicitor, it is important that you undergo all of the necessary training. It is illegal to practice as a solicitor in the UK, if you have not achieved the correct training and then joined a professional body. There are a few different routes that you can adopt if you want to become a fully qualified solicitor, and where you train may depend on which one of these paths you are taking.
For many people, the first step that they take when they are training to become a solicitor is to take a university degree in Law. According to the Good University Guide, 98 universities across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland were offering law as a subject for undergraduates in 2015. These universities included big players, such as Oxford and Cambridge, as well as other less well known universities which are spread up and down the country.
It is worth noting that Scottish law, Northern Irish law, and English & Welsh law all differ slightly, and therefore you should take this into account when choosing which universities to apply to. If you take a Scottish Law degree, this may affect your ability to practice law in England & Wales, without the need for additional training. These courses usually last 3 or 5 years, depending on where you take your course and whether you take a year abroad/sandwich year as part of the degree. If you intend to use this route to become a solicitor, make sure that the university course that you choose has Qualified Law Degree (QLD) status. Not all law degrees in the UK have QLD. If your degree did not have QLD, you may need to take extra training.
It is worth nothing that a Law Degree is not essential for those wishing to become a solicitor. Statistics show that in recent years, around half of those applying for training contracts in law firms did not do a Law degree as their primary degree. For most students who secured a 2.2 or above in their first degree, it is possible to do a law conversion course, known as a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). Although these GDL course are not available in as many places as primary Law degrees are, they are still available from over 50 different providers including those offered by specialised training schools such as The University of Law, which operates at various different locations. These courses usually last for about a year.
Legal Practice Course
For those who have already completed a Law degree or a non-Law degree with a GDL, a year long Legal Practice Course (LPC) is the next step. LPC courses are run by universities and some private training providers. In order for your LPC to be considered adequate training, you are required to study at an LPC provider which has been approved by the Solicitor Regulation Authority (SRA). It is possible to find a list of all of the institutions that have been authorised to offer the LPC on the SRA website. A standard full-time LPC course will take around a year to complete properly, although accelerated courses (6 months), part time course, and evening and weekend courses are available from some providers, such as BPP Law school (various locations).
It is worth noting that if you are able to prove that you have already achieved certain LPC outcomes as part of previous training, your LPC provider may consider granting you an exemption from related parts of the course. Candidates who have taken the Bar Vocational Course or the Bar Professional Training Course within the last 5 years should talk to their course provider to see whether an exemption would be granted.
Training contracts are available with law firms all the way across the country. Because of the level of support that these firms are required to offer you as part of your training contract, it is important that the firm which you end up working with has authorised training provider status.
Professional Skills Course
This short course completes your training. The course is available from a wide range of private training providers across the country, whose details are available from the SRA.