Studying Law as a Mature Student
Choosing to study law as a mature student is a big decision, whether you are looking for career change or pursuing your academic passion. Perhaps you are going to study for the three to four year undergraduate law degree (LLB) or you are embarking on the one year Law Conversion Course (GDL). This page will detail everything you need to know about studying law as a mature student.
What are the Minimum Entry Requirements?
For the LLB, the entry requirements for each course vary substantially depending on the course and the institution you are applying to. Most universities expect applicants to have at least 3 A-Levels or the equivalent with grade requirements ranging between A* and C. For the GDL, an undergraduate degree of at last a 2:2 is generally expected.
It is certainly advisable to contact your chosen course provider before applying in order to make sure you meet the criteria. Depending on your professional and academic experience you may be required to complete an Access to Higher Education course, attend an interview, or demonstrate relevant work experience. Course providers will be looking for you to demonstrate an interest in law on your application.
If you want to apply for a GDL course, you need to apply through lawcabs and if you want to apply for the LLB course, you must go through UCAS.
What is it Like to Study Law as a Mature Student?
Anyone who comes back to university and is above the age of 21 is classed as a mature student. As a mature student you may choose to study full-time, however work and family commitments may mean that you need to juggle part-time study with your day-to-day life. Your university experience is likely to involve lectures and tutorials, however as a part-time student you may spend more time studying online and listening to lectures remotely.
The challenge of studying law is the same for students of all ages. It is important to remember that neither the law degree nor the GDL focus on memorising the law, rather you will be expected to learn how to apply the law to a fact pattern.
You will also develop the ability to think critically and consider whether the law is imperfect and if it should be changed. Careful preparation for tutorials and seminars is therefore essential but doing work outside of contact hours is one of the main challenges for mature students. You will be expected to do the same amount of reading and preparation as your course mates, but unlike many students, you may not have the luxury of an entire day to complete it.
Want to know more about studying law as a mature student? Read our Case Study: University of Law page, where we speak with Mukhtiar Singh about studying law at a later stage and the importance of diversity at the Bar.
How Can You Make Time to Study as a Mature Student?
The main tip for new law students is to be prepared to work hard but not to be put off by the challenges of a law degree. One approach is to set aside some study time every day and try to stick to this schedule. However, naturally this is not always possible.
Remember that universities are keen to work with you, not against you. Many institutions aim to assist wherever possible with the provision of childcare as well as with more flexible study hours.
The key is communication: keep your tutors up to date and let them know if you have not been keeping out with the workload. Also, do not hesitate to reach out to your fellow students. A law degree or GDL is not a competition – your course mates are in the same boat and experiencing the same challenges, so the likelihood is they will be more than happy to help.
How Can I Get Involved as a Mature Law Student?
Studying law is not just about the academics – there will be countless opportunities to get involved with extra curricular activities. Try not to shy away from taking part in pro-bono initiatives and engage with the university student societies. Not only will these experiences help you to stand out for employers, they will also enhance your academic experience.
You may have the chance to apply your legal knowledge and could potentially experience the various aspects of a legal profession; whether it is volunteering in a legal advice clinic or organising extra-curricular lectures and events. So making some time for extra-curricular commitments is definitely worth it, even if you can only spare a few hours a month.
After Uni: What Next?
Do not feel that as a mature student your chances of impressing employers are in any way diminished. Firms are increasingly flexible about the backgrounds of trainees and will generally consider applicants on a case by case basis. The likelihood is, you have already gained many transferable skills which are invaluable for a career in law. Your previous experience coupled with your ever-increasing legal knowledge mean you are already an asset.
Try to highlight any legal work experience but also make the most of transferable skills from employment that is not law related. When it comes to applying for work experience or training contracts, make use of your personal tutors and the university careers service. They will be able to advise you on the best ways to boost your CV.
How do I Qualify as a Barrister or Solicitor?
Once you have completed the undergraduate law degree or the GDL, you can decide whether you want to pursue a career as a solicitor or as a barrister. To qualify as a barrister you will need to complete the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), while to qualify as a solicitor you will need to complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC).
Both of these courses are designed to equip you with the practical and professional skills necessary for each career path. These courses generally run over the course of 9 months, however it is possible to study remotely, part-time or only in the evenings. So it is certainly possible to balance your future studies with your ongoing commitments.
Once you complete these qualifications, you will be ready to commence your training contract (for solicitors) or pupillage (for barristers). Furthermore, any previous legal work experience can count as a qualifying period of training and be used to reduce the length of your training contract.
Want to find out more? Read more about how to become a barrister or take a look at our page on how to become a solicitor. If you are not sure on the difference between a solicitor and a barrister, you can find out here or take our Barrister vs Solicitor Quiz to find out which profession best suits you.
How do I qualify as a Chartered Legal Executive?
Alternatively, you might choose to follow the CILEx route to become a chartered legal executive. Chartered legal executives are specialist qualified lawyers who usually practice in law firms or in-house under the supervision of solicitors. The level of study required to become a solicitor and a chartered legal executive is comparable.
However, as the CILEx route requires you to study fewer subjects overall, the exams and training period combined can be shorter and the costs lower. It is also more common for CILEx students to be working in a law firm or in-house and studying part time.
Your practical legal experience can also count towards your CILEx qualification giving you the chance to earn while you learn. You can learn more about the differences between solicitors and chartered legal executives on our How to Become a Lawyer page.