For those interested in studying law at university, there are two main types of undergraduate law courses (and related qualifications) to consider – the BA Law and the LLB. Only the latter is officially a ‘qualifying law degree’, whereas the former is labelled a ‘non-qualifying law degree’. This does not mean the BA Law route is objectively worse, however – the two are simply different, each with their own pros and cons. While the LLB remains the more ‘traditional’ option (and the only one allowing you to skip the law conversion course afterwards if aiming to qualify as a lawyer), this alternative route generally allows for greater flexibility, as well as developing a wide range of transferable skills. This article aims to explain those differences, with an emphasis on clearly outlining the alternative route of BA Law.
A non-qualifying law degree is a higher education course which leads to a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. It’s a three or four-year course which naturally includes law modules, but also allows for the study of other topics outside of law. This is where the idea of enhanced flexibility comes into play.
If you want to study law with a mix of other topics, a Bachelor of Law degree offers a great alternative to studying law at university compared to the strictly regimented seven core modules approach of the LLB.
Unlike an LLB, a BA in Law degree does not offer a direct pathway to legal qualification. Traditionally, law students would complete the LLB at university and then, upon deciding to pursue a career as a barrister or solicitor, attend law school for the LPC (solicitor route) or BTC (barrister route). However, candidates which graduated with a Law BA (rather than the LLB) will need to additionally complete a conversion course (now known as the PGDL – the same conversion course taken by someone who has studied, say, a BA History at university), since the BA Law degree is non-qualifying.
It should be noted that the LPC is now being replaced by the SQE, with most law firms now recruiting solely on the basis that you complete the latter. The SQE does not actually require a PGDL to complete (unlike the LPC did) – like the BA in Law, it is designed to provide a more flexible approach. However, passing the SQE (which, thus far, has proven to be quite challenging) without the PGDL is generally regarded as highly unlikely. Many firms will specify that they do not want candidates to attempt this within their training contracts. In short, taking the Law BA route over the LLB likely means an extra year or two (depending on whether you opt for full-time or part-time study) of law school for aspiring solicitors and barristers. In this sense, the LLB is undisputedly superior.
On the other hand, however, many UK universities offer a BA in law combined with other subjects. An LLB focuses purely on law, namely seven core modules that you will need to qualify as a solicitor or barrister. As a result, the BA Law degree has far greater flexibility in terms of what you’ll be able to study.
If you want to study topics outside of the seven core legal modules, a BA in Law degree might enable you to additionally study topics such as history, languages, politics, or philosophy. Please note that this list is not exhaustive – be sure to do lots of research online to find all the combinations available.
It is worth noting that some universities do offer the opportunity for BA Law students to study the seven core modules in order to make the Bachelor in Law degree a qualifying degree. This is something that you need to check on university admissions websites for BA Law courses – and, if in doubt, be sure to contact the admissions teams clearly asking whether this is a possibility on their course. Cambridge University, for example, clearly state that their BA in Law can be a qualifying law degree if you choose to take those modules.
Should you decide that you want to switch from your law BA to an LLB, some law schools will allow you to do this after your first or second year of university. Before completing your UCAS application, you should again make sure to check with your chosen universities that it’s an option further down the line.
Another thing to note is that you don’t need to go to university altogether to become a solicitor nowadays. Solicitor apprenticeships (the barrister route still currently requires university study, unfortunately, although this may well change in the near future) are an alternative route which incorporate legal study into paid full-time work, and ultimately see you through to full qualification. If you were questioning the rigidity of the LLB in the first place, then you might also want to consider an even more alternative route to the BA in Law. However, taking on a solicitor apprenticeship obviously limits your transferability (in a way that the BA Law actively seeks to avoid), and comes with its own strengths and weaknesses compared to the university route.
Many Red Brick and Russell Group universities in the UK offer BA Law degrees which can be combined with a variety of other subjects (alongside your legal studies). Some universities offer specialty BA Law Courses, including Oxford, which has a BA in Jurisprudence degree.
While the Law BA is viewed as more flexible, it rarely offers an opportunity to significantly lower the grade requirements if you’re considering your predicted grades and upcoming UCAS applications. It’s worth doing your research online, however, to ensure that you know the law courses available to you, and the subsequent range in entry requirements between those offering a BA in Law and those offering the LLB. In general, you’re looking at somewhere between BCC and A*AA – ABB being the most common offer.
If you choose to study a BA law degree, there are plenty of career options available to you upon successful completion of your course. You can advance your learning and training to pursue a career as a solicitor, barrister, chartered legal executive, a paralegal or other job types in the legal profession, such as a legal conveyancer. The extra year or two at law school may not be seen as a major hurdle by some. Furthermore, the flexibility you utilised during your BA Law degree likely allowed you to develop other interests/skills that will look strong on your applications to law firms/chambers – for example, having studied BA Law with a foreign language might set you up well to work in an area of law with a particularly international focus, especially if your firm has offices abroad, for example.
You’re not limited solely to legal work, however. The flexibility of a BA Law degree, given that you can study other topics, means that should you decide not to pursue a legal career, there’s great value in holding a Law BA, just as there is with other humanities degrees from university (although this one still maintains an extra academic reputation due to its association with law). Your academic knowledge and transferable skills will almost certainly be sought after by employers across a variety of industry sectors. This is one of the main factors which leads many students to choose the BA in Law – they’re not set on becoming a lawyer just yet and want to keep their course content (and therefore their options) a little more open.
In short, obtaining a BA in Law is an alternative route to the traditional LLB pathway which allows for a different experience. While offering increased flexibility in many ways (as well as a handful of other useful benefits), its non-qualifying nature means that you’ll still need to complete an extra qualification during law school if you decide to pursue legal qualification. Ultimately, the best choice must be made by weighing up the pros and cons on a personal level – based primarily on your own interests and goals and what you want to get out of the degree.
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