Law conversion courses, such as the GDL / CPE, are becoming less important for the solicitor route following the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). However, the University of Law’s (ULaw) Postgraduate Diploma in Law (PGDL), means that the concept of the GDL is not disappearing completely.
The PGDL is a new law conversion course designed specifically for graduates with a non-law background to help develop practical legal skills. ULaw’s PGDL replaces their GDL course, and offers an optional next step between an undergraduate degree and the SQE. For those pursuing the Bar, a conversion course is still a requirement for non-law students before being able to take the Bar Course.
If you accepted a place on a GDL / CPE or a law degree before 1 September, 2021 you can still take the Legal Practice Course (LPC) – the next step towards full qualification as a solicitor – up until 2032.
The LPC is a 1 – 2 year vocational course designed to equip you with skills such as interviewing, advocacy and legal research. It will enhance your legal knowledge in areas such as business, litigation and property law, which are required to successfully practise as a solicitor.
The Legal Practice Course (LPC) is being phased out and will eventually be replaced by the SQE. While the LPC will be available up until 2032 for students that began their legal studies before September 2021, course providers might not teach the LPC much beyond 2022 or 2023.
The training contract, which is typically associated with the LPC, has been retained as a training model by most law firms, as the SQE is still in its early stages. This is something to keep in mind when planning your pathway into law.
To become a solicitor in England or Wales, you will need to sit the The Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE). The SQE is a centralised exam that is set to become the main qualifying route to becoming a solicitor. The SQE is not a course as such, but a series of examinations split into two stages, which test your legal knowledge and skills.
Graduates of any subject can take the SQE, and to ensure non-law graduates are ready for the exams, law conversion courses are available. While technically optional, many law firms still require successful non-law training contract applicants to take the PGDL. You should check the requirements at any firms where you intend to apply for a training contract.
One of the advantages of SQE is the introduction of Qualifying Work Experience (QWE), which requires two years of work experience. However, this can be done at up to four different organisations at any point during your pursuit of the SQE. This flexibility is intended to improve accessibility, allowing candidates to work and earn while they study for their exams.
Vacation schemes are generally open to university students studying law, but even if you’re not a law student you can still apply. Most firms offer two application routes to their training contracts, one of which involves applying following the vacation scheme. While vacation schemes aren’t specifically a course, they offer a great form of legal work experience to aid your training. They also give you the opportunity to experience a firm’s culture and lifestyle. This can help you to decide where you want to apply. Additionally, completing a vacation scheme could give you an advantage when applying for your training contract, as firm members will already have some insight into your work ethic and whether you’ll be a cultural fit.
A training contract is specifically for trainee solicitors, and has traditionally been used by law firms as the first step in training those who have completed the LPC qualification. Following the introduction of the SQE, the training contract model continues to be used by most major law firms to train those pursuing a career as a solicitor.
The training contract model offers you the chance to have the law firm pay you for your time spent working, and for your exams (including preparation). Law firms often work with leading training providers to administer preparatory courses during this period.
The SQE technically includes QWE as an intended replacement for the training contract requirement, however, many firms are opting to retain this model for those that have successfully applied for a training contract. If you have completed any QWE before you begin your training contract, it may not apply and, in this case, you’ll still be required to meet the firm’s requirements for training.
The Bar Practice Course (BPTC) – formerly known as the Bar Professional Training Vocational Course (BPTC) – is the penultimate step to becoming a barrister. The BPTC is a 1 – 2 year vocational course that concludes in the main qualification to become a barrister.
The study of evidence, litigation, sentencing and advocacy are just some of the topics you will cover. You are required to pass the BPTC in order to advance and complete the final, practical stage of becoming a barrister, pupillage.
Chartered Legal Executive (CILEX) Law Courses
The CILEX Professional Qualification (CPQ) leads to a qualification as a CILEX paralegal, CILEX advanced paralegal and/or a CILEX lawyer. The CPQ course is divided into three different levels of qualification:
Depending on how far you want to take the qualification, each stage is made up of individual modules, and you will need to pass the assessment for each module to complete the stage.
If you want to complete the entire CPQ – with a view to gaining CILEx Lawyer qualification, you will need to pass a total of 14 assessments, plus two Ethics & Professional Responsibility e-learning modules and Professional Experience at each CPQ stage.
Completing a legal apprenticeship is a type of ‘on the job’ and academic study law course that will lead to qualification as a paralegal, chartered legal executive or solicitor (depending on the apprenticeship you choose). You can start an apprenticeship in law at 16, when you can pursue a paralegal apprenticeship.
Law apprenticeships are government-backed, employer-designed schemes. The majority are aimed at school leavers or people changing careers who are looking for an alternative to studying law at university. Individual law firms set their own entry requirements, but the government recommends a minimum of:
As law is a very academically-driven career, grade requirements are usually considerably higher. You can also expect to have to demonstrate your commitment to a legal career – particular for the six year solicitor’s apprenticeship.
If you already have an undergraduate degree in law – or substantial professional experience – the LLM is a legal training course that keeps you on a more academic path. The LLM typically lasts for 12 months and focuses on a specific area of law.
Some LLM courses are pure coursework or exams, while others combine the two. Plus, you have the option to do either a taught LLM or a research-based LLM.
With many law career pathways available through a variety of training courses, choosing the right option for you is the first step.
Interested in an apprenticeship? See the latest opportunities, here.
Want to do an LLM degree? See different courses here.
If you’d like to do a training contract or vacation scheme, check out the options at different law firms.
The University of Law offers a range of academic legal training courses at undergraduate and postgraduate level to prepare you for your career in law, including:
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