How to become a lawyer
Both legal career paths have strict requirements when it comes to qualifying, here is a step by step guide on how to become a lawyer in the UK.
Step 1: Undergraduate degree
The first step in becoming a lawyer is completing an undergraduate degree. As legal careers are competitive the reputation of the university you attend is exceptionally important, especially as the majority of barristers are Oxbridge graduates! Your degree classification is also an important factor when it comes to recruitment and you should aim to get at the least a 2.1 degree. Anything below this will make progression through the steps difficult and work against you.
During the final year of your law degree you ill need to start applying for legal jobs, either a training contract or pupillage, if you secure one of these during your degree you will have a greater chance of having the next step, the postgraduate vocational course paid for!
This degree does not have to be a law degree; those that choose to do a non-law degree will then have to complete an additional year of postgraduate study on the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) before progressing onto step two.
Step 2: Postgraduate Vocational Course
The next step is a year long postgraduate course relating to the legal career you wish to study. If you want to be a solicitor you will need to complete a Legal Practice Course. If you wish to be a barrister you will need to complete a BPTC.
These are intensive, expensive courses so you must be sure on your career path prior to starting this course.
This step also differs depending on the career you are aiming for. A solicitor will now need to complete a training contract and to qualify as a barrister you will need to complete a one year long pupillage.
You are now a qualified lawyer, if you were not offered a job with the chambers or firm you completed your pupillage or training contract you will now need to look for one elsewhere.
Experience is important!
Throughout your degree and postgraduate course you should look to complete as much work experience in related sectors as possible. You should be aware of what you have learnt from such experience and be able to discuss this in your application forms and interviews.
For the solicitor career path you should be looking to complete at least one vacation scheme in the summer of the 2nd year of your degree. This is a two week work placement at a law firm. Not only is this useful experience it is your time to shine and make an impact on the firm so you have a better chance at gaining a training contract with the firm.
Wannabe barristers need to complete mini pupillage, these are usually one week long at chambers across the country.
If you take part in a range of placements and pupillage you will gain a variety of useful experience which will help you when it comes to interviews and applications. You will also have experience to help you make an informed career decision.