There are a lot of different routes that you can take if you want to become a solicitor, so you don’t need to give up hope if you do not have a law degree. Even if you are a mature student you can follow these routes which will eventually allow you to practice law in England or Wales.
Law Conversion Course
If you have an undergraduate degree in any subject you can take a law conversion course as your first step towards becoming a solicitor. A conversion course (otherwise known as a Graduate Diploma in Law or a Common Professional Examination) is normally a one year course when completed on a full time basis, and it currently costs up to £10,000 to complete. Some courses cost much less than this and there may be grants, scholarships or bursaries available to help certain people.
These courses are very intensive and include much of the information that is covered in an undergraduate law degree. You may also be eligible to take this course if you have a qualification that is equivalent to an undergraduate degree.
If you already have experience of working in a legal (or similar) environment, then it may be possible to become a solicitor by completing a CILEx course. The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) help people to train whilst they are in employment, however it can take a long time to complete.
Those who choose this route get practical experience whilst continuing to work in a legal environment, but they must also complete assessments and examinations as part of the qualification. As part of the CILEx route, people are normally expected to choose a specialism. Many people who choose this route take 5 to 10 years to complete all of the necessary stages.
Once you have completed either of these steps of training, you will normally be expected to complete a Legal Practice Course (LPC), although you may be exempt from this if you have already completed certain level 6 CILEx units. It is best to check with the Solicitors Regulation Authority to see what the requirements are in your circumstances. The LPC helps to top up the skills that you will need to actually practice law, such as advocacy, interviewing and advising, drafting and research.
One of the final steps that you will need to undertake on the road to becoming a qualified solicitor is to undertake a training contract. This is a paid role working in a firm of solicitors, however there is no minimum salary other than the national minimum wage.
Large law firms can offer competitive salaries to attract the brightest young graduates. The training contact period may be reduced for people who have already gained sufficient previous experience in a legal environment.
The very final stage before qualification is the Professional Skills Course. This course only requires 12 full days of attendance but may be completed in fewer if an intensive course is booked. Some of this may be distance learning.