Training to become a solicitor can be a long and difficult process. You should carefully consider whether you truly wish to become a solicitor before you embark on this path, as training requires a lot of commitment and can cost a lot of money to obtain solicitor qualifications. Here’s some condensed information about what time frames you should typically expect if you choose to embark on the standard route towards becoming a solicitor.
The majority of people begin their training by completing an undergraduate degree. An undergraduate degree in law should normally take 3-4 years to complete if it is being studied on a full-time basis. Part-time registration may extend this to around 6 years. Tuition fees can be as much as £9000 per year.
Trainees may also progress in their training with an undergraduate degree in any other subject, although they will then need to do a conversion course. Students must achieve a grade of at least 40% if they wish to continue with their training.
Law Conversion Course
A law conversion course (either the Common Professional Examination or the Graduate Diploma in Law) only needs to be taken by trainees if they did not complete a qualifying undergraduate degree in law at a university in the jurisdiction that they intend to work in. People who studied law in Scotland may need to complete this course if they wish to work in England or Wales, as these jurisdictions have different legal systems.
When it is being studied on a full time basis, a law conversion course will normally take a year to complete. Some people prefer to complete this course on a part time basis, which takes 2 years. Completing the course on a part time basis may allow you to continue earning money to fund your course and it may allow you the opportunity to gain experience of working in a legal environment.
Legal Practice Course
Legal Practice Courses aim to give students additional practical skills which they may require once they are working in a law firm. Electives on this course also allow students to choose a specialism.
When studied on a fulltime basis, a Legal Practice Course will normally take 1 year to complete. Part-time options are available which take 2 years. Distance Learning options are also available from some providers. Some providers also offer intensive “fast track” options, which allow the course to be completed in as little as 6 ½ months. Fast Track courses require a lot of commitment from students and are only recommended for learners who have a good support network in place. Students on all courses must achieve a pass mark of at least 50 in all modules to progress.
Once the LPC has been completed, students may take up a training contract with a law firm. Some students are supported through their LPC by a law firm which intends to employ them on a training contract afterwards. It is also possible to complete an LPC part time whilst on a training contract.
A training contract lasts for a minimum of two years on a fulltime basis. Trainees are given many of the same responsibilities that fully qualified solicitors have, although they receive on-the-job training and supervision to support them in their role. The training contract also requires the student to undergo three formal appraisals.
Professional Skills Course
The last thing that people need to complete if they follow this path towards becoming a solicitor is to undertake a Professional Skills Course. This is a short course which requires the equivalent of 12 days of fulltime attendance (72 hours). No more than half of this course may be completed by distance learning. Most people will do these courses whilst they are still on their training contract. This will allow them to become a fully qualified solicitor as soon as their training contract is completed.
This means that becoming a solicitor requires a minimum of 5-6 years of training. Many people take much longer than this as they complete at least some aspects of their course on a part time basis to allow them to continue earning money and gaining experience. Those who do not take the academic route to qualification can be expected to take twice as long.