Training to be a solicitor can take a long time to do, so if you decide to change career and become a solicitor after 40 then you need to be prepared to take a lot of time and effort to do this.
There is no cut off point when a person can start to train, however it can be more difficult for people to train as they get older, because they have additional commitments like a home and family. That being said, there are still plenty of opportunities available for those who are interested in becoming a solicitor over the age of 40. In fact, the Law Society estimates that around 7.9 per cent of those who qualified in 2011 were over the age of 40.
If you Already have a Undergraduate Degree
If you already have a degree in any subject then you should be able to apply for the Common Professional Examination (CPE) or a conversion course (known as the Graduate Diploma in Law).
These courses are very intensive, as they fit the majority of the material from a 3 year law degree into 12 months. CPE courses and the Graduate Diploma in Law course are available from a wide range of institutions across the country, but they can cost up to £10,000. You may be accepted onto one of these courses without an undergraduate degree if you can show that you have sufficient workplace experience or if you have other equivalent qualifications.
If you have a law degree (no matter how old it is) you may be able to skip the CPE phase, as long as the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) considers this degree to be adequate.
If you do not have a Degree
If you have other high level qualifications, it may be worth checking with the SRA to see whether these qualifications may be used instead of an undergraduate degree to allow you to progress onto the CPE. You may also be able to avoid taking an undergraduate degree if you have already been working in a legal environment for some time.
Those who do not already have an undergraduate degree or equivalent may want to consider taking an undergraduate law degree. These degrees take 3 – 4 years to complete and course fees may be up to £9000 per year. As well as giving you law-related knowledge, these degrees are designed to help you to understand how to think critically and how to research thoroughly. Both of these skills are essential as a solicitor.
If you have Gained Sufficient experience in a Legal Environment
Many of those who decide to train to be a solicitor over the age for 40 do so because they have already gained experience in a legal environment. The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) operate a qualification route which allows people to complete hands-on-learning and take their exams whilst they are still working. People who want to follow this route will need to show dedication and determination, as it requires a lot of hard work.
CILEx candidates may still need to do a CPE, although they will normally choose a part-time option which takes 2 years. Depending on experience levels, the SRA may allow some candidates to skip elements of the training process. Many people who are over 40 and in training will prefer to take this “earn whilst you learn” route, because it allows them to continue to earn whilst they are training.
Once you have a Law Degree or CPE/ Graduate Diploma
After you get the appropriate qualifications, all students need to complete a Legal Practice Course, a training contract and then a Professional Skills Course. The Legal Practice Course and the Professional Skills Course are both designed to ensure that potential solicitors have all the professional skills which are required to become a practicing solicitor, such as skills for dealing with clients. They are both normally taken whilst in employment, although fast track options are available for those who want to complete them quickly.
Whilst holding a training contract, you will start to complete many of the same tasks as qualified solicitors, but you will receive support and supervision from the company that you hold the contract with.