You may have always known that the legal path was the one for you. Or perhaps it's something that you're just starting to realise now. Either way, if you're wanting to train as a lawyer it's going to involve some postgraduate study. We got together with the experts at BPP Law School to look at some of your options.
First of all, you don't need to start with a law degree (LLB) at undergrad level to become a lawyer. It's certainly one way of doing it, but if you've pursued a different subject, never fear.
The Graduate Diploma in Law is the answer here. It's an intensive course (usually a year full-time) designed for those from non-legal backgrounds, and will give you a thorough grounding in English law. Think of it as a way of converting your existing skills and learning into solid legal knowledge.
You can take the GDL at specialist colleges and universities, like BPP, which has centres around the UK. They also give you the option to study for extra credits and convert your GDL into a fully-fledged LLB law degree for free (just in case that first Bachelors wasn't enough).
The LPC and BPTC
Whether you took a law degree at uni or completed the GDL, the next stage is the same for all trainee lawyers. If you're wanting to become a solicitor (broadly speaking, the ones who work for law firms or company legal departments), you'll need to pass the Legal Practice Course, which will give you the professional knowledge and skills you'll need in the workplace.
For barristers (very broadly again, the ones who appear in court, sometimes wearing excellent wigs) it's the Bar Professional Training Course, which is the equivalent qualification for their branch of the legal profession.
Both routes involve another year (or longer for part time courses) of intensive study and can be studied at institutions like BPP, which has a variety of study options and locations for would-be lawyers. You can find out more here.
Building your career
After you've gained the right qualifications you won't be thrust into the courtroom and told to get litigious: solicitors need to find a training contract with a law firm, and barristers must find a pupillage with a set of chambers. Think of it as on-the-job training.
This is a competitive part of the process so it's good to start thinking about it right away. Happily, many colleges and universities, like BPP, provide dedicated careers services to help you. “BPP Careers Service really helped me on my path to securing my training contract,” says Zoe White, a former LPC Student at BPP Manchester. “My previous careers department was a general university careers department and they lacked knowledge in the area of training contract applications. In contrast BPP Careers Service have a lot of experience in the area.”
A good careers service can do a lot for your job prospects, from helping with applications to mock interviews. Getting in touch with them early on and putting some time into practical career development alongside your studies can really set your career off on the right foot.
Philippa Plumtree-Varley did exactly that. She studied for the GDL and LPC at BPP Leeds, contacted the careers service before her course started and secured a training contract early in the academic year. “The CV development workshops, mock interviews and commercial awareness sessions proved invaluable,” she says. “The insight and support that the careers service were able to provide made the process much more manageable and less intimidating.”
A career in law can be hugely rewarding, whatever area of the profession you choose to enter. It's important to know that getting there can be a challenging process, but some universities have specialised in legal training for a long time and can help you find your way.
BPP, for example, are so confident that their training will help you find a job that they offer LPC and BPTC students a career guarantee: if you don't land a training contract or pupillage within six months of finishing the course, they'll offer you another course free. With that kind of support out there, you could be on the road to a great legal career in no time.
Find out more about the BPP career guarantee here.