I’ll start with your comment about the Russell Group. The RG universities are happy to allow that lazy shorthand to exist but it’s simply inaccurate. By excluding non-RG universities from consideration you cut yourself off from many excellent universities such as I mentioned that have a very good track record in law and other subjects. Historically, the majority of law conversion courses were actually run by ex-polytechnics and the law conversion route has always been a highly regarded route into a legal career. So the assumption that RG = better quality is simply not correct. Like I said, look at the rankings of Trent and Northumbria for law if you don’t quite believe me. The Open University also has an excellent track record for law and I’ve known people with recruitment responsibilities flippantly say that if they could they would alway move OU graduates to the top of the pile just because they know how much determination it takes to complete those degrees. I will shut down any conversation that says RG=better because it simply isn’t true. Where you go does not give you an advantage. The opportunities and choices that you make around furnishing your CV are what make the difference. When it comes to recruitment, candidates for law are ranked according to what they bring to the table and the place that they went is not a criterion used to rank candidates. A candidate from mid-ranked university with 2 vacation schemes under their belt, good commercial experience from part time employment whilst studying, voluntary experience in a free legal clinic etc will have an edge over an RG candidate with none of that. Don’t kid yourself that RG will give you an edge just by dint of you going there. It won’t. It will not matter.
Regarding what you said about non-legal students attending vacation schemes, I know they can because I, as a humanities student, did. I also know science and healthcare students and even a medical student who attended them. I suggest you look into this. I hope that also answers your question about what I know about law but in case it doesn’t I will also add that I worked as a legal assistant for several months, during which time I put together 2 trial bundles, attended a trial, prepared papers for service, managed legal expenses and a whole bunch of other duties that meant I could have probably walked into a career in law if I wanted. I also taught Business English in a number of commercial law firms in the Czech Republic and Slovakia as an ESOL teacher. I’ve supported a number of people with their applications to law, vacation schemes, the GDL, the LPC, training contracts, legal apprenticeships, mini-pupillages and pupillages over time. I tend to keep generally abreast of developments in legal education, although I’ll be the first to admit that I hadn’t quite realised that the SQE had already arrived on the scene. I thought it was about a year away still but that’s because I’ve had my head in a bit of a covid bubble the last two years because, yes, I work in healthcare and am probably headed towards medicine if I make that final decision next month. Happy?
I will repeat again, a degree is a degree. If a recruitment scheme says they have no subject specific requirements then that is true. They won’t favour one kind of graduate over another and therefore an English graduate has no more or less respectability than a molecular biology or medicinal chemistry graduate.
As to whether you can work in STEM/healthcare after a humanities degree, yes and again I am proof of that. Yes I had to take an additional qualification but I would have had to if I took chemistry or biology as well in order to work in the field that I do. My partner is a software developer after having done the same degree as me first time around and I know plenty of people who’ve converted to more STEM based careers after doing BAs in completely unrelated subjects.
As to doing law to English or English to law, that’s basically what I mean by it being a reversible option. You can do a creative writing degree after doing law or you can convert to law after doing English. As to the extra cost involved in doing the latter, other people have commented on the finance side so I’ll refer you to their posts.
As to whether you would need help getting into a law conversion course of any description, you won’t need any help because if you meet the criteria, they’ll let you in. These courses are cash cows for the universities that supply them. There’s no cap on law graduates and a nearly unending supply of courses available so there’s a bit of a bums on seats approach to recruitment to them. A qualifying legal degree is a qualifying legal degree. It really does not matter where you do it because the place you do your law degree or conversion is not a selection criterion when it comes to recruitment.
My advice? Do what makes you happiest. The vast majority of people who get training contracts are those people who’ve participated in vacation schemes, done legal work experience etc. and these are things that are open to graduates of any discipline. If you’re the right candidate for the right firm, they’d pay for you to do your training anyway in many cases and remember that they recruit 1-2 years in advance. So you may as well enjoy what you study and if you’ve not managed to pick up a training contract whilst you’re still at university or before you start a conversion pathway, you may as well not bother taking the conversion pathway anyway. To eliminate the financial risk of doing the conversion, don’t do it at any point unless you’ve got a guarantee of a training contract to look forward to. That way, you’ve done the subject you enjoy and you’re not saddling yourself with a load of extra debt and a course that may not go anywhere.
To become a barrister, bear in mind that there were fewer than 400 pupillages in 2020 and generally never more than 600. This is one area where you really do have to be in an elite class in terms of your CV and it stretches back to when you’re in school, never mind what you padded your CV out with as an undergraduate! So unless you’re already a big cheese at your school in terms of debate, public speaking etc, consider yourself trailing behind the pack. I know barristers whose legal career preparation started when they were 13, whether they knew it at the time or not. Solicitor training is easier to get into in relative terms because the skills set is less specific than bar training.