The Student Room Group

Please Help: Straight to Law or Conversion Course?

deleted :frown:
(edited 1 year ago)
Reply 1
It’s clear you’ve already put a lot of thought into it. Rejecting all your offers is risky, clearing will not have any guarantee as numerous courses can be full and therefore unavailable. Ultimately, you need to do what you want for your career, you have a bright future ahead and I’d agree that English literature is pretty much an unemployable degree - with no benefits at university level, it’s best to of gotten a English literature A-Level. I hope you find the answer you’re looking for, best of luck.
There’s plenty of counter arguments. The thing about your plan is that it works in reverse as well as forwards. There’s nothing stopping you still planning for a legal career whilst doing a creative writing and English degree (vacation schemes etc). You just have to remember to do them because the law degree (GDL or otherwise) is more or less incidental.

I don’t know where you’ve got the idea that English isn’t a respected subject. It’s a core academic subject and it automatically qualifies you for any graduate scheme with no specific subject requirements. Plenty of healthcare careers could come out of that degree too if you wanted to so you’ll have options if you want them. You’re not planning a career in STEM so so what if it doesn’t qualify you for doing nuclear fission or chemical engineering? You were never planning on that anyway!

Doing an English and creative writing degree sounds like it will be sustaining and fulfilling for you. The only downside is that doing a conversion pathway in law often ends up costing a lot more than if you just did a law degree and then went for a degree in law. Not necessarily in real terms because there are student loans available for it. But it is that extra step you have to take. And it’s a case of narrowing your options from everything to one thing if you do English first and then law, which may be a bit more risky, whereas law gives you multiple options to branch out.

There are also a lot of more commercial courses available for teaching writing that may actually teach you a lot more about writing for publication than an academic course. The novelry is one such option. You could do a sample course with them on your gap year if you wanted to to try them out (90 days of writing or something, I think it’s called).

Maybe just explore your options in a bit more breadth before committing yourself. It’s a big commitment. And please don’t obsess about the Russell Group. When I was first at university, no one cared about the RG and if they did they loathed it because they were the ones lobbying for tuition fee hikes. There are no tangible benefits that come from attending an RG university per se. You make or break your career based on your choices, your CV and your experiences, not the university you attend or its membership status of a self-selected research conglomerate. Plenty of excellent universities don’t belong to the RG. And nobody will care after you graduate. It’s never going to be the case that you get binned as an applicant because you went to the University of Leicester or St Andrew’s rather than the University of Bristol or Warwick. My university wasn’t in the RG when I attended it and it is now but I wasn’t magically conferred with better employability prospects on the day that it joined. What is it exactly that you think you’ll gain from attending an RG university? Northumbria University outclasses many RG universities for law, as does Nottingham Trent. Likewise for English, you may find you get a much better experience at smaller universities than at the bigger ones.

I think you may also be planning a few too many steps ahead in terms of master’s courses etc. Take it a step at a time. And think about how you might find all of these things.
Original post by jumbomumbo3
Thanks so much for the reply. I really do hope I have a bright future ahead of me too - as I hope you do too! To be honest, I do not want to go to any of the unis I applied to at all, so even if I decide to stick with Law I think I'm going to go through clearing anyways and go somewhere else. My plan is to make a list of unis in order of preference and call them up one by one on results day - surely one of them will have a space!

I'm in a pretty similar position, but I've decided to play it completely safe and just apply for law. I'll just write in my free time and look into paid courses by professionals that will allow me to develop my writing. What I'm struggling with right now is whether I will actually like law, so I'm looking into alternative degrees in finance and marketing just in case. Your plan sounds hella risky by the way - especially for someone who wants to earn a stable salary in the future. If you're not 100% sure, please just go forwards with the best law uni for you: don't throw all the hard work away. How did you find out that you would actually like the content you would be learning during a law degree if you don't mind?
Reply 4
Original post by jumbomumbo3
Hi there, thank you for taking the time to read this. I'm currently on a gap year and will be attending uni in 2022 to study Law. Since GCSEs this is what I've known I've wanted to do.

However, recently I've had a bit of a crisis. Don't get me wrong, I think I could come to really appreciate Law and become passionate about it, but my true passion has always been writing stories. My dream job is to be an author, however I know how challenging it is to make it as a financially successful one.

Money is very important to me. My parents have worked hard their whole lives, but we do have money issues. I know this may come off shallow, but what I want more than anything is to be; to have good money so that I can help my parents retire as soon as possible and let my family live comfortable lives.

I’m very aware becoming a lawyer/barrister isn't guaranteed to make me rich by any means, but it's a lot safer than trying to become a novelist.

So I was thinking, is it possible to have the best of both worlds?

I am considering rejecting all my offers, going through clearing, and trying to get into an English Literature and Creative Writing course at a Russel Group university. Then, at the end of that, taking a conversion course into Law, and probably taking a masters in Law afterwards.

My thinking behind this is as follows:

1) I’ll get to study a degree I’m truly passionate about as opposed to one I likely won't enjoy as much.

2) Becoming a competent writer takes a lot of time and effort, and this is tricky when you have other stuff going on in the background. By taking a three-year degree in English and Creative Writing, by the time I graduate, I’ll hopefully be a much, much better writer and closer to being publishable.

3) Since I know becoming a successful author is still challenging, by doing a Law conversion course and then a masters in Law, I will still be able to become a qualified (and hopefully) well-paid lawyer/barrister??? Thus, I can have a good, stable job whilst working on a book, AND if things just don't really take off with my writing career, I'll just happily accept being a lawyer for the rest of my life, which is fine by me if I'm making good money and I'm happy and fulfilled.

HOWEVER, I have some fears, which is why I’m posting here:

1) I feel like English Literature isn't really a respected degree (I believe it’s very unemployable too). Add to that Creative Writing, which is even less respected. I don't know much about conversion courses and how easy/hard they are to get into, but I’d like to get into a damn good one if I want to be a well-paid lawyer. How likely is this with a degree like English Literature and Creative Writing? I’d probably do a masters afterwards too, so I can go for better paid positions/jobs, but again would I be able to get into a good university with a degree like that?

2) I'm already a year behind because I took a gap year. Add to that a conversion course and a masters degree. I'm going to be entering the job market so late. Is it worth it? I'd probably do a masters even if I took Law instead, so it's only one year difference from the alternative, but still…

3) Many writers don't take English at university. They just read a lot, practice a lot, and learn about their craft. Maybe I should just play it safe and do my Law degree as planned, whilst learning about and practicing writing on the side. But this is harder and will take longer for me to become publishable.

Any advice is GREATLY appreciated. Thank you so much :smile:




The only thing about the law conversion - which was formerly the GDL and is now the SQE - is it isn’t covered by student finance because it is considered a diploma. There are loans you can get from banks but the ones I looked into require your to start paying back hundreds of pounds per month starting just 3 months after graduation.


Also, since changing the GDL to the SQE they have changed the way non-law graduates enter the legal system. Before with the GDL, you did your non-law degree, then your GDL, then your LPC, then your training contract and then you are a qualified lawyer. Since changing the GDL to the SQE they have also got rid of the LPC, since the SQE qualification also consists of 2 years ‘qualifying work experience’, as opposed to a training contact after your LPC. So, the new route for non-law graduates would be getting your non-law degree, then your SQE and then your a qualified lawyer. The only problem is, because the SQE replaces the GDL and LPC, it is also sat by all law graduates in order to qualify as a solicitor. This means that there is no law conversion to fill the gap of knowledge that law graduates would have obtained over their 3 years of studying law at uni. So, from what I have read it is unknown how firms looking to hire solicitors will take this changing of the law conversion route. The old GDL route was still viewed as a traditional route to law and definitely did not hinder the process of hiring, but this cannot be said for the SQE. I’m not saying you will definitely not get a job as a solicitor at a top firm with a non-law degree through the SQE route, as relevant work experience will play a massive role in this, but it could be a bit harder. My worry is that without the GDL to compensate for your lack of law degree, firms may favour law graduates.


Although, there are preparation courses you can take before the SQE, but again that is more money . Also, unlike the LPC, you can take SQE1 then work for how ever many years to save money for SQE2 and you will still qualify as a solicitor at the end regardless.


Sorry if this is so unclear or if some of it was not entirely accurate. The SQE is so new so no one really knows what reaction firms will have to it, and all this information is merely from what I have read online and through podcasts too.


I don’t want this to put you off doing a law conversion though just do what feels right!! I am only saying this because I went into a non-law degree with the intention of doing a law conversion thinking it would be covered by student finance and unaware of how costly a conversion can be.


Also, I just remembered I think they are introducing something called the PGDL - I’m guessing it’s like the old GDL?? I have not done any research on this but I assume it may be looked at by firms similarly to the old law conversion system? - which is a good thing as the old GDL was respected from what I’ve read. That is an assumption based solely on the name though and how much it sounds like GDL ahah, I honestly know nothing about it but defo something to research! The only thing is I’m sure it will still be regarded as a diploma, and therefore not covered by student finance.

I hope this helps sorry it’s so long!!
(edited 2 years ago)
Original post by jumbomumbo3
Wow, thank you so much for the detailed response. I really appreciate it!

I guess what I meant by "not respectable" is that it's famously unemployable, or at least thats what I've heard. But I had no idea you could even go to STEM fields afterwards - are you sure about that?!

Also are you sure English Literature WITH Creative Writing will still be seen as respectable? I noticed from your other posts that you seem to be a medic or something in that field, so I don't know how much you actually know about the law field, but do you know if I'd have a chance of being able to get into a good conversion course at at good uni with a degree like English Literature and Creative Writing that granted I do well in it?? I just honestly want to ensure that I'm able to get a more than comfortable salary as a lawyer/barrister if I take this route :frown:

You mentioned how a Law conversion course would end up costing me more. Do you just mean the cost of an extra year at uni or are there some other costs I don't know about??

Also you said this:

"The thing about your plan is that it works in reverse as well as forwards. There’s nothing stopping you still planning for a legal career whilst doing a creative writing and English degree (vacation schemes etc). You just have to remember to do them because the law degree (GDL or otherwise) is more or less incidental"

But I'm not sure I quite understand. Could you please elaborate on what you meant by my plan working in reverse? And also it would be possible to take vacation schemes as a non-law student?? I imagine they'd be quite tricky to get into even if they even allowed me? I'm guessing it would help my chances of getting into uni for my conversion course?

Also, yes, thank you for the suggestions. I have considered just spending some of the money that would have eventually gone to the extra year at uni on commercial online course for writing, as well as just self-teaching. It's definitely still an option, but I think I would enjoy an academic course more.

And finally, your comments on Russel Groups are reassuring, so thank you. I kind of just say Russel Group unis as a shorthand for respectable unis with good job prospects, even though I know there are unis that are not Russel Groups that outrank Russel Group unis in certain topics. I just want to go somewhere good for Law that'll help me have an edge over others in whatever way possible!

Sorry for all the counter-questions, but you've been really helpful - thank you so much again :smile:

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.
Original post by jumbomumbo3
Yeah, I've realised I think you're right. I'm also going to play it safe and go with law, whilst practicing writing on the side. It'll take much longer to get better, but oh well. Thanks for the advice btw :smile:

Also, I'm taking a gap year, so I have friends, as well as a cousin, already studying law, and I've seen glances of their lecture notes and work. It didn't fill me with excitement, but it looked interesting enough and something I could do for 3 years. Obviously law is not my GREATEST passion (yet), but it seems like it's the go-to degree for students who prefer humanities and also want to ensure they're as employable as possible. I feel like it's a pretty easy degree for a lot of people to take at least a bit of a liking towards, so I wouldn't be too worried. You can also take law with another subject to add some flavour if you want and you'd still qualify as a lawyer by the end of the degree. Finance and marketing sounds interesting too though, but quite different to law no?

Good, I'm happy you're playing it safe. np, gotta make your parents proud.

Oh you're taking a gap year. Everyone has a relative studying law somehow lol. I can see where you're coming from in that it is interesting though probably not something to get passionate over - I'll have to read some books like "What about Law?" and "Letters to a law student" to consolidate that though. Finance and marketing is different, but I like money, and I took law to get money. So any alternative would have to be something to do with money. And that concludes my presentation. Gl.
Reply 7
Original post by jumbomumbo3
No, don't apologise for the length - this was incredibly helpful and you've basically pushed me completely to the side of sticking with taking a law degree and going the traditional route. My plan seems increasingly risky, and I'm not in the position to be taking risks with the goals I want. Also, I had no idea about the whole money situation and that's just going to be extra hassle - and potentially only to be not taken as seriously as law graduates :frown:

I think my best option is just to be safe and stick with law, especially since I still like the subject and think I will find joy in the degree. I'll pursue writing on the side best I can. Thank you again - you have no idea how helpful been! I feel a lot more assured and confident now!

No worries glad I could help, good luck !!
Reply 8
Original post by mill1407
No worries glad I could help, good luck !!

I am so glad you have decided to go through the traditional route to become a lawyer. You would still be able to do writing by doing lawyer blogs and writing law articles and you will be making useful contacts who may help you to the publishing route. Good luck !

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