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Want to qualify as a Lawyer? Know your options

The legal profession has radically changed over the years and so have the ways in which you can qualify as a solicitor. From the ‘traditional’ trainee route to the new ways of qualification it doesn’t matter how you get there - as long as you achieve your potential and fulfill your career goals.

Whether you knew at a young age that you wanted to be a lawyer or developed an interest in law later on, there are various routes to get there and secure your dream job. These are some of the ways in which you can qualify and the costs associated with them.

If you are looking at completing a degree but unsure what subject to pick, the only advice I would give is pick something you are interested in and can see yourself getting excited about over the next 3-4 years. With the costs of tuition fees alone in excess of £9,000+ a year, it is important that you are enjoying your student life. If this is definitely law, this is a good start!

If you are one of those lucky people who knew exactly what you wanted to be when you grew up (I envy you as I hadn’t a clue) and you chose law, the next stage of the ‘traditional’ route would be to complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC). This can be done either full time or part time and will cost £15,000+ depending on location. In addition you will have to start applying for a training contract with a law firm. It is worth mentioning here that it is pretty crucial to obtain work experience/summer work placements with at least one law firm.

However if like me, you never knew what you wanted to be and picked your degree on the basis that you enjoyed the A-Level and wanted to go to University at the same time as your friends, there is the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). This is a conversion course that you complete after your first degree which then qualifies you to continue with the further stages of legal training (LPC and training contract). As with all courses this can either be done part time or full time at around £8,000+ depending on location.

So these are the more ‘traditional’ routes to qualifying as a solicitor, but there are other options. With the drop in the number of people applying for UK university places (in 2017 it was down by 4% on the previous year), how else are other people entering the legal profession?

The CILEx courses have become very popular and offer a range of options/ways to join the legal profession depending on your academic qualifications. There are advantages to undertaking the CILEx exams as there are many levels, making it accessible to many:

• Level 2 Certificate in Legal Studies – for individuals without formal qualifications to be taken prior to moving on to the Level 3 and 6 courses

• Level 3 Professional Diploma in Law and Practice - for individuals with formal qualifications (it is recommended that you have a minimum of four GCSE grades C or above, including English Language or Literature, or qualifications at an equivalent level)

• Level 6 Professional Higher Diploma in Law and Practice – this is the second stage of the CILEx qualification that you undertake on completion of Level 3

• CILEx Graduate Fast-track Diploma – if you have completed a law degree and are looking for CILEx membership

There are many advantages of choosing the non-traditional qualification routes including:

• The Chartered Legal Executive lawyer route means you can earn-as-you-learn and gain valuable practical experience

• CILEx qualifications costs just £9,031 from start to finish

• 70% of employers pay for their staff to study

It is also worth remembering that Legal Executives are able to progress to partnership level. There are a number of firms across the UK that have encouraged CILEx employees to follow a partnership career path including Capsticks Solicitors, Clarke Willmott, Field Fisher Waterhouse, Freeths, Keoghs, Thomson Snell & Passmore and Weightmans. There is an increasing number of firms with Chartered Legal Executive Partners each year and we anticipate more in the future.

In the ever changing face of the legal profession it is always important to consider your options carefully – what works for you in terms of timings, finances and aspirations. Also don’t forget to look into the SRA announcement earlier this year regarding the introduction of a new super exam - solicitors qualifying examination (SQE) which we will bring you more information about in the next few weeks.

Rachael has worked at Chadwick Nott for 10 years and currently works alongside our Private Practice teams in the Midlands and South East regions recruiting paralegals and legal executives for all types and sizes of law firm.  

Rachael Travers
0117 917 1870

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