If you’re wondering whether you should become a lawyer in the UK, you’re not alone.
Many people wonder what it’s like to be a UK lawyer, and if they could handle the day-to-day life of practicing law in the UK.
Thankfully, there are many lawyers who have gone before you, and they’ve written about their experiences on their blogs and elsewhere online. If you want to learn more about what it takes to become a lawyer in the UK or if you want some idea of what it’s like once you get your dream job, read on!
What Do You Want To Do as a Lawyer?
The first step is identifying what type of law you want to practice. In Britain, there are several types of lawyers, each specializing in different areas: solicitors, barristers and chartered legal executives (formerly known as registered foreign lawyers). Other specialists include employment lawyers and family lawyers.
For example, if you’re not keen on arguing cases before a judge and jury or appearing in court as part of your job, becoming an employment lawyer could be your calling. Solicitors generally advise clients on how to resolve their legal issues; they do not appear in court.
Barristers argue cases for clients who have been charged with crimes, such as murder or rape.
Chartered legal executives can choose from a variety of specialties but must pass additional exams and fulfill certain requirements set by their professional organization.
To become a solicitor, you need to complete three years of study at university, followed by one year at law school. To become a barrister, you need four years of study at university and three years at law school. Both require passing an exam administered by one of two organizations:
The Law Society and The Institute of Legal Executives. Employment lawyers specialize in resolving workplace disputes. Family lawyers handle divorces, child custody cases and other domestic matters. These are just some examples—the field of law is expansive and it’s up to you to determine which area interests you most. Once you know which specialty appeals most, it will be easier to decide whether studying abroad makes sense for your career goals.
The first step – GCSEs
Since you have an interest in law, you may have heard of GCSEs and A levels already.
The General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is what most students sit when they are aged 14-16. In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, these are typically studied from Year 10 to Year 11 and take approximately two years.
After sitting your GCSEs, you can then go on to study for A levels. These usually take one year to complete but can be taken over two years if necessary.
They are also sat at age 16-18 and cover more specific subjects such as English Literature or Maths.
However, if you’re looking into becoming a lawyer in the UK then there’s no need for any further qualifications after your GCSEs; it’ll be enough just to get into university!
Once you’ve finished school, there are plenty of different universities that offer law degrees – so don’t worry about which one to choose. If you want to know more about what degree courses are available, check out our guide on how to become a lawyer.
The Second Step – A-levels/IB
To begin law school, you’ll need A-levels or an International Baccalaureate diploma with certain grades.
Most universities also require you to submit your personal statement (explaining why you want to be a lawyer), your writing sample and three references.
Some schools also require that you pass their own assessments and/or interviews. The bottom line: Getting into law school is competitive, so it’s important to get that ball rolling as soon as possible.
If you want more information on specific requirements for different schools, check out UCAS for its School Direct program.
Here are some general guidelines for getting accepted into one of these programs: 1) Gather all of your documents – proof of qualifications, GCSE results and any other academic achievements; 2) Do some research – contact potential universities directly about specific entry requirements; 3) Apply!
Third step – University, college, or apprenticeship
The final step towards becoming a lawyer is passing your law degree, or one of many equivalent ‘law conversion’ courses. This can take anywhere from 3-6 years and will qualify you as either an attorney or solicitor (the terms used for lawyers in different jurisdictions).
It’s not uncommon for people to do both if they don’t know what area of law they want to practice.
Once qualified, you must then complete a period of training before being allowed to practice independently.
In England and Wales, it’s called pupillage; in Scotland it’s known as apprenticeship; and in Northern Ireland it’s called devilling. In all cases, you must be employed by a practicing lawyer who acts as your mentor while you complete up to 12 months worth of training – which includes everything from legal research to drafting documents – before being able to work on your own behalf.
Next Steps After You have Passed Your Exams
Once you have passed your exams and become a qualified lawyer, there are several steps you will need to take before you can practice as an attorney. First, you must join a law society.
This is a professional organization that regulates all legal professionals within its jurisdiction. In England and Wales, for example, you would join The Law Society of England and Wales.
As part of your membership with The Law Society of England and Wales, you will be required to undergo training for two years before being able to practice independently as an attorney.
Getting experience as a trainee lawyer
It’s one thing to have a law degree and another thing entirely to have years of experience under your belt.
For some people, that can take forever. In order to get real-world experience as quickly as possible, you might consider getting an internship with a firm.
There are two ways you can go about doing it: by sending off applications or by creating your own. The first option is pretty straightforward—just send applications out and hope for a response.
How long does it take to become a fully qualified lawyer?
A typical legal education takes five years. Once you’ve finished your law degree, it takes around one year to pass your bar exams, which is when you become qualified as a lawyer.
So if you start law school straight after high school, and study full-time (which most people do), it will take approximately six years from beginning university until you can practice law independently.
If you work part-time or are taking time off between degrees, that timeline can stretch out longer. If you want to practice internationally, keep in mind that it might be easier—and faster—to qualify in another country than it is on your own.
Where will you find work as a newly qualified lawyer?
After qualifying, there are two main ways of finding work as a lawyer. In-house and private practice. Being employed by a company or organization can be very rewarding but it does take some time to get used to.
The job opportunities here include working for: (1) insurance companies; (2) retail businesses; (3) professional service firms; and (4) public sector organizations such as local authorities or central government departments. The other option is to set up your own business as a sole practitioner or partnership.
This route has many advantages including setting your own hours and being able to choose who you want to work with. However, it is also much more risky financially than being employed so you will need a good amount of savings before you start out on your own.