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Law Conversion Courses: Becoming a Lawyer Without the Law Degree

There’s no denying that law can be an exciting career for the right candidate. However, did you know that it isn’t compulsory for the right candidate to already have a degree in law?

Nowadays, there are more and more graduates entering the profession without having studied for an LLB qualification at undergraduate level. So what exactly does it take to pursue a career in the legal sector.

The right qualifications

While it isn’t essential to have an LLB qualification, non-law graduates wishing to pursue a legal career either as a solicitor or a barrister should take a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). Lasting only a year, the GDL is a conversion course that will provide graduates with the basic legal knowledge taught on an LLB undergraduate programme. Modules will include subjects such as Tort, Contract Law, Criminal law, Public law, European Union, Land Law and Equity and Trusts.

If you’re looking for a place on any Graduate Diploma in Law, most Universities will require you to have at least a second class honours degree (ideally a 2:1 classification) and to have demonstrated some previous work experience within the legal sector.

Previous experience

These days, having a strong degree just isn’t enough to gain you a place on your chosen postgraduate programme. In such an unstable job market, many graduates are looking towards more vocational training programmes (such as law) to provide them with a ‘safer’ career option.

In order to compete with other candidates wanting a place on the course, you will need to demonstrate your passion and potential for law. One way of doing this is to gain work experience within your sector of choice. During the summer months you should try interning at a legal firm that specialises in your area of interest, or spend a year working as a legal secretary.

Volunteering one or two days a week at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau is also a fantastic way of gaining experience.  If you can balance this with a part-time job, this will not only help you save for your studies but will demonstrate your hard work ethic and your ability to multitask.

The right skills

Law firms will look to hire applicants with a wide range of experiences, but for the most part they will want people who can demonstrate strong analytical skills, academic excellence, strong oral skills, enthusiasm and a determination to succeed.

Candidates will not only be assessed on their academic achievements, but also on their extra-curricular interests. Any social activities that demonstrate these skills such as, team sports, debating or writing for the student newspaper will work in your favour when applying for postgraduate law courses.

Then what ...?

What happens after you have taken your Graduate Diploma in Law very much depends on where you want to take your career.  However, the majority of GDL graduates will wish to pursue a career either as a lawyer or as a barrister.

If you’re wishing to train as a barrister, then you will have to study on the Bar Vocational Course (BPTC) which will last a minimum of a year, although some institutions will offer a part-time mode of study over a period of two years.  You will then need to complete a further (paid) year’s pupilage.

If you’re wishing to pursue a career as a solicitor, then you will need to study on the Legal practice course (LPC) which is offered on a part-time or full-time basis, then apply for training contracts with a reputable firm of solicitors. Your training will last two years and, if successful, you will be entitled to register with the Roll of Solicitors.


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Lucinda Borrell

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