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Legal Careers: The Cost of Becoming a Solicitor or Barrister

There are a number of steps you’ll have to take in order to train as a barrister or solicitor. If you’re wishing to pursue either of these professions, then (after completion of your degree) you’ll spend at least another year studying and then continue your training with a reputable legal firm.  While this is undoubtedly a fascinating career path, it is also incredibly costly, and those wishing to train within this field should take this into consideration before making their postgraduate applications.

What qualifications will I need to have?

There are a number of options for graduates wishing to become the next generation of solicitors and barristers. Even if your degree is not in law or a related subject, don’t write the legal sector off just yet – it still could be the perfect career for you.

Graduate Diploma in Law/Common Professional Examination

What does it cost: £7,000 – £11,000
Is it essential?
A Graduate Diploma in Law or Common Professional Examination is only required for those who do not already have an LLB qualification in law at undergraduate level. You will then need to take either the Legal Practice Course or the Bar Professional Training Course to qualify.
If your undergraduate degree isn’t already in Law, then before applying for the Legal Practice Course or your Bar Training Programme, you will be expected to study for a Graduate Diploma in Law. A full time course should take a year and will cover all areas of law studied on an undergraduate degree programme including Public Law, Criminal Law, Tort, Property law, Equity and Trusts, Contract Law and the Law of the European Union.

Solicitor Qualifying Examinations

What does it cost: SQE1 – £1,622 / SQE2 – £2,493
Is it essential?
The Solicitors Qualifying Examinations (SQE) have become the way for students to pursue a career as a solicitor after the phasing out Legal Practice Courses.
Before training as a solicitor, students previously needed to complete the Legal Practice Course. However, the LPC is currently being phased out in favour of the SQE, which will become vital to the process of qualifying to become a solicitor. Students currently studying for a LPC will have until 2032 to complete their studies.

The SQE assesments test different parts of a solicitor's skills. SQE1 looks at functional legal knowledge using multiple choice exams. SQE2 looks at practical legal skills and features both oral and written assessments.

Bar Courses

What Does It Cost: £12,000 –  £19,000
Is it essential?
Bar courses are only essential for those wishing to pursue a career as a barrister.
Bar courses will make up the vocational section of training to become a barrister (following the academic section and preceeding pupillage). These courses, which can include BTC, BVC, BVS and BPC courses, will equip you with the necessary skills required to complete your pupilage within a reputable chambers.

Are there any other costs?

When examining the cost of becoming a solicitor or lawyer, you should not only consider your course fees, but also living costs such as rent, food and travel. Throughout your training, you will not only be expected to attend University classes, but you will also be expected to gain work-related experience, most of which will be unpaid. While this will give you some great experience it will also limit your ability to find part-time work in order to subsidise your studies.

Does it cost less to study part-time?

In the short run, a full-time course will cost less as the sum of two years of study at the part-time fee rate often equates to more than the full-time costs of a course.

However, there are some long term financial advantages to studying on a part-time basis, one of which is that your weekly contact time will be lower than your full-time peers so you may be able to work while studying.

Consequently, you will be able to cover some of your course costs on your own, reducing the amount of money you have to loan from the bank and – most importantly – the amount of interest you’ll have to pay back. This option may also free up some more of your time to gain legal work experience.

How should I finance my studies?

Many graduates pursuing postgraduate qualifications in law fund their studies by taking out a loan and then supplementing their income with part-time work on the evenings or weekends. There are also a number of grants and bursaries available to those who show academic promise.

Next: Search for postgraduate law courses

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