LCAN, the Law Careers Advice Network, primar aims was to promote and enhance understanding in the student population in schools, further and higher education institutions about the opportunities available to those who wish to pursue a career in law.

Frequently asked questions

What skills and aptitudes will I need to demonstrate if I want a career in law?

Academic ability - the study of law is intellectually demanding. Admissions tutors will be looking for good grades and many employers look for a 2:2 or better in degree studies.

Legal and commercial awareness - future employers will be looking for an appreciation of the 'real' world. It is advisable to obtain work placements throughout your studies in both legal and non-legal environments.

Good communication skills – you will be expected to understand complex information and to communicate effectively both orally and in writing to a wide range of people.

Interpersonal skills - you will need to get on with many and varied types of people.

Personal effectiveness – you will often be working in a pressurised environment which will demand good time management skills and the ability to build good relationships with colleagues and clients.

IT skills – you will need good IT skills to operate in the office environment and to take advantage of online resources.

Responsibility and Integrity - as a professional lawyer you will be expected to have high standards of personal integrity and an ethical approach to your work.

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What do I need to do to become a solicitor?

Intending solicitors can take a law or non-law degree, but those with a non-law degree need to follow this with a one year postgraduate conversion course (known as the CPE, or GDL). All students then take a one year Legal Practice Course, and then spend two years working as a trainee solicitor before becoming a qualified solicitor. A significant number of solicitors’ firms will ask for high A level grades, and many solicitors’ firms ask for a 2:1 at degree level. Work experience in solicitors’ offices is very desirable, if not essential- preferably gained whilst at sixth form as well as at university. Legal executives may also qualify as solicitors, which is now the main route for a non-graduate to become a solicitor.

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What do I need to do to become a barrister?

Intending barristers can take a law or non-law degree, but those with a non-law degree need to follow this with a one year postgraduate conversion course (known as the CPE, or GDL). All students then take a one year Bar Vocational Course, and then complete two six month periods of pupillage i.e. they work for 12 months under the guidance of an experienced barrister or pupil master/ mistress.

The vast majority of barristers' chambers require a 2:1 at degree level. Work experience in barristers' chambers (a 'mini-pupillage') is very desirable, if not essential.

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Do I need a degree to become a lawyer?

As a general rule, yes, if you want to become a solicitor or barrister. This can be either a qualifying law degree or a degree which involves some law - or none! Only those who have a qualifying law degree can go straight onto the vocational stage of training to become a barrister or solicitor. Other graduates go through the CPE route to the vocational stage. There is one exception to this general rule which enables some non-graduates to follow the CPE route to qualification (see below). If you want to become a Legal Executive or to work as a paralegal, you do not need a degree.

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If I do want to go to university - does it matter whether I take a law degree or not?

No - you can take a degree other than a qualifying law degree and then follow the CPE route to the vocational stage of training BUT this path takes at least one year longer and involve substantial additional costs. If you have thought carefully about the demands of a career in law and think that you have the right combination of personal qualities to become a lawyer, you will probably want to show that determination by studying law on a qualifying law degree ie one which satisfies the requirements of the professional bodies as covering the academic stage of training (see below).

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How do I choose a university faculty or department or course?

Many factors will influence your choice of university, including your entry qualifications, your willingness/desire to live away from home etc. You will find very helpful information about individual faculties/departments and courses through their own prospectuses and websites. In addition Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) are building up a number of profiles which provide information on entry requirements and expectations in relation to specific degrees.

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Will universities accept an AVCE for entry onto a law degree?

Some institutions are happy to accept Vocational A levels (also called AVCEs) on their own, whilst others will accept only a combination of AVCE qualifications with A levels.To find out more information on entry requirements for law, log onto (click on 'site map' then 'course search').

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Is it better to take a single honours LLB or joint honours?

A joint honours degree will give you the opportunity to combine the study of law with another subject area and you may benefit from this decision in several ways. For example, you may obtain a better degree as a result of maintaining this interest; the combination you chose (eg law and a language) may make you more attractive to future employers, or the insights you gain from the other subject (eg politics, economics, business studies) may enhance your understanding of the context in which law operates. Remember to check carefully whether the degree you will receive at the end of your studies is a 'qualifying' law degree or whether you will have outstanding foundation subjects to make up through further study. In some cases you may be required to take a complete CPE course before progressing to the vocational stage of training. A single honours LLB (meaning Bachelor of Laws) will offer more legal subjects for study and may well also provide for non-law options such as a language module or a politics module. Check each prospectus carefully. Some students feel that they can identify with a well-defined group when studying for a single honours award and this immersion in the study of law supports their ambition to become a lawyer and their enthusiasm for the study of law.

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Do I need law at AS level/A2?

No. Some students find A-level law useful at least in helping them to decide if they like the subject, and to familiarise themselves with some concepts before starting the degree. But the best advice is to choose subjects in which you are interested for their own sake, whether that happens to apply to A-level law or not. Your motivation for these subjects is likely to produce a good result. Law admissions tutors are more concerned with your actual results than with which subjects you have chosen, although some universities won’t accept general studies or less academic, more practical subjects such as art.

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Will my choice of A or AS level subjects be critical?

Probably not - but every university should provide information as to what grades or point score is expected. In some instances, the faculty/department may also stipulate certain subjects which are considered to carry less weight than others but they will usually be looking for evidence of the ability to study and more general personality traits. It is wise to assume that no specific subjects predict success as an undergraduate law student! Even A-level law may not be regarded as an indication of strength but it will provide you with a foundation in certain concepts and a familiarity with some terminology. As so often, the best advice is usually to choose subjects in which you are interested and in which your motivation is likely to produce a good result. Some universities will not count General Studies towards your A-level points, so check the prospectus carefully for each institution.

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Do I need GCSE English and Maths to get onto a degree course or to be accepted as a lawyer?

Most universities have a general entrance requirement for all students to have GCSE at grade C or above in English and Maths (or a recognised alternative) for entry to any degree. Some university law departments may ask for a higher grade than a C in English. Most will also require Maths as part of the university's general entrance requirement but there may be exceptions. It is important to check the prospectuses or websites of individual universities to check what the requirements are and what qualifications are accepted as recognised alternatives.

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Which are the 'best' universities for law?

When choosing a university, students need to remember that there is no such thing as a 'best university', but, rather a 'best university for them', based on factors such as entry requirements, teaching methods, preferred location/ environment and proximity to home. When considering the ‘best’ universities for law with regard to job prospects, a survey conducted by Chambers and Partners in 2002 confirms that 72% of law firms had no preference with regard to the universities from which they preferred to recruit trainees. More firms are abandoning the concept of ‘approved lists’ of universities and those that remain selective are casting their nets wider than in the past. Some of the larger commercial firms do 'target' particular universities with their marketing activities, but still actually recruit able students from a wide range of institutions. For further information, log onto the student guide of (click on 'student guide', then ‘solicitors’, then 'preferred universities and LPC providers'). or try Sels College

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What will an admissions tutor be looking for on my application form?

Almost certainly the evidence that you will be a motivated and enthusiastic student of law. This may come through in different ways and any application should be completed with care. If you have pitched your application appropriately, you have already gained, or are expected to gain, the necessary academic entry qualifications so the reader will be looking for other types of information to conjure up a picture of you as a 'whole' person. This may come partly through someone else's reference about you but should also be apparent from the content which you write about yourself. Identify the many ways in which you have taken responsibility, worked with others, followed up sporting ability or hobbies etc. Once within the faculty or department you should find further opportunities to develop these wider interests and the tutors will welcome an active and participating member of the community.

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What is it like to be a law student?

Your time at university should provide a wealth of stimulating experiences and studying legal modules will be intellectually demanding but should also be immensely stimulating and sometimes - fun! Your tutors will expect a high level of participation in formal small group work (e.g. seminars and tutorials) and in the routine study of law which requires self-motivation and determination. You will have to learn how to use a law library and, increasingly, how to access legal databases online. Other related activities may be optional eg mooting and debating but these activities usually flourish in a law faculty/department and the students who are willing to join in have both valuable practice at these skills and also enhance their individual graduate profile.

A feature of many law degrees is the relatively low 'class contact' hours which will appear on your timetable. For example, you may be studying four 30 credit modules in a year (or five or six smaller modules etc) in which you are timetabled for a large group session (such as a lecture) once a week and a small group session (such as a seminar) once a week. You will be given information on what to prepare for these sessions but the time which you allocate to this preparation will probably be entirely at your choice. Your tutors will expect you to put in the time necessary to cover the issues raised in a given class and this may vary dramatically from one person to another and one session to another. Most law faculties now provide study skills support for those who realise that they need some guidance as to the effective use of their time and energies. Always seek help at an early stage because it is very easy to slip behind.

You will probably still find that your assessment in a law module is weighted towards success in an end of module unseen written examination, with a lower weighting attached to coursework submitted during the module. If you know that you do not produce good work in examination conditions, you may like to check with each faculty/department as to their assessment strategy, or seek help to improve your performance, or choose a different degree! It is very difficult to avoid this emphasis on examinations because you will find a similar approach adopted at the CPE stage and also on the LPC and BVC courses. Self-awareness and discipline will also have to be shown in relation to meeting deadlines for submission of coursework and attendance at other assessments. Within a modular assessment scheme it is not uncommon for stiff penalties to be incurred if work is handed in late (or not at all). In some situations this will lead to failure in that attempt at the module.

Some of your most stimulating work will be done in the small group sessions with a tutor and a group of fellow students. Hopefully you will find this a 'safe' environment to become accustomed to the sound of your own voice and to the cut and thrust of reasoned discussion on a given topic. Be prepared to take and give feedback to your fellow students and to reflect on your own progress, taking steps to adapt where necessary.

Studying law should improve both your verbal and written communication skills. It comes as a surprise to some students that highly detailed responses may be less effective than clear, concise and precise statements of relevant legal principle. You will often be asked to apply a legal principle to a hypothetical situation, in which you may be asked to look at the problem from more than one perspective. These 'problem-solving' skills are highly prized in law graduates whether working inside the legal profession or in other careers.

Overall, the picture of a successful law student that should be forming in your mind is that of a well-developed independent learner, who is familiar with the techniques of legal research and whose communication skills are advanced. This cannot be achieved overnight but it is the expectation of your tutors that you wish to match this picture on graduation.

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What skills will the study of law enhance in me?

Subject benchmarking now provides a clear picture of the generic attributes which should be found in a law graduate. Law faculties/departments will be preparing programme specifications for each of their awards which will demonstrate what opportunities a student will have to acquire and develop these skills during their studies.

Any student graduating in law (i.e. one who has studied at least 180 credits of legal subjects) must show threshold achievement in all of the following areas of performance:

  • Knowledge - a basic knowledge and understanding of the principal features of the legal system(s) studies;
  • Application and problem-solving;
  • Sources and research;
  • Analysis, synthesis, critical judgement and evaluation;
  • Autonomy and ability to learn;
  • Communication and literacy;
  • Numeracy, information technology and teamwork.

NB The Law Subject benchmark is set at the base level of a student who just manages to pass and you should look out for those additional statements which indicate what more advanced skills a given faculty/department will expect to be shown a student who graduates with a higher class of degree. Future job prospects in some parts of the legal profession may well depend upon achieving an Upper Second class of degree.

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What subjects will I study on a law degree?

If the degree is a qualifying law degree there will be compulsory content which is laid down by the professional bodies. This is covered by the phrase 'foundations of law' and comprises – public law, EU law, criminal law, property law.

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Will I have choices of options at university?

Yes, you should have option choices during your law degree studies but you may find that option choices are limited in the first two years of study. Check the prospectus carefully to see what range of options is offered on a given degree course and whether the list(s) include both law and non-law options. Remember that the faculty/department may not be able to offer all options in every year - so it is unwise to select your university course entirely on this basis but the list should give you an indication of the ethos in the faculty/department and will also reflect the flexibility - or lack of flexibility - in the modular scheme at that institution.

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Will I find a law degree which gives me a European or International perspective?

This could happen in one of several ways. For example, you could study a degree which combined law and a language, or you could take selected options at some universities within your law degree. Most large firms of solicitors and other professionals now have european or even worldwide branches in which knowledge of another language or of international affairs would be required. Do not forget that there is always the alternative of taking a non-law degree and then following the CPE route into the legal profession at a later stage.

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Who will help me if I think I am struggling with my studies?

There has been a huge expansion in the number of people wanting to study in recent years and this has placed the pastoral care in most law faculties/departments to breaking point. However, you may find that personal tutors are still allocated to students on their arrival at the university and this person can be a source of helpful information and advice about the many problems which can face an undergraduate student. It is increasingly common for the university to have a group of trained and specialist student advisors, who are knowledgeable about all aspects of the life of the university and who can refer you on to specific sources of further information and advice. The guiding principle is 'always ask' and do not allow weeks, months - or even years - to go by without seeking help. Being a student is inherently stressful and increasingly costly. If you hope to have a career in law you face the added stress of aiming to achieve a good class of degree, within the stipulated periods of time set by the professional bodies for completion of the academic stage of training.

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Should I be getting work experience during my degree studies?

Yes. If possible this should be in a legal context and your faculty/department should have channels through which information about work placements is brought to the attention of students. These opportunities will enhance your CV and give you a clearer picture of what it is like to work in a legal environment ie somewhat different to that portrayed in Ally McBeal and the like!

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What is the CPE?

The CPE route enables those who are graduates in disciplines other than law and mature people who have qualifications which are deemed to be equivalent in study content and quality to an undergraduate degree, to complete the academic stage of training as required by the professional bodies. The Central Applications Board produces a Guide which lists available courses, some of which can be studied over two years on a part-time basis rather than one year full-time. The majority of the content of these courses is prescribed by the professional bodies ie the foundations subjects which must be included in a qualifying law degree but the provider does have some scope for individualising the programme in the choice of one other area of legal study. Quite often this takes the form of a piece of individual research leading to a mini dissertation. The CPE route is very demanding because of the quantity of legal material to be covered. The academic year for these courses is longer than that used at undergraduate level and extends over 36 weeks in total of which there must be at least 32 weeks of tuition. Once again the number of attempts and the overall duration of studies on these courses is prescribed by the professional bodies and the course should not be started unless personal circumstances are on a sound basis.

See also

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Is the PGDipL different from the CPE?

Many providers now award a Graduate Diploma in Law to some or all of those CPE students who complete successfully. You must check the regulations of each provider to see the circumstances in which a student will be eligible for such an additional award.

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How do these awards differ from a law degree?

The CPE route is postgraduate in ethos as well as in time and tutors will expect you to bring graduate skills to your studies. This can be stressful for students who have had a gap of some years since their last higher education experience and who find the pace and level of the course very demanding. Providers are expected to structure their courses around a 45 hour week, which will almost certainly include higher class contact hours on the full-time course than those studying on a law degree but which will still include a high proportion of independent study time. Those studying on a part-time course will find that there are requirements for face-to-face tuition on a certain number of days in each year but the actual incidence of those days will vary from one provider to another. You should investigate this information to see what pattern will fit with your own personal circumstances.

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