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Developing your career in Law

Law is a popular and increasingly competitive area, so a good class of degree is essential if you want to train as a solicitor or barrister.

The training you’re required to complete will vary depending on whether you intend to become a solicitor or barrister. This is summarised below and shows how the OU can help you reach your career goal. Important changes to the route to qualifying as a solicitor are taking place from September 2021.

Royal Court of Justice

Becoming a Solicitor in England and Wales

You'll need to complete the following four stages of training:

  1. have a degree in any subject (or equivalent qualification or work experience)
  2. pass both stages of the national Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) – SQE1 focuses on legal knowledge and SQE2 on practical legal skills
  3. have two years' Qualifying Work Experience (QWE)
  4. meet the Solicitors Regulation Authority character and suitability requirements.

Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) – your questions answered

It’s a centralised assessment you’ll need to pass if you want to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales. It’s part of a new, four-stage route to becoming a solicitor.

The SQE consists of two assessments – SQE1 and SQE2.

SQE1 tests your ‘functioning legal knowledge’ to assess your application of law based on realistic client-based scenarios. There are two papers, each with 180 multiple-choice questions, covering a range of legal aspects.

You must pass SQE1 before being eligible to sit the SQE2 assessments. You are expected to complete SQE2 after your qualifying work experience, but it is not a requirement to do it in this order.

In SQE2 you will be tested on the practical legal skills required for practice, including:

  • Client interviewing (with attendance note/legal analysis)
  • Advocacy
  • Legal research
  • Legal drafting
  • Legal writing
  • Case and matter analysis

You will pay examination fees directly to the Solicitors Regulation Authority. The total cost for taking both SQE assessments will be £3,980.

  • SQE1: £1,558 for the two examinations, consisting of 180 questions each, testing functioning legal knowledge.
  • SQE2: £2,422 for the written and oral tasks, testing both practical legal knowledge and skills, including advocacy, client interviewing (with written attendance note/legal analysis), legal research, legal writing, legal drafting, and case and matter analysis.

If you’re in the UK, or coming to the UK, on a dependants’ visa, we advise you to apply for a visa for yourself, to ensure you retain the right to remain in the UK for the duration of your study.

If you’re already studying or training, you can continue to qualify through the existing routes. For example:

I’ve started a qualifying law degree

If you’ve completed, started, accepted an offer of a place or paid a non-refundable deposit by 21 September 2021 (inclusive) for a qualifying law degree, and start the degree before 31 December 2021, you have the choice of how to qualify as a solicitor. You can qualify by either taking the SQE and carrying out qualifying work experience, or take the one-year vocational Legal Practice Course and complete a two-year training contract before 31 December 2032.

I’m doing a non-law degree and I’ll graduate in summer 2021

You will have the choice of how to qualify as a solicitor if you completed, started, accepted an offer of a place or paid a non-refundable deposit before 1 September 2021 (inclusive) for one of the following:

  • the Common Professional Examination / Graduate Diploma in Law (CPE)
  • the Legal Practice Course (LPC)
  • a period of recognised training (also known as a training contract)

As long as any course starts before 31 December 2021, you will be able to qualify either through taking the one-year vocational LPC and completing a two-year training contract before 31 December 2032, or through taking the SQE.

If you have not already made arrangements to complete the CPE, LPC or training contract as described above, you will qualify as a solicitor through completing the SQE and two years' qualifying work experience, as described above.

I’m doing a non-law degree and I’ll graduate in summer 2022 or later

You will qualify as a solicitor through completing the SQE and two years' qualifying work experience, as described above.

 
 


Our courses with SQE preparation

We offer a choice of courses, depending on whether you already have a degree or not, and they include three SQE modules to help you prepare for SQE1. These modules cover all of the law and legal practice areas in SQE1. All of these modules will give you lots of opportunities to practice multiple-choice questions as well as working as part of a simulated law firm to acquire practice-based skills. From October 2023, you'll have the option of taking the individual SQE modules that are of interest to you.

Bachelor of Laws (LLB) (R81)

Our law degree is the most popular law degree in the UK and is recognised by legal professional bodies as a Qualifying Law Degree (QLD).

View our Bachelor of Laws (LLB)
 
 

... the OU offered so much support. The quality of the learning, the tutors and the feedback, was all so high. It all felt very accessible too.

Jermaine Francis, Bachelor of Laws (Hons) LLB

Bachelor of Laws (Honours) (graduate entry) (R82)

This graduate-entry route will enable you to pursue a career in the legal professions or improve your legal understanding in your current career.

This qualification is planned for October 2022.

 
 

SQE: legal system, public law and criminal litigation (W321)

This module covers the legal system of England and Wales, public law, criminal law and practice.

Planned for October 2023.

SQE: property and private client law (W322)

This module will cover property law and aspects of private client law

Planned for February 2024.

SQE: business law and dispute resolution (W323)

This module covers business law and the key aspects of dispute resolution.

Planned for February 2024.

 


 

Becoming a Barrister in England and Wales

Lawyers meeting

To practise as a barrister, you need to complete three stages of training:

  1. Academic – a Qualifying Law Degree (QLD), which could be a degree in law or a conversion course following a degree in another subject.
  2. Vocational – a vocational Bar Course provided by an Authorised Education and Training Organisation.
  3. Professional – a pupillage following a stringent pre-entry test and meeting the character and suitability requirements of the relevant professional bodies.

Our QLD courses

We offer a choice of degrees depending on whether you already have a degree in another subject.

Bachelor of Laws (LLB) (R81)

Our law degree is the most popular law degree in the UK and is recognised by legal professional bodies as a Qualifying Law Degree (QLD).

View our Bachelor of Laws (LLB)
 
 

Bachelor of Laws (Honours) (graduate entry) (R82)

This graduate-entry route will enable you to pursue a career in the legal professions or improve your legal understanding in your current career.

This qualification is planned for October 2022.

 


 

Becoming a Barrister or Solicitor in Northern Ireland

To practise as a barrister or as a solicitor in Northern Ireland, you need to complete three stages of training:

  1. Academic – a Qualifying Law Degree (QLD), which could be a degree in law or a conversion course following a degree in another subject
  2. Vocational – the Institute of Professional Legal Studies course for barristers or solicitors
  3. Professional – an apprenticeship for solicitors or a ‘pupillage’ for barristers following a stringent pre-entry test and meeting the character and suitability requirements of the relevant professional bodies.

Our QLD courses

We offer a choice of degrees depending on whether you already have a degree in another subject.

Bachelor of Laws (LLB) (R81)

Our law degree is the most popular law degree in the UK and is recognised by legal professional bodies as a Qualifying Law Degree (QLD).

View our Bachelor of Laws (LLB)
 
 

Bachelor of Laws (Honours) (graduate entry) (R82)

This graduate-entry route will enable you to pursue a career in the legal professions or improve your legal understanding in your current career.

This qualification is planned for October 2022.

 


 

Careers related to law

Studying law gives you skills and knowledge that you can readily put into practice on a daily basis in a wide variety of roles. Law graduates are very marketable in the Civil Service, local government, trade unions, marketing, human resources, personnel and advisory work, the emergency services and health services, general and retail management, merchandising, transport and distribution, imports and exports, business, banking, insurance, finance and accountancy.

Other relevant jobs include barristers' clerk, legal adviser (e.g. magistrates' courts), employment tribunal caseworker, citizens advice/legal advice worker, Crown Prosecution Service caseworker, mediator, court reporter or administrator.

For information about what is available, and the training routes required, have a look at the Law Careers.Net website or the Prospects website to explore career options related to law.

 


 

Enhancing your career prospects

Law is certainly a very competitive profession, and whilst the Bar requires a minimum of a 2:2 (pass 3) the higher the class of degree awarded will improve your chances. To help give yourself an added advantage you should also look at ways to enhance your CV through work and voluntary experience.

One example is our online clinic, the Open Justice Centre, which is run by OU law students and supervised by qualified solicitors. It provides free legal advice on contract, tort, employment law and consumer issues.

Once you’re a registered OU student, you’ll have full access to our Careers and Employability Services. This includes a comprehensive range of resources and individual advice on applications, CVs and interviews.

 


 

Further information

The information here is a guide and you should always make enquiries from the appropriate professional body before committing yourself to study. For more information about legal careers in England and Wales follow the links below:

For more information about legal careers in Northern Ireland follow the links below:

Arrangements in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland are different. The law courses offered by The Open University will not entitle you to exemption from the initial academic stage of legal training. Please go to the following national websites for detailed advice: