Before embarking on a career in the law, you will need a lot of training in the complex intricacies of the British legal system. All this training requires funding, both for payment of fees and to meet your living expenses. Some of this training can be pricey, and not all of it will qualify for assistance from the Student Loans Company.
For some of “the professions,” such as teachers, there are government schemes to provide help with training costs. This is unfortunately not the case with the legal industry. However, there are a few options available for funding.
What are the Costs of Legal Training
The first step in training for a legal career will be a degree. Aside from living expenses, these will carry standard university tuition fees – currently up to £9,000 a year in England and Wales, as well as in Scotland unless this is your home region. The degree lasts three years.
If you study a subject other than law, then you will have to undertake a Graduate Diploma in Law, commonly known as a conversion course. This can cost between £7,500 and £10,000.
After you graduate, further training will be necessary. If you aim to become a barrister, you will have to complete a Barrister Practice Training Course (BPTC), costing at least £11,000 and potentially up to £16,950.
If you aim to become a solicitor, on the other hand, then after graduation you will have to complete a year-long course known as a Legal Practice Course. The price tag on this is lower than that attached to a BPTC, but still will still come in at £8,000 minimum and up to £13,500.
Total fees associated with legal training, therefore, can be up to £53,950 for barristers and £50,500 for solicitors. If your degree is in law and you don’t need a conversion course, this knocks £10,000 off each figure, but still leaves over £40,000 in fees.
For your first degree, you will qualify for student loans to fund your study just as any other student does – assuming you have not attended university before.
For your training after graduation, there are a few options available to you. One possibility is a specialist loan. While the Student Loans Company may no longer be willing to help you, some private lenders offer loans specially designed to help with legal training costs. You could also potentially qualify for low-interest postgraduate loans known as Professional Career and Development Loans (PCDL).
There are also some scholarships and bursaries available. For solicitors, these come from bodies such as The Law Society, while barristers-to-be may be able to access schemes from the likes of the Bar Council.
A few very lucky students may be able to get a sponsor – a legal firm who pays for their training on condition you work for them after you qualify. Sadly, these are very few and highly competitive. Usually, the only students who even get a look-in are first-class graduates of Oxford or Cambridge.
A career in the law can be rewarding both emotionally and financially. However, it can also be demanding and hard work, meaning often only those with the greatest love for the subject decide to pursue a career.
Unfortunately, this means that some people can be unnecessarily put off of studying law because they perceive the subject to be essentially vocational. Even if they do love the subject, they may be reluctant to spend years of their life and amass a lot of student debt when they may ultimately decide they are not cut out for a law career. While it is important to think about any degree choice carefully, a law degree can open up work in many areas besides the legal sector. It is not necessary to see it as a vocational qualification leading to one defined career path, as it can also open up opportunities in:
Obtaining a law degree is a demanding process, and involves many transferrable skills. Law graduates are often well-equipped for careers in management, particularly through joining graduate management training schemes. More even than most graduates, they are used to demanding workloads and challenging tasks. They often have more specific skills too, such as knowledge of contract law, which can also work in their favour when pursuing a management career.
Finance is a regulation-heavy area, and like management it is also a field that requires many of the transferrable skills that a law degree will teach. Many financial companies, from investment banks to insurance firms, are keen to recruit legal graduates who have a good appreciation of the regulatory challenges that face the industry.
If you have the necessary skills and knowledge for a legal career but have decided you don’t want to follow this avenue for yourself, you could instead use your abilities to help others enter the sector. Law is taught at various levels in the UK school system from GCSE upwards, so if teaching is a career that appeals to you then this can be an excellent and rewarding way to put your knowledge to good use. For the vast majority of teaching posts, however, you will need a further teaching qualification to go with your degree.
Publishing is also an industry that likes to recruit its fair share of law graduates. Part of this is down to specialist legal publications, which understandably want to recruit staff members who have an appreciation of the area. Other publishers simply like law graduates because they tend to be skilled at research tasks, and simply because a law degree is evidence of hard work. Departments dealing with intellectual property and rights issues may also be open to law graduates with knowledge in these areas.
If you are in your sixth form, college, taking a gap year off or simply looking to go back into education and a law degree has caught your eye, then read the following list of points which this article has compiled to inform future law students of the task which is ahead of them. Often many students jump into the mammoth task of studying law without being fully informed of the future career prospects and academic requirements needed of them.
Reading and graduating with a law degree from university will get you universal respect amongst employers and society in general. The course is demanding and often tests your ability to handle pressure, work towards tight deadlines and conduct multiple complex tasks at a time. However, a career in law may not be secured by graduating with a law degree and the future prospects of becoming a lawyer are often inflated by many universities. The reality is that the number of training contracts and pupillages being offered to students at law firms and chambers is on the down turn. The next myth surrounding a career in law is the pay which comes with it. The first thing that comes to most peoples mind is little work for astronomical amounts of money. However this is far from the truth especially in a lawyers early days and sectors such as the criminal bar pay very little and less compared to other less respected professions.
There’s so much reading
Most students generally going to university are prepared for the amount of reading that they are about to take on through the horror stories which they have heard from their friends and relatives. In fact studying law is much worse! This is because in order to obtain a good solid grade in any subject it is near enough impossible to pull an all nighter the night before the exam. Third year students are required to have an solid understanding of the law and the underlying policies behind it which means reading 100 in a rush 7 hours before the exam just won’t cut it.
In order to avoid dreadful and stressful all night library sessions you must be able to manage your time efficiently while prioritising school work ahead of partying and drinking sessions with your friends. Another skill which is grasped and not taught in university is being able to selectively study. A good amount of the text you come across may not be relevant for the type of assignment you will be put through at the end of the year meaning it can be skimmed or left out as a whole.