There are several reasons that somebody may want to study law as a mature student. You may be pursuing a change of career by retraining for the legal sector, you may have been asked to complete your degree for professional development or to qualify for a promotion, or you might just be doing it for the love of learning. Whatever the case, there are a few things you may wish to know before you begin your studies.
Types of Study
The type of study you complete will largely depend on your previous educational background. If you have completed a degree in a different subject the past, then you will most likely only be required to complete a law conversion course – much like a recent graduate who wants to pursue a career in law but studied a different subject.
If you do not already have a degree, then you will instead have to take a full degree. This takes three years if studying full-time, compared to a law conversion course which takes only one year of full-time study. If you are undertaking study at your employer’s request, they may also request you study the full degree even if you already hold a degree in another subject. Of course, if you are studying out of personal choice then you may choose to take the full degree out of simple preference.
Qualifying for legal study varies from institution to institution. To be able to undertake a law conversion course, you will certainly need to already hold an undergraduate degree. Generally, you will be required to have achieved a grade of at least 2:2 on your first degree to be accepted for a conversion course.
To take a full law degree, if you are educated to at least A-level or equivalent then, depending on grades, you should usually qualify for degree-level study. If you do not have A-levels or equivalent qualifications, this does not mean you cannot go to university but you may well have to complete some other course first, such as an Access to Higher Education course. Relevant work experience may also be considered as an alternative to these qualifications. Speak to the admissions department of the universities you are interested in attending.
If you have not undertaken a university-level qualification before, then you should qualify for student finance when taking a law degree just as younger students do. If you have started but not completed a degree in the past, you may still qualify for funding but this could just be partial.
Usually, if you do not qualify for student finance you will have to fund your studies yourself. If you are being asked to undertake these studies for professional reasons, however, you should speak to your employer about whether they can assist with the costs.
Those who would like to consider a career in the law but have not taken a degree in that subject may still have a way in. A law conversion course allows people with a degree in another subject, or in some cases strong relevant experience, to qualify for a legal career after a year’s further study.
What is a Conversion Course?
Commonly known as a law conversion course, this mode of study is more properly known as a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) or the Common Professional Examination (CPE). The course takes one year, or two years if taken part-time, and essentially crams the seven core modules of a law degree into a single year’s worth of study. Transferable skills and knowledge gained in your first degree is considered to take the place of the rest of the law degree.
By the end of the GDL, you will essentially be at the same stage as somebody who has just completed a law degree. You will still need to complete a vocational course and a training contract in a law firm (to become a solicitor) or set of chambers (to become a barrister) before you are fully qualified. These requirements are the same as those that apply to law graduates.
How Much Does it Cost?
The cost of completing a GDL varies, depending on the institution in which you wish to study. Prices for the most recent courses, which began this year, generally ranged from £7,500-£10,000. You may be entitled to a discount if studying at the same institution as you chose for your original degree. There may also be other funding options available from professional bodies or even city law firms.
If taking the course full-time, you will find study very intensive. This has an impact on costs, because it makes it very difficult to fund your course or living expenses with a part-time job while studying. Unless you are able to meet both course costs and living expenses without additional income, you should probably consider the part-time course.
What Does the Conversion Course Entail?
The conversion course entails most of the central aspects of a law degree. This includes the study of seven core modules, which are as follows:
- Land Law
- Contract Law
- Equity and Trusts
- Public Law
- Criminal Law
- European Union Law
There will also be additional aspects to the course and examinations you will have to complete. These include an examination based on your ability to analyse an example case, a statute analysis exam, and a project dealing with European Union Law.
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.