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How Do You Become a Lawyer in Britain? A Guide for Students on University Pathway Programs in the UK

Fri 02 Dec 2016

A career in law can be a great choice for an international student in the UK. Lawyers are well paid, enjoy good job security, and do interesting work in a variety of different fields. Many law firms also have international offices and clients, and are often looking to hire people who are familiar with different languages and cultures, giving international graduates a big advantage.

However, becoming a lawyer in the UK is not easy, and can take a number of years of study. Students need to obtain an undergraduate degree or postgraduate diploma, and then complete further training while they work at a law office.  The British law system is also quite different from many other countries, which can be confusing for international students.

If you are considering a career as a lawyer in the UK, read on to find out more about what you can expect.

Admission Requirements for UK University Law Programs

Most lawyers in the UK have a Bachelor of Law (LLB) degree. This usually takes three years to complete, and will give you a good understanding of key legal areas such as contracts, property, and criminal law. International students wishing to meet the entry requirements for Universities in the UK that offer this degree should choose a foundation course which offers a humanities and social sciences pathway.

Students who complete undergraduate degrees in other subject areas can also qualify by taking a one-year conversion course, which is known as a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). This can be a great option if you develop an interest in law later in your studies, as you can pursue a legal career with just one extra year of work.

Solicitors and Barristers Explained for University Pathway Program Students

Once you complete your degree or diploma, you need to decide whether to become a solicitor or a barrister. In the UK, it is usually a barrister who represents clients in court, and is responsible for arguing cases, questioning witnesses, and presenting evidence. 

Most of a solicitor’s work will take place outside of the courtroom, researching cases and preparing contracts and other legal documents. However, they do sometimes represent clients in the lower levels of the British court system. Students on university pathway programs for the UK should carefully consider which role would suit their skills and personality best before deciding which path to follow.

Professional Training for Lawyers in the UK: What to Expect

Both barristers and solicitors need to complete additional training before they can start their career. A solicitor must take a one-year Legal Practice Course, followed by a two-year training contract at a practicing law firm before becoming fully qualified.

Students wishing to become barristers need to apply for entry to the Bar Professional Training Course, and pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test before being accepted.  After this course, they complete one year of professional training known as pupilage, where they assist a qualified barrister in their daily work, before taking on their own cases.    

Interested in pursuing a law career? You can study the UFP in Humanities and Social Sciences with us!

Find out more about the admission requirements for UK university programs. 

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