Why you don't need a law degree if you want to become a lawyer

Whatever you're studying at university, you could start a legal career after graduating

Many of the UK's lawyers didn't study law at university.

If you're wondering how they got from where you are now to getting their feet under the desk at a law firm, here we answer some questions you might have.

Why are law firms interested in non-law graduates?

Law firms are very interested in graduates with non-law degrees because they know they bring lots of useful knowledge and abilities to legal work.

For instance, modern languages graduates are highly prized by City law firms because these firms usually have multinational client lists and networks of offices across the globe.

Meanwhile, the knowledge gained from a degree in science would come in very handy if you were to become an intellectual property lawyer, where you might be working on design rights or patents relating to scientific or technological innovations.

And even if you don't get to use what you learnt at university as an official part of your job, you'll probably find that it'll come up at some point when you're advising clients or just getting to know them - they'll have a wide range of business needs and personal interests.

Much of being a lawyer is about your skills rather than your knowledge, and the ones you'll need on the job are ones you'll begin to acquire on most degree courses.

How do non-law graduates acquire the legal knowledge they need?

They have to go to law school - and so do law graduates, by the way.

Non-law graduates who want to become lawyers must study for the Graduate Diploma in Law, which covers all the academic legal knowledge that law graduates gain from their degree.

Then, along with law graduates, they must take the Legal Practice Course (LPC), which is all about applying law to real-life situations and learning how to work effectively with clients.

Both law and non-law graduates will then continue to learn more before qualifying as lawyers during two years of training on the job at a law firm, known as a training contract.

How can I afford to study for two more years?

The bad news is that law school tuition fees are high - around £8,000 for the GDL and over £10,000 for the LPC, and you need to factor in living costs as well.

But if you manage to win a training contract place at a large firm, the good news is that they're likely to sponsor you through your two years of law school, paying your fees and giving you a maintenance grant to put towards your other costs.

Note also that accelerated GDL and LPC programmes are now available, which, because they take less than a year to complete, can make law school cheaper by reducing your living costs.

Remember that you won't have to worry about student loan repayments while you're still studying, and the relatively generous salary you can expect once you start working as a junior lawyer should mean that you'll then be in a good position to start reducing your debts.

As someone who's not studying law yet, how can I decide if a legal career is right for me?

In just the same way as you would decide whether any other career is right for you - research, attending campus events and work experience in the sector.

Remember that law students don't have much of an advantage over you - studying law at university is very different to working as a lawyer, so they have to find out about the profession too.

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