Becoming a lawyer

From student to solicitor: our guide

So you think you want to be a commercial lawyer, but don't know exactly how to get there? We do - so let The Gateway give you a hand.

Firm handshake

First things first: it's a great start, but you don't need to have done a law degree. Whatever you're studying, there's a path into this career for you - ideally, though, you need to start planning by the second year of your degree, but it's never too late. Many lawyers come into the profession after graduating, or even after other careers.

The second important point to note is this: the biggest challenge facing you is not getting into law school, but getting a job offer from a law firm. And because large commercial firms recruit students two years in advance of their start date so that they can fund them through law school, applying to firms should be the first hurdle you tackle.

Work experience at a law firm is pretty much an essential stage of getting a training contract and your best way in. Most large commercial firms offer a wide range of schemes, which include first year open days, workshops for non-law students, and vacation schemes - fun-sized versions of a training contract.

Back to school

Once you have your training contract sorted, you can start thinking about applying to law school, such the College of Law ( Plan to do you the winter before you intend to start your course, but note that your firm may require you to study at a particular institution. Many will pay your fees and even give you a maintenance grant.

What course will you study at law school? All potential lawyers need an academic legal qualification, which means that if you didn't do a undergraduate degree in law you'll need to take the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL, also known as the Common Professional Examination - or CPE). Everyone - law graduates and non-law graduates - then needs to take the Legal Practice Course (LPC), where the emphasis is on how lawyers apply legislation to real-life situations, draft documents and work with clients, rather than academic legal study. Both courses are normally done over a year, though accelerated programmes may be available. For more details of how and when to apply to law school and to submit your application, visit****

Learning on the job

After law school, you'll start your training contract. You'll mainly be learning on the job at this stage, but you will be required to do some more classroom training to qualify (known as the Professional Skills Course). To find out more about the two years.In this section you can also hear what it's like to train at two firms with different systems, meet trainees posted to an overseas officeand sent on an exciting client secondment, and****see what a junior City lawyer's day might involve. After completing your training contract, there'll still be plenty to learn but you'll finally be able to call yourself a fully-fledged, qualified lawyer!