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You are here:   Ultimate Law Guide > Careers Advice > Getting started - legal education and training

Legal Education and Training

Contents:


As you will see from our flow-diagram, the route to becoming either a solicitor or barrister can take up to several years. Before embarking on a legal career, it is important that you have a clear understanding of the stages of education, legal training and the possible hurdles that you may have to overcome on the road to becoming a lawyer.
 
There are essentially three stages to qualification as a solicitor / barrister: the academic stage, the vocational stage and then training contract or pupillage. The start of your journey is the academic stage; this covers your A-levels, degree and/or Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) which is the conversion course for non-law graduates. The next phase of your journey is the one-year Legal Practice Course (LPC) for prospective trainee solicitors or the one-year Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) for would-be barristers. Both courses represent the vocational stage of legal education and training. The final leg of your journey for solicitors is the training contract which covers the period of practical-based learning and training along with the Professional Skills Course. Barristers undertake a one-year pupillage at a set of chambers with the hope of securing a tenancy.
 
Chances are you are at the beginning of the process. Do not worry. It's a great position to be in. You have plenty of time to build a fantastic CV which will include excellent work experience and extra-curricular activities and interests. Make the most of your legal education and follow our career advice on the website.

A-Levels

Students studying A-levels at school (sixth form) or higher education tertiary college must achieve excellent A-level grades if they have the ambition of becoming a lawyer. In today's legal education market, there are many able students undertaking up to five A-levels, together with a comprehensive list of extra-curricula activities to round off their impressive CV's.

Generally, City law firms / chambers are very specific about their entry requirements; if you aim to become a lawyer at one of the top City firms / set of chambers, you must keep in mind the fact that you are competing against some of the brightest students in the country. It goes without saying then, that for these types of firms', only the highest academic results will be good enough. We recommend students to do the following:

  • Aim to achieve grade A's in at least three of your subjects. Law firms / chambers use performance at A level in their selection criteria as evidence of consistent academic achievement or indeed, to indicate progression at various stages of your academic history.  
  • Look into securing legal / commercial work experience to evidence your interest and commitment to a legal career, develop your personal portfolio of skills required to become a lawyer and gain a useful insight into the world of work. At this stage of your career, it is not easy to get work experience but anything that you do supplemental to your studies will impress law firms and universities.  
  • Keep abreast of recent global events and developments by reading a good quality newspaper, and register to our e-learning section of our website. This will help you to understand and judge for yourself the opinions and viewpoints on the topical articles from the commercial and legal environment.  
  • Make a strong UCAS application to university.  
  • The law faculties of the leading universities look for highly motivated candidates, who have done their research and know exactly why they want to read law at university. Universities only accept students who are willing to make the required commitment, have a good skills-set and are sufficiently prepared for of one of the most challenging, yet most rewarding careers. Do you know your career timetable - what you need to do and when?  
  • When selecting which university to attend, it is really important that you do your research on the university and the courses available. If you are looking at particular universities, you should check with the university whether there are A-level subjects they would like you to take or, specific subjects that they would prefer you not to do.  

 

Selecting the right university for you

For many of us, university signals our first experience of living away from home, which can be both an overwhelming and exciting time for us. Extensive research will help you choose a university which offers a balance of attending good university with excellent teaching and course; worthwhile extra-curricula activities and be based in a city where you will have fun and be happy.
 
If you study at a university near your home, you can perhaps continue living at home and save on the costs of living expenses. If you really want to move elsewhere, first consider whether you will be comfortable and happy living in this new location; it is really important that you select a university in a city you have visited before, in order to get a feel for the place, as you will be based there for at least three years. We know many students who selected their university without actually attending an open day at the university beforehand. They were based far away from their family, in an area without any family connections and became homesick - as they found it difficult not to see their parents for a whole term.  Some of these students dropped out of university, because they did not appreciate the difficulties of being so far away from home.

Remember, selecting your university is about where you want to spend a key period of your life and it represents a three or four year chapter in your career that will help to determine your future prospects - so think carefully, research and be properly prepared so you are confident you are making the right decision.

Traditionally, lots of City law firms recruited from established "red brick" universities, and those who didn't attend those institutions found it harder to successfully make their way through the training contract / pupillage application process. Over the last few years, many law firms have actively aimed to widen the pool of talent from which they draw new recruits. It is now common to see the variety of universities firms have recruited from in their graduate literature. The message is clear: as long as you can meet your chosen firm's selection criteria, you will not be precluded on the basis that you did not attend a traditional university.

Law National Admissions Test (LNAT) 

Some universities have recently introduced the LNAT entrance examination for students hoping to study a law degree at undergraduate level.

The LNAT is a two hour examination, which consists of two parts: the first part is multiple-choice questions on a range of current topics testing students' general knowledge, comprehension and verbal reasoning skills. The second part is an essay-type question, which assesses a student's written skills and ability to present information in a logical, analytical and coherent manner. LNAT focus on the skills which are important when reading law at university and for becoming a lawyer.

The completed LNAT examination papers are then centrally processed by the LNAT course provider and the results are passed on to participating universities. The law faculties of the universities themselves also assess the substance of answers provided based on their own selection and admission criteria.

You can help to maximise your chances of scoring well on the LNAT and gain acceptance to your desired university by keeping abreast of current affairs through a wide menu of: reading a good quality newspaper, the BBC news website and our e-learning section of this website. It is also important that you prepare and practice sample tests to get a feel for the type of questions that are asked. For more information on LNAT entrance examinations for universities and how admissions tutors score your tests, visit www.lnat.ac.uk

UNIVERSITY

Law v. non-law degree

The key decision for you at this stage will be whether to study law at undergraduate level or do a non-law degree followed by a law conversion course. You are not required to complete an undergraduate degree in law, in order to become a lawyer. In other words, non-law degree students are at no major disadvantage in the trainee recruitment market. The fact is, a substantial number of trainees have a degree in a subject other than law and, if you read the trainee recruitment literature, you will see that many firms actually welcome the mixture of skills this brings. If you are a non-law student it may be the case that your motivation to become a solicitor will be tested at interview and the firm may be interested to hear why you chose your degree discipline. However, the only real drawback is the extra year spent studying completing the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) at law school. Although, for some students, spending an extra year of life as a student before facing the real world is viewed as a real added bonus!

A law degree

The majority of aspiring lawyers complete a three-year LLB law degree.  Every law degree course must cover the seven foundations of legal knowledge: Criminal law, Equity and Trusts, Property and Public law, Obligations; Contract and Tort law, and European Union law. Your university law degree must cover these core modules in order to become a lawyer.  


Each university law course includes a range of modular electives in addition to the core foundation subjects. If you already have an idea of which areas of law interest you, as part of your research into the university and specific law course, make sure each university offers the desired modules. All universities have their own method of teaching and assessing their students. Some institutions offer their students more flexibility and choices when deciding which modules to study.

Below is a checklist for managing your studies and planning your career in law:

1. First year law and non-law undergraduates

  • Enjoy university life, but remember that you are there to achieve excellent marks in your first-year subjects of your degree. 
  • There is a popular myth in some places that your first year grades are irrelevant because they do not count towards your overall degree result. Do not buy into this! Law firms / Chambers will ask you to specify all your grades when you apply to for vacation schemes and mini-pupillages, as they wish to see evidence of consistent 1st or high 2.1 grades across all three years. 
  • Find out much as you can about what work lawyers undertake and opportunities in the legal profession. 
  • Gain work experience in a legal / commercial environment to get a feel for what life as a solicitor / barrister is really like. This will demonstrate your interest and commitment to the legal profession and becoming a future professional. 
  • When selecting electives on your degree course, choose options which complement your career objectives. For example, if you intend to apply to city law firms, it makes sense to pursue corporate/commercial electives. Remember, the strength of your academic results is what counts, so ensure you work hard to achieve and maintain good grades.
  • Choose electives in areas which you are most interested in. If you enjoy these subjects you are more likely to achieve a 1st or high 2:1, and gain a broader knowledge of disciplines. Consult students in the year above to ascertain the quality and style of teaching for a particular elective. How challenging has past students found the elective? That said, bear in mind when reading for any degree that no subject is easy and there is no substitute for hard work and time spent studying. 
  •  Build up your CV with lots of extra-curricula activities, for example: travel, involvement in university committees, join the university student law society and participate in debating, mooting and pro-bono activities. It is also good to get involved in sporting activities, music, charity events, and develop a proficiency in a foreign language.  

 

2. Second Year law students / final year non-law students 

Most commercial law firms recruit their trainees two years in advance, the aim being to scout the brightest talent in the legal market while they are still at university. This is one of the main reasons why as prospective trainees you must be forward-thinking in your career planning and aim to apply early during the second year of your degree course or the final year, if you are a non-law student. In any case you will want to apply well before the firms' application deadline. 

  • Begin extensively researching the different types of law firms in order to assess which type of law firm will best suit you. 
  • Apply for Christmas, Easter and summer vacation placements at law firms and non-law related work experience. It is useful to apply to a variety of firms to gain experience in a wide range of practice areas that appeal to you. 
  • Apply for mini-pupillages and other work experience. Aspiring barristers should attend Law fairs and the National and Regional Pupillage Fairs (usually in March). 
  • Set up a calendar of deadlines for your applications. Attend legal career events, law firm / graduate employer presentations, open days and law career fairs during the autumn. 
  • Once you begin to build up your profile, it is time to prepare your CV. Your search for a training contract should really kick off in the autumn. 
  • Produce a record of all your completed applications and responses received and any follow-up action that may be required; for example, chasing firms for responses or obtaining feedback on an unsuccessful application. 
  • If you receive rejection letters, it is important not to lose your hope and motivation. Discuss your feedback with friends and your careers advisors to gain constructive advice, encouragement and positive support. 
  • Be organised and prepare an applications record of all the action points we have advised you on.  

The firms that recruit trainees two years in advance normally fund the successful applicant's law school fees and also kindly provide maintenance payments to help with living expenses. Given the huge costs for those studying for a legal career, landing a training contract with one of the larger commercial firms brings the added benefit of sponsorship during your studies, which is another reason why training contract places at these firms are so highly sought after. Many regional and provincial firms may recruit one year in advance, whereas high street and smaller sole practices tend to recruit trainees as and when there is a business need to recruit and/or a vacancy arises.  

3. Final Year law students or GDL (conversion to law) graduates 

  • The key word is FINALS! It is crucial that you aim is to work towards achieving top grades across all your subjects. 
  • By this stage you may already have a training contract / pupillage offer. If not, prepare training contract / pupillage applications along with balancing the hectic schedule of study. 
  • Undertake work experience, e.g. mini-pupillages at chambers and vacation placements at law firms. 
  • Aspiring barristers should attend Law fairs and the National and Regional Pupillage Fairs (usually in March).  
  • Check closing dates for applications for a place on the LPC or BPTC. Complete the application for the place on the LPC or BPTC. 
  • Consider joining an Inn (if a law undergraduate) for information, advice and networking opportunities. 
  • Investigate funding possibilities for the next stage, e.g. Inn's scholarships / bursaries, and Law Society awards and scholarships. Inns BVC Scholarship deadlines 1st week of November.  
  • If you are accepted onto the LPC, then the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) will automatically ask if you would like to enrol as a student member. The SRA also recommends that your university send copies of your exam results to them, so they can check your grades.
  • Obtain a certificate for the completion of the academic stage of legal training, showing you have satisfied the Legal Knowledge requirement of the Law Society. To qualify as a solicitor, you must use your law certificate within seven years from 1st October of the year in which you obtained your law certificate. 
  • Aspiring barristers should make further enquiries about pupillage - ideally you should already have completed one or more mini-pupillages. 
  • Aspiring barristers should apply for pupillage through OLPAS. Summer season applications should be made in March/April. 
  • Non-law undergraduates: apply for Inns' GDL scholarship by 31st April. 
  •   Join an Inn (compulsory requirement for starting your BPTC). 
  • Check progress of summer season OLPAS / training contract applications and attend pupillage interviews (May/June/July/August) and training contract interviews (September). 
  • If you were unsuccessful in the summer season, continue applying and persevering! 

 

Degree results  

The importance having a stellar academic track record cannot be stressed enough - so undergraduates study hard!Law firms look for evidence of 1st class or 2:1 grades consistently throughout your university years. This is because the job of a lawyer is intellectually rigorous, and demands a capability of clear and lucid thought, and the ability to process and assimilate large amounts of information, and find solutions to complex problems. You must be able to show that you have the intellectual ability to make it in the legal profession, and the best indicator of this, is measured by your academic record.  

The minimum entrance requirement for securing a training contract at most leading firms will typically be a 2:1 degree or higher, with some firms also specifying three strong grades at A-level to further refine the selection criteria of their recruitment process. The divide between a 2.1 degree and a 2.2 is clearly very important when it comes to applications for training contracts, because the larger law firms' receive thousands of applications for a much smaller number of training contract places. For more information on what to do if have a 2:2, please read our chapter in the Guide. 

The Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL)

[Law conversion course for non-law graduates]

The GDL is a conversion course that non-law graduates are required to take and pass in order to proceed to the vocation stage of legal training, and go on to complete the LPC or BPTC. The course is completed in one year full-time; students can also study the GDL part-time or by distance learning over two-years. However, some institutions offer an alternative to the GDL; they offer a two-year, post-graduate diploma in law (PgDL) which is effectively an LLB law degree sandwhiched into two years instead of the typical three year period. If applying for the GDL, do so before the February closing date of the final year of your law degree.

The GDL course enables non-law graduates to satisfy the seven core foundations of legal knowledge: Contract; tort; criminal; equity & trusts; EU law; peoperty; and constitutional and administrative (public) law.  Students who successfully complete the GDL will have passed the academic stage of legal training. Each institution that runs the GDL course have their own methods of teaching and approach to learning, so it is worthwile attending open days at individual law schools and speak to students / lecturers at the law schools to determine which institution is best for you.

The GDL course is renowned for being an extremely intensive, challenging and demanding course, as it essentially covers the three year LLB law degree in the space of a single academic year. The course is regarded as one of the most hard-going stages of legal training, largely due to the pace of the course and huge volume of material / study required to successfully complete this stage of your journey to becoming a lawyer. Once you pass the GDL, many law schools will automatically offer you a place on their LPC.

Applications for the course

Applications for the course are made through the Central Applications Board. You can contact them for an application form or apply online via their website: www.lawcabs.ac.uk. Application forms are usually available from around November, and must be submitted before the closing date of 1st February.

Eligibility

There is tough competition for places and most applicants must have a degree from a UK university, some law schools also request additional criteria of a minimum 2:1 from your first degree. Alternatively, if you do not hold a degree from a UK university; but you're an international graduate, mature student, have a professional qualification equivalent to a degree, or a fellow and member of the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX), you are likely to be granted a certificate of academic standing by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) which will enable you to become eligible for the GDL.

The Legal Practice Course (LPC) 

The LPC is the vocational stage of training to be a solicitor. The course is a one-year, full-time (or two-year, part-time) course designed to bridge your undergraduate degree / GDL and your training contract. The course is compulsory and designed to equip students with the requisite knowledge and practical skills to ensure that you are well-equipped to undertake all the tasks under your training contract (under supervision) and to be able to cope effectively as a trainee solicitor.

The LPC is now split into two separate stages: (1) Core and (2) electives  

Stage One 

The core subjects of the LPC consist of:

  • Core areas: The content of the course is broken down into compulsory subjects which are regarded as core areas of legal practice: business law & practice; property law & practice; and litigation (both civil and criminal). In addition, the core areas also includes the pervasive subjects of: ethics context (professional conduct and client care); skills context (advocacy, interviewing and advising, writing & drafting skills and practical legal research);  Financial Services Act, Solicitors accounts and taxation, EU law, probate and administration of estates, principles of estate planning, trusts and taxation.  The LPC is designed to bridge the procedural elements with the substantive law. 


Stage two 

  • Electives: The stage consists of the three vocational electives which vary from one law school to another. It is important that you choose a law school that teaches electives in the areas of law that interest you and want to work in. If you are applying to commercial law firms, you are likely to select: commercial law and practice, mergers and acquisitions and corporate finance. * LPC students with training contracts should always liaise with their firms prior to selecting their optional subjects. 

 

It is hoped that the new-look course which divides the LPC into two stages offers the opportunity for more flexibility for students as LPC providers will be able to choose whether they deliver each stage separately or continue to offer an integrated programme. This will help both students already with training contracts and students looking to enter the job market.

Students with training contracts will receive a bespoke training programme designed specifically by their law firm in conjunction with the course provider. This will help trainees to immediately get to grips with the individual needs of their firm; its 'human face', brand values, ethos and culture, which increases the chances of a trainee solicitor to hit the ground running and immediately understand the business needs of the firm and their clients, think in a business-like manner, commercial perspective and quickly learn how to contextualise the legal advice / research they provide to their principle (i.e supervisor) and the end client.

Students without training contracts will be able to access the legal recruitment market much sooner, in six months after completing stage one. This will enable students to spread the cost of the course; combining the electives with work-based learning, once they secure a training contract or alternative job in law. The increased flexibility of the ways you can study the LPC will also enable students to take a break between studying both stages of the course. This will enable students who are financing the cost of the LPC themselves to complete the LPC alongside a period of paid legal work.

How is the LPC assessed?

Students preparing to embark on this course must be sure they understand the nature of the course and the volume of work involved. The LPC is a demanding course, and is renowned for its continuous assessments and couse examinations throughout the year.

The LPC focuses on learning and developing practical skills which equip and prepare you for life in practice. In addition, a great deal of preparatory reading is required for lectures and workshops. Teaching methods include a blend of: lectures, face-to-face learning and i-tutorials (web-based learning), with small workshop classes, continuous assessment, independent research and group discussions.  

From our experience, the students who are organised, prioritise effectively, and have excellent time management skills are the most successful on this course.

 Application for the course

Applications for the course are made through the Central Applications Board. You can contact them for an application form or apply online via their website: www.lawcabs.ac.uk. Overseas students hoping to apply for a place on the LPC should check the qualification is recognised by the governing body in the country they wish to practise in, as well as, the admissions at the institution they wish to study at. Application forms must be submitted in the autumn before the September in which you plan to start your LPC.

Selecting a law school

It is important that you make preliminary visits to the providers before deciding which law school to attend undertake your LPC or BPTC. Both these courses are typically completed in a year, which is not a great deal of time wherever in the country you decide to study the LPC or BPTC. You must consider what factors are important to you in order to select a law school which is right for you.

Reputation: The SRA regularly monitors the quality of LPC courses and assesses the teaching and resources at each institution. You should also speak to: friends, relatives, fellow students, colleagues, careers advisors, lecturers and greaduate recruiters of law firms to gain a sufficiently informed opinion on which law school will be the best place for you.

Location: The location of the law school and its proximity to your home can help you save on your costs. If you select a law school close to your home, if you live there, you are likely to be able to save a great deal on the costs because it is very expensive to live and study in London, whilst other cities are likely to be a fair bit cheaper.

Cost: Aspiring lawyers face the huge obstacle of financing law school; there is a great deal of financial constraints to funding a legal career, particularly for students without the financial support from parents or sponsorship provided by a law firm. The cost of attending law school must be factored in when you consider the cost of your studies, especially as course fees varying by insitution, you can expect to pay in the region of between £13,000 to fund the LPC. This is why it is so important to carefully research which institution's course fees are the most cost-effective, and plan a financial schedule to budget your year ahead.  

We advise students to view the cost of funding your legal career as a long-term investment and have the self-belief that you will reap an immediate return on this investment, once you get your training contract. On a brighter note, take it from us - it all became worthwhile once we started our training contracts and received our first monthly pay!  

* The post-graduate legal education market has benefited from another development; a number of law schools are topping the LPC up into a Masters in Law. In addition, BPP Law School and The College of Law have also been awarded the right to grant degree's to students who complete their GDL / LPC into an LLB.  

Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC)


It is now time to become a barrister; well nearly. The final hurdle to successfully complete is the BPTC, a one-year vocational course designed specifically to equip students with the necessay skills to prepare for life as a pupil barrister.  

The three essential areas of knowledge are: civil litigation and remedies, criminal litigation and sentencing, and the law of evidence. Professional ethics is also studied on the BPTC.  

The BPTC focuses on teaching seven core skills which is integrated into a teaching programme which focuses on practical skills and knowledge that bridges the gap between the study of law and the practical context of working as a pupil barrister. There are numerous qualities required of a barrister; and the skills covered on the BPTC provides a clear indication of where your strengths should lie. These are:  

  • Drafting - able to write clearly, concisely and coherently;
  • Advocacy - able to act as the mouthpiece of a client and represent their case in front of a court;
  • Legal research - analytical, an ability to see the bigger picture and a meticulous attention to detail;
  • Negotiation - able to reach a satisfactory conclusion based on several factors;
  • Conference - able to gather  and extract the salient information from clients and solicitors;
  • Fact management - able to retain and manipulate large volumes of information and detail; and
  • Opinion writing - able to forumulate strong arguments on paper and extrapulate options and advise the client on the best way forward accordingly. 

 

The course is demanding, but students inform us that it can be a lot of fun too. You will be doing numerous practical exercises and learning lots of new skills during the course; from drafting counterclaims to submitting that great closing argument. Various option subjects are also available during the the BPTC, and attending court is now a compulsory part of the BPTC, so there is a lot to be getting invloved in. And if you manage to find any spare time (it's possible!) utilise your time by making the most of the extra-curricular opportunities, such as mooting and advisory work. Extra-curricular activities will reinforce your CV and give you a feel for the law in practice.  

The BPTC has introduced changes to the course structure; the reforms include the introduction of a voluntary aptitude test to assess a students prospects of success at the Bar and a miminum requirement of a 2:1 degree. This entry test has coincided with a drop in registrations for the BPTC this year. Competition is intense as there are many more applicants than pupillages available: last year, there were 2,540 applications competing for 550 pupillages. A career as a barrister can be very satisfying but you should be aware before you start that it is a very competitive market. If you remained convinced that life practising as a barrister is really for you, you will need a great deal of tenacity and commitment in terms of the time and effort you invest in pursuit of your career goal.  

The Inns of Court  

Every would-be barrister must join one of the four Inns of Court - Lincoln's Inn, Inner Temple, Middle Temple or Gray's Inn (all based in London) - before commencing the BPTC. You can join during the academic stage but, if not, you must have joined an Inn by May in the year that you undertake the vocational stage of training.  

The Inns provide educational training and other supervision and support. In addition, before you can be "Called" to the Bar, you must attend 12 qualifying sessions at your Inn. Qualifying sessions involve collegiate and educational activities (often combined with formal dinners and social events) in the form of lectures, residential courses, debates and moots which offers the platform to meet and speak with practicing barristers and judges. Membership of the Inns also offers students library facilities, support for barristers and staff on hand to provide useful advice and guidance to student members, advocacy training and other continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities.  

Application for the course 

Applications for the BPTC course are made through the BPTC's centralised online application process, via the website: www.barprofessionaltraining.org.uk. It is not possible to apply directly to BPTC providers. Applications can be made from October in the year before you wish to start the BPTC i.e. the beginning of the final LLB/GDL year. Usually applications must be completed and submitted by early January, and offers will be made during March. Anyone not receiving an offer, or applying late, can also apply through the clearing stage which closes in July. The current timetable can be found on the BPTC website.

Overseas students hoping to apply for a place on the LPC should check the qualification is recognised by the governing body in the country they wish to practise in, as well as, the admissions at the institution they wish to study at.

All of the BPTC providers have been validated by the Bar Council to run the course and are monitored at regular intervals to ensure standards and resources are maintained. Points to consider when applying for the BPTC include where you wish to practise, whether you prefer to study alongside a large or small peer group.

Selecting a law school

It is important that you make preliminary visits to the providers before deciding which law school to attend and undertake your BPTC. You must consider which of the following factors are important when selecting a law school which is right for you:

Reputation: The Bar Standards Board regularly monitors the quality of BPTC courses and assesses the teaching and resources at each institution. You should also speak to: friends, relatives, fellow students, colleagues, careers advisors, lecturers and greaduate recruiters of law firms to gain a sufficiently informed opinion on which law school will be the most conducive place for you.

Location: Whether you know or like a particular city where the course is run; selecting a law school which is close to your home can help you save on your costs because law school is very expensive, especially in London, whilst other cities are likely to be a fair bit cheaper.

Cost: Aspiring lawyers face the huge obstacle of financing law school; there is a great deal of financial constraints to funding a legal career, particularly for students without the financial support from parents or sponsorship provided by a law firm. The cost of attending law school must be factored in when you consider the cost of your studies, especially as course fees vary by insitution, you can expect to pay in the region of £15,000 to undertake the BPTC. This is why it is so important to carefully research which institution's course fees are the most cost-effective, and plan a financial schedule to budget your year ahead.  

The Inns also provide a great deal of valuable financial assistance in the form of scholarships, awards and bursaries for the various stages of becoming a barrister. For more information on scholarships, awards and bursaries on offer visit the Inns websites. Financial assistance is limited. For details of loans for the BPTC on preferential terms visit the Bar council and the Inns of Court websites.  

We advise students to view the cost of funding your legal career as a long-term investment, and have the self-belief that you will reap an immediate return on this investment, once you get your pupilage. On a brighter note, take it from us - it all became worthwhile once we started our training contracts and received our first monthly pay! 

For those who succeed, a career at the Bar can be immensely rewarding, not only financially but also in terms of job satisfaction.  

*The post-graduate legal education market has benefited from another development; a number of law schools are topping the LPC up into a Masters in Law. In addition, BPP Law School and The College of Law have also been awarded the right to grant degree's to students who complete their GDL / LPC into an LLB. 

A Master's in Law - LLM's

After graduating, going back to the books to pursue postgraduate study remains a popular option for many people, but make sure your decision is for the right reasons, i.e. only undertake the LLM if it is something that you are personally interested in doing.  

LLM's are a good alternative for those who need more time to consider their career options; decide on their career path and the area of law that they are interested in, before submitting applications.Many students are uncertain about what they want to do once they have completed the LLB; some aspiring lawyers opt to do an LLM Master's, with the belief that an extra year will enhance their employability or help to map out a future career in law.  

The LLM is a demanding and intensive year of study. It will only be made easier if you have a keen and genuine interest in the area of the law that you study. A Master's in Law programme is structured around 12 months full-time or 2 two years part-time, and the course is usually taught in a similar way to the undergraduate course by a combination of seminars, lectures, tutorials and a final research paper, which helps to develop your analytical, research and communications skills.  

The LLM allows you to study an area of genuine interest and focus on a wide range of subjects in much greater detail, so you are likely to enjoy your Master's programme perhaps even more than any other period of study. For example, if corporate law appealed to you while at university, the LLM offers the perfect opportunity to explore a subject in greater depth. Indeed, if you decide to apply to a commercial law firm, enrolling in a relevant Master's programme will show employers that you have a long-standing commitment and interest in this area. Would-be barristers often undertake an LLM with the aim of adding specialisation to their knowledge-base. The aim being that, once they become established as a specialist in the legal community, they will be able to offer expert legal opinions on complex points of law.  

Does an LLM increase your employability? 
 

As the legal recruitment market has become extremely competitive, an LLM has emerged as an increasingly popular option for students hoping to gain an edge in the employability stakes. You must be able to promote the value of any postgraduate study to any law firm / chamber that you apply to, by showing how your qualification makes you an asset and be able to clearly showcase the value proposition to the prospective employer. An LLM may increase your marketability to prospective employers but not all law firms and chambers value the LLM qualification as much as your first degree. Law firms often say that they are more impressed by candidates who have secured a breadth of work experience in both a legal and commercial environment above an LLM, believing such work experience helps you to develop transferable skills and develop an understanding of legal practice and business. It is worth finding out from any prospective employers you are interested in, how well they regard the LLM qualification. Chambers also look for applicants with a range of useful work experience, such as internships at the European Courts of Justice, European Court of Human Rights, the European Commission and governmental departments. Although, an LLM can help you develop your portfolio of skills because it helps you to enhance your communication and legal research skills a great deal. For some students an LLM may lead to a career in academia, and because the LLM is taught largely by your own research, it will offer you an appropriate way to this career path.  

International LLM's


International LLM's are generally considered impressive to have on your CV by some recruiters, as they tend to consist of international travel and enhancing your language skills. There are lots of courses available and it may take some time to sit down and carefully plan what course to study. In the US, and Europe, application processes can be rigorous and complex. In addition you may want to identify any possible sources of funding. Postgraduate study abroad is costly, and more and more students are doing courses from home, using the internet and e-mail to cover the material.  

An LLM is not a panacea to automatically increasing your prospects of securing a training contract/pupillage. Notwithstanding, friends of Ultimate Law Guide completed LLM's and informed us that they believed it provided a competitive advantage in their search for their first jobs in law.  The decision to undertake further post-graduate study is something you have to carefully consider. Make sure you undertake an LLM for the right reasons; are you able to justify your reasons? Can you clearly explain what skills you have developed as a result of achieving this additional qualification? And how has the LLM increased your employability for a prospective employer?

Choose your course and your institution through careful and thorough research. The location of the institution and its proximity to your home can help you save on your costs. If you select a university close to your home, if you live there, you are likely to be able to save a great deal on the costs because it is very expensive to live and study in London, whilst other cities are likely to be a fair bit cheaper.