Becoming a Lawyer
The City Law School provides you with information about the training you need to undertake to become either a solicitor or a barrister. This section gives you an insight into about the world of law and the type of work lawyers undertake on a daily basis.offers an extensive range of support for students at every stage of your legal training.
There are three key stages to becoming a lawyer in England and Wales:
This can be met by obtaining a qualifying law degree as your first degree, including the LLB (Hons). Or, if you have a first degree in a different subject, you can qualify by taking either the Graduate Diploma In Law, or the two year Graduate Entry LLB at City.
Once you have satisfied the academic requirements, you need to undertake a programme which provides the required legal skills training. This is met by taking the Bar Vocational Studies (BVS) programme for intending barristers, or the Legal Practice Course for intending solicitors.
In order to be registered as a fully qualified barrister or solicitor, a further stage of training in practice is required. For barristers, this involves twelve months of pupillage, while for solicitors a two year training contract must be undertaken.
The rules governing admission to practise law vary from country to country. If you want to take a course in law at The City Law School as a step towards becoming a lawyer outside England and Wales, before applying to us you need to check with the appropriate body in the country in which you wish to qualify/practise that our programmes will be acceptable for this purpose and that they include all the specific subjects required by that body.
Becoming a Solicitor
To become a fully qualified solicitor and practise in England and Wales, you will need to complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC).
The Legal Practice Course (LPC) is part of the required training for qualification as a solicitor of England and Wales, and follows completion of the required academic stage of training. The Programme is taught at Master's level, and its structure and content fully meet the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) requirements.
On completion of the LPC, a training contract must be completed, lasting two years if done full time or four years (on the basis of two and a half days per week) part time.
The training contract stage is a period of practice-based training to obtain practical experience and learn how to apply the skills developed on the LPC. It is most often undertaken in a solicitors' firm although other options are available such as in the in-house legal department of a local authority or company. At least three areas of law will be covered during this time, with the trainee spending a sustained period (usually known as a "seat") on each. Trainees will deal with clients and learn how to handle their own cases but will be closely supervised.
This is an opportunity for a law firm to assess your potential as a solicitor in their firm. What you learn during your training contract will depend on the type of firm in which you train and the solicitors who supervise you.
You will also need to undertake the Professional Skills Course (PSC) in order to fully qualify as a solicitor. The PSC aims to ensure you have gained the appropriate knowledge and skills, and requires the equivalent of 12 days of full-time attendance plus some assessment, and covers advocacy and communication skills, financial and business skills, and client care and professional standards. It will build on material already covered in the LPC.
Applications for a training contract are made directly to the law firms you are interested in applying to
The City Law School understand the importance of obtaining a training contract and provide support to all LPC students via the Training Contract Advisory Service (TCAS), a specialist team of LPC tutors, who will help you with the process of identifying suitable firms and applying to them, as well as providing help and advice on interview skills.
Once these requirements have been fulfilled and certified, you can apply to the Master of the Rolls to be "admitted to the Roll" i.e. join the list of all solicitors of the Supreme Court. This will then allow you to apply for a practising certificate as a solicitor.
Solicitors represent the largest sector in legal employment. In addition to the big national and international firms, there is a wealth of small to medium sized practices, at local, regional and national level. The variety of work will depend on the type of firm you choose to work for, but in general a solicitor will have excellent organisational, interpersonal and communication skills and a flair for problem-solving.
The main working activities of a solicitor include:
- Meeting clients (this may initially involve establishing whether the support or advice wanted can be provided)
- Advising clients on the law and taking instructions
- Drafting and reviewing documents and contracts and analysing information
- Negotiating with clients or others
- Undertaking research to ensure that accurate advice is given and that procedure is followed correctly
- Acting on behalf of clients and sometimes representing them in court
- Instructing barristers to provide representation in court and attending court to sit behind the barrister
- Keeping up to date on changes and developments in the law by reading and attending courses
Becoming a Barrister
Following completion of a qualifying law degree or GDL/CPE, you will need to complete the vocational stage of training (at City this is provided by the Bar Vocational Studies (BVS)) and pupillage. Barristers need to have good powers of persuasion, whether oral or written, and to be able to explain complex issues so that their clients, members of a jury or other non-specialists are able to follow the argument clearly.
Most barristers are self-employed, but work in groups in what are known as "sets" of barristers' chambers, sharing premises and support services. These sets will often specialise in just one or two main areas of the law and will look to develop a reputation in that field which will attract further work. Approval by the existing members of a set for another barrister to join them is known as obtaining tenancy.
Tenants in a chambers have to contribute to the cost of running the chambers, from their earnings and they don't receive a monthly salary, or sickness or holiday pay, relying instead on their personal earnings to pay for their upkeep both in chambers and at home. A smaller number of barristers are employed by a company or a law firm - this group is known as the "employed Bar" (as opposed to the "self-employed Bar").
After completing the academic stage of training (the LLB or GDL/CPE), you will need to complete the vocational stage of training to obtain the required set of legal skills - this can be done by undertaking one of the following programmes at The City Law School:
- Bar Vocational Studies (Full-time)
- Bar Vocational Studies (Part-time)
- Bar Vocational Studies (Two-part)
In order to undertake one of these programmes you are also required to join one of the four Inns of Court as a student member and undertake 12 qualifying sessions. Each Inn offers students support through the vocational stage of their training, this usually includes access to a library, mooting societies, educational support and the opportunity to network with other barristers. The Inns also offer scholarships to help pay for the programme. The deadline for applications to join an Inn is normally the end of May in the same year that you begin the BVS.
The four Inns are:
- Lincoln's Inn
- Inner Temple
- Middle Temple and
- Gray's Inn.
At present, on successful completion of the BVS and the Inns qualifying requirements, you will be ‘Called’ to the Bar and will be able to describe yourself legitimately as a barrister. However, you will also need to complete pupillage before you can practice.
The final stage of qualifying as a barrister is pupillage, undertaken at a set of barristers' chambers or another approved legal environment - this is split into two periods of six months each, known as the "first six" and "second six". Pupillage must be started within five years of passing the vocational stage of training.
During the pupillage "first six" you will be assigned a pupil supervisor (one of the barristers) whom you will observe and assist. If you complete this period satisfactorily you will be given a certificate which will allow you to work on your own during the "second six". During that time you will start to take on cases and clients of your own and may represent them in court.
For pupillages starting on or after 1 September 2021, a new compulsory course in Negotiation will be introduced as well as a compulsory course in Advocacy which you will be required to undertake in the non-practising period of pupillage (your “first six”). You will also be required to undertake a centralised assessment in Professional Ethics during your pupillage/work-based learning stage of training.
Once you have completed your pupillage you will be eligible for tenancy (a permanent place in a set of chambers). There is no guarantee that you will be taken on in the chambers where you undertook pupillage (this can also sometimes be two different sets for the first and second sixes) but you may also have made other contacts during the pupillage period which will help you to find a permanent place.
You can apply to pupillage opportunities via The Pupillage Gateway - the online application system for pupillage. All vacancies will be advertised on the Pupillage Gateway, and approximately 100 chambers will require you to apply through the system which is operated by the Bar Council.
The City Law School provide students with extra support and guidance via the Pupillage Advisory Service, with events and workshops focused on gaining pupillage, and support to help you to identify and apply to sets of chambers suitable to meet your career aspirations.
Applicants to the City’s Bar Vocational Studies (BVS) can access the Pupillage Advisory Service as soon as they are offered a place on the programme.
Barristers perform two key roles: they represent their clients in court and provide specialist legal advice on a particular area of law. The choice of your specialist area will influence how much time is spent in court and how much providing advice. Criminal law, for example, is more likely to involve court cases while chancery law, which covers areas such as business law, trusts and probate and company law, is more likely to require written opinions. The main working activities of a barrister include:
- Understanding and interpreting the law and keeping up to date on changes and developments in the law
- Reading legal briefs (details of a case) and getting to grips with them
- Researching points of law relevant to a case
- Preparing cases for court
- Presenting arguments in court and examining and cross-examining witnesses
- Drafting legal documents
- Negotiating settlements
- Writing opinions and advising solicitors and other professionals.
Qualified lawyers are much in demand, not only in practice as a solicitor or barrister, but also in the worlds of commerce, finance and government.
Even for those who ultimately choose not to qualify, the intellectual skills and knowledge acquired while studying for a law degree will stand them in good stead in a wide range of potential careers. The skills training provided by the Legal Practice Course and the Bar Vocational Studies (BVS) is also highly transferable to other areas of employment.
For those who do wish to become practising lawyers, there are many areas to choose from - the details below cover some of the main categories but are by no means exhaustive. Since the majority of barristers work on a self-employed basis most of the categories described below relate to employment as a solicitor, although some do also provide opportunities for qualified barristers.
This is the name given to a small group of very large, high-profile law firms who specialise in corporate or financial legal practice and operate in the international arena with branches in a number of countries around the world. They are seen as prestigious employers and are able to provide funding and training contracts on a large scale and to pay high salaries to their recruits. Life in this sort of firm will not be for everyone.
These firms are also high-profile, particularly those based in London, and will also tend to specialise in commercial and business-related law, often on an international scale. They are also in a position to offer large numbers of training contracts and to pay good salaries (higher in London than elsewhere) and will demand a great deal from their staff. Working life in the regions is likely to be a bit less frenetic than in a big firm in London.
These are smaller firms with branches in a number of different parts of the UK, often in the major cities. They will cover a wider range of areas of the law.
These are law firms which specialise in a particular area of practice such as entertainment, intellectual property, family law etc.
These will vary in size between small firms with a number of partners and sole practitioners. They will cover a wider range of types of law, most usually family and matrimonial, criminal, landlord and tenant, employment, personal injury, and wills and probate. They may be able to offer a small number of training contracts each year, or just the occasional one if someone leaves.
A sizeable number of solicitors work for local authorities and in some cases training contracts are also available. The work will involve providing legal advice to the range of departments within the local authority and can therefore cover housing, planning and environmental law, childcare, education, prosecution work and so on. This type of work may appeal to those attracted to the public sector and also provides a good base for transfer into other areas later on.
The Government legal service employs a number of trainees each year. The work covers the range of Government departments (for example, Trade and Industry, Health, Environment, the Home Office) and may involve advising Ministers or drafting new legislation as well as litigation.
There are about 60 Law Centres in the UK, operating either as registered charities or not-for-profit organisations, and providing free legal advice to the public. Funding comes from the Government through local government grants and payments from the Legal Services Commission (which also funds a number of training contracts each year). The work will be very socially oriented and will cover areas such as immigration, disability, employment and housing.