Routes to becoming a lawyer

As is the case with many professional careers today, there is no longer simply one way to become a practising lawyer/ solicitor in the UK. However, the requirement for strong personal skills remains incredibly important to succeeding in the legal sector, with qualities such as motivation, a competitive attitude, effective communication skills and commercial awareness skills rated highly by firms. Yet, it’s crucial to remember that not all individuals will take the same path to qualification, and the journey must be tailored to each person’s strengths and preferences. Although we’ll be experiencing changes in how solicitors will qualify to practice law in the future with the introduction of the Solicitor’s Qualifying Exam (SQE) from September 2020, it’s important to fully understand the options currently available to you. In our blog this week, we’re addressing the different routes to becoming a practising lawyer and the options that are available to you prior to these changes.

Graduate route
Perhaps the most common route to qualifying as a practising solicitor is the graduate route.  Initially it starts with strong academic results at GCSE and A Level, allowing the individual to undertake an undergraduate degree in law. Once completed, many then choose to undertake a Legal Practice Course (LPC), a full-time year long course which is designed to bridge the gap between academic study and training in a law firm, before completing a Professional Skills Course (PSC) to become officially qualified at the end of a two-year training contract, joining 140,000 other practising solicitors in England and Wales.  However, options are also available for non-law graduates, who can undertake a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) as a postgraduate degree to help make the transition into law education and ultimately, qualification.

It is now also possible to qualify as a solicitor through an apprenticeship route. The overall duration of a solicitor apprenticeship programme will take between five to six years, although this may be reduced if exemptions from training are applicable. However, a minimum requirement for this route is five GCSE’s, including a C grade or above in Maths and English, three A Levels or equivalent with a minimum C grade, and also strong communication skills. The apprenticeship will consist of training both on and off the job as well as assessments of competence with the requirement to complete an SQE at the end of the scheme.  This is a particularly popular route for those who wish to follow an alternative pathway to Higher Education.

Paralegal route
Although it’s not a particularly common route, some firms recruit trainee solicitors through their talent pool of paralegals, particularly if they are law graduates. Although this is not a guaranteed route for progression or way to secure a training contract, it can offer valuable experience in the legal sector prior to qualification however you choose to get there.

A key consideration that has become more prevalent over the past several years is the choice between a CILEx course and the traditional LPC route to become a practising lawyer. A CILEx course allows individuals to complete their legal studies and achieve the title of a chartered legal executive. This still allows them to achieve qualified lawyer status, specialising in one to two service areas in comparison to solicitors, who have a broader range of training. However, participants do not have to complete a degree in law specifically for this course, potentially opening up a career in the legal industry to a wider audience who may not have considered working in this sector in the first instance.

Choosing a career in law no longer requires you to follow a set path and there are several options available to help aspiring lawyers to reach their professional goals. Whether individuals wish to undertake the traditional graduate progression route, an apprenticeship route or opt for a CILEx course instead of the traditional LPC, there will always be support available to you from Altior. If you wish to speak with us about becoming a qualified solicitor through our PSC course with online modules available, or to learn more about our CILEx courses, contact us today on: 02920 451 000 or email us at

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