Roles such as that of a solicitor and barrister require specialist training and qualifications.
You can become a lawyer without a law degree but if you studied an unrelated subject at undergraduate level you'll likely need to complete some sort of law conversion course before taking on the SQE (solicitors) or a Bar course (barristers).
The route to qualify as a solicitor changed in September 2021 with the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE). Most new entrants to the sector will need to take the SQE (with the exception of anyone who completed, started, accepted an offer of a place or paid a non-refundable deposit on or for the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), Legal Practice Course (LPC) or training contract before the SQE was introduced in September 2021, for a time they may be able to choose whether they qualify via the LPC route or the new SQE route). More information on the SQE can be found here and more generally on qualifying as a solicitor here.
To become a barrister there are three components: the academic component, the vocational component and the pupillage or work-based learning component. To start the vocational component of training, you'll need to pass a postgraduate Bar Training course (formerly the BPTC), which tests your aptitude for critical thinking and reasoning. Before you can start the vocational component of qualifying as a barrister, you will also need to join one of the four Inns of Court: Gray’s Inn, Inner Temple, Lincoln’s Inn and Middle Temple. More information on becoming a barrister and understanding the different routes can be found on the Bar Standards Board website.
If you’re looking to gain experience
No matter the specific profession, working in the law and legal sector requires strong academic credentials, alongside a demonstrable interest and commitment to your chosen career. Employers will look for relevant work experience to accompany your academics. If you’re interested in human rights, voluntary work in the charity sector or in legal clinics will be useful. If a career in commercial law beckons, experiences that expose you to financial markets and big business can develop your commercial awareness.
If you’re early on in your career
Many solicitor firms offer Insight Days and vacation schemes. Vacation schemes usually take place in the second year of your law degree (or final year of non-law degree). Smaller firms may not advertise vacation placements, but you might be able to proactively organise your own. Governments, international organisations, courts, charities, and commercial companies frequently offer internships and traineeships related directly or indirectly to law.
Most barristers' chambers offer mini-pupillages. The principle is similar to vacation schemes but they usually last for a few days and are not formally advertised. Instead, students research chambers and apply directly.
While nothing can replace in-person experience, you might also consider virtual work experience and many firms offer this. LSE students can also access the virtual experience platform Forage.
If you have more experience
There are numerous places to gain further work experience, including:
- Extra-curricular activities: join the LSESU Law Society, take part in mooting, debating etc.
- Volunteering at Citizens Advice, Legal Centres or Pro Bono Clinics, charities or advocacy organisations
- Internships at charities or within the private sector
- Marshalling a judge or sitting/observing court
- Non-legal work experience – look at our list of examples
If you’re changing career
If you are already qualified as a barrister or solicitor, it is possible to cross qualify into an alternate profession by taking the required exams. Exemptions may be possible. Details can be found on the Solicitors Regulation Authority and Bar Standard Boards websites.
In most cases you will need to qualify in the jurisdiction in which you want to practice. Contact the firm or the national legal regulatory body to establish what qualifications are required. Most international law firms will expect an LLM.