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The Stages of Becoming a Lawyer

By Yann, published on 11/09/2018 Blog > Professional Development > Law > Becoming a Lawyer in the UK

“Lawyers have their duties as citizens, but they also have special duties as lawyers. Their obligations go far deeper than earning a living as specialists in corporation or tax law. They have a continuing responsibilty to uphold the fundamental principles of justice from which the law cannot depart.” -Robert Kennedy

If you were to ask any 7-year-old what they would like to be when they grow up they will most likely answer; a doctor, a fireman, a policeman, an astronaut, a scientist or a teacher. They may choose these jobs because they want to help people and be viewed as modern-day heroes.

It is extremely rare for youngsters to aspire to become a lawyer. This may be due to the fact that young children do not quite understand the work tasks of a lawyer. However, lawyers are modern-day heroes in Armani suits! Check lawyers salaries.

In today’s society lawyers are hated by the majority of citizens in the UK due to the fact that they cost an arm and a leg, take advantage of a person’s hard-earned income and have egos the size of the European continent! 

These stereotypes are often biased and discriminatory because many lawyers working today help the world become a better place. There are numerous lawyers working on environmental, human rights and criminal cases which all contribute to helping mankind.

If you have developed the aspiration of becoming a lawyer during the last few years of secondary school or are a working adult looking for a career change, Superprof is here to aid you through the stages of how to become a lawyer in the United Kingdom.

What Qualifications are Needed During Secondary School to Become a Lawyer?

learning during secondary school Secondary school is a great time to prepare for your future legal career. Choosing the correct A-Level subjects will set you up for success! (Source: Visual Hunt)

Starting to prepare for your future career at a young age, during secondary school, is essential for future success. Those who know what they will study at university are more focused, goal-orientated and organised.

Therefore, if you have decided during secondary school that you would like to study law at a university level you might be asking yourself a very important question:

What do I need to study during secondary school to reach my goal? 

Have no fear all of your concerns will be answered in this informative article!

What do I need to study during secondary school to reach my goal?

To obtain a law degree it is recommended to have studied a minimum of 2 A-Levels. However, 3 A-levels with A grades (8 or 7 as of 2017 in England) are preferable and more attractive for many law schools across the nation. In addition to the A-levels, you will also need 5 GCSEs with at least an A-C grade (8-4 as of 2017) in maths, science and English.

Although there is an A-Level subject to study in Law it is not required by law schools in the UK. Academic advisors and guidance counsellors will most likely recommend taking English literature and law as A-Level subjects, however, many past law students recommend taking English and History to refine your essay writing skills which are extremely valuable during law school.

Here are some other A-Level subjects to choose from if studying law is your calling:

  • Politics: thinking of defending politicians, corporations or presidents? It would be a very good idea to study politics at an A-Level to have a basic understanding of how things are done. Human-rights lawyers can equally benefit from this.
  • Critical Thinking: some courses and universities require applicants to pass the National Admissions Test for Law (LNAT). This A-Level subject helps students to interpret, analyse and evaluate ideas and arguments in various subject areas.
  • Maths: I know, I know we were not all born with the same mathematical capacities as Albert Einstein. Some of us struggle with this subject and want to offload it ASAP! Nevertheless, studying maths has a range of positive benefits that will help students during law school. For example, maths increase endurance for stress and pressure, develops confidence and self-esteem and sharpens concentration and observance. All of the aforementioned things are useful keys to becoming a successful lawyer.
  • Foreign Languages: French, Spanish, German or any other foreign language is recommended in order to keep your degree options flexible. For example, if you wish to specialize in international law or work in another European country it would be quite useful to be fluent in another language.

The choice is ultimately yours. These are just a few suggestions of subjects to study in order to acquire skills at an A-Level that will be of benefit in the future while you are defending cases in court.

It is important to note that subjects such as Physical Education, Art, Photography or Dance as one of the 3 main A-Levels may not be accepted by many law schools.

How Long Does it Take to Become a Lawyer During Post Secondary Studies?

fighting your cases Years of university training will give you the confidence you need when fighting a battle in the courtroom. (Source: Visual Hunt)

Before embarking on a future career path it is very helpful to know ahead of time how many years of your life you will dedicate to studying. Applying to law school to pursue the study of law is no piece of cake and needs to be thought out carefully.

Lawyers have the reputation of being some of the most well-read and educated professionals. 

In the United Kingdom, the legal profession is growing at an extremely fast pace. Some statistics published by the Law Society in 2017 show that there were 139,624 solicitors with practising certificates and 181,968 individuals in total on the Roll of solicitors. The number of solicitors with practising certificates was 2.5% higher than the previous year.

These statistics were registered last year and the trends show that there is no sign of slowing down in 2018. 

The increasing popularity of studying law in the United Kingdom has caused many people to question how many key stages are required and how many years it takes to become a solicitor or barrister.

Let’s now analyze the three key stages and how much study time is required.

Academic Stage

This stage can be met by obtaining a law degree as your first degree such as the Bachelor of Laws (LLB) that is possible to attain in many universities in the United Kingdom, The City University of London being one of them.

This Bachelor of Laws equips students with essential legal and academic skills to become successful in practising law. To acquire this degree 3 years of full-time study is needed.

The overall workload is divided differently throughout the 3 years with approximately 10 contact hours with a professor and 60 hours of directed reading and personal learning per week:

  • Year 1: 17% scheduled learning, 83% independent learning.
  • Year 2: 16% scheduled learning, 84% independent learning.
  • Year 3: 13% scheduled learning, 87% independent learning.

This course is very general and covers all the basics of law. If a student wishes to graduate with a degree in a specialized area of law, they can choose between 4 pathways such as Commerical Law, International Law, Human Rights or Professional Practice. This choice can be made at the end of your second year.

If you already possess a first degree in another subject and have decided to switch career paths, the Graduate Diploma in Law is recommended for you. It takes 1 year of full-time study instead of 3.

Vocational Stage

After your first graduation and successfully receiving your Bachelor of Laws, you can move onto the next stage of training. If you are intending to become a barrister in the future you need to study the Bar Professional Training Course and if you have plans to become a solicitor you need to take the Legal Practice Course.

Bar Professional Training Course

This course has been developed in the United Kingdom to help aspiring barristers receive the relevant legal skills and knowledge needed to succeed. Some of the subjects to choose from are pro-bono based which gives you real-life experience while studying. The course lasts one year of full-time studies.

Be aware that before applying for this course, applicants must apply for membership and be admitted at one of the four Inns of Court (Lincoln’s Inn, Gray’s Inn, Middle Temple and Inner Temple).

Legal Practice Course

This course is designed to prepare students and give them relevant practice as a trainee solicitor. The course is studied full-time for one year and the syllabus is divided into 2 stages: Stage One (September to February) and Stage Two (March to June).

During Stage One, the pupil studies the core, compulsory modules such as Business Law and Practice, Property Law and Practice and Litigation. Core skills are worked on to become more experienced in the field of law such as Advocacy, Drafting, Interviewing and Advising, Writing and Practical Legal Research.

Throughout Stage Two the student needs to pick between 3 elective modules. Some of the choices are Advanced Civil Litigation, Employment Law, Media Law, Mergers and Acquisitions and Private Clients.

Professional Stage

hit the books Lawyers are extremely well read and highly intelligent individuals. (Source: Visual Hunt)

In order to become a fully registered solicitor or barrister, a third and final stage of training practice is required.

For those wishing to become barristers, after completing the Bar Professional Training Course, the trainee needs to do a pupillage, where he or she learns from the qualified barrister they have been paired with. During this one year period, the aspiring barrister spends time as a student in barristers’ chambers or other areas approved that are part of the Pupillage Training Organization (PTO).

After this training, the young trainee is free to become a self-employed barrister or work in a law office as a qualified barrister. 

For those taking the other route and who want to become solicitors a different kind of professional training is required. Solicitors need to undergo a 2-year training programme. The Professional Skills Course (PSC) is mandatory if you want to become a professional solicitor. Some professional skills taught include communication skills, client care and professional standards. This programme equips future solicitors with the legal training and preparation they need in order to be successful working at law firms.

Now we know that there are 3 key stages to become a qualified lawyer. It takes a total of a little over 5 years (including the admittance to an Inn) to become a barrister and 6 years of training to become a solicitor. The future job opportunities are well worth the effort!

Which Skills Do I Need to Develop to Become a Successful Lawyer?

It takes time to develop all the needed qualities and skills to become successful in your ideal career. The best time to start is now!

a good lawyer A lawyer with good communication skills makes his clients feel at ease. (Source: Visual Hunt)

Here are some essential qualities needed to become a bankable lawyer:

  • Good communication skills: accredited lawyers are great communicators and highly intellectual. They use language that is precise and easy to understand. They can persuade a whole courtroom with carefully selected words.
  • Judgement: the ability to draw important conclusions from limited information is where a successful lawyer excels. You also need to point out weaknesses in the opposition’s argument and be able to make judgement calls very quickly.
  • Analytical skills: there is more than one way to skin a cat, litigators understand this quote very well because there are often many potential outcomes and ways to resolve a situation.
  • Research skills: preparing legal strategies requires a great length of research. Lawyers need to understand the strategies well and then explain them to their client in a simple way.
  • People skills: lawyers constantly work with people and the decisions they make affect people’s lives for the good or the bad. They need to offer the right counsel and win over prospective clients. They must be persuasive and be able to read others actions and thoughts in the courtroom.
  • Perseverance: just studying to become a lawyer takes a lot of time (5-6 years) and perseverance. When working on cases it may often take some years to see the end results. Perseverance is a quality needed for successful lawyers.
  • Creativity: creativity and thinking outside the box are essential qualities that some of the best lawyers possess. The solutions are not always simple, therefore, a fresh perspective is needed.

Legal education may take time but the possibilities of saving honest-hearted clients and preventing bad things from happening in this world are well worth the efforts!

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