The term Lawyer in the UK can refer to either a Solicitor or a Barrister. A solicitor is a qualified legal representative who provides expert legal advice to clients (both firms and individuals). A barrister is (usually) instructed by a solicitor to act on behalf of the solicitors’ clients, representing them at the courts or tribunals.
The route to becoming a Solicitor or a Barrister also differs:
How to become a Solicitor:
There are three ways to become a solicitor:
- The most usual route is to obtain a qualifying Law Degree from university. This is followed by the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and then obtaining a “Training Contract” at a Law firm where your final step will be to pass the Professional Skills Course to be admitted as a Solicitor. The Law Degree typically takes 3 years, the LPC (full-time) takes 1 year and the Training Contract (full-time) takes 2 years although this is effectively training “on the job” by working in a law firm. Thus this route typically takes 6 years to complete, after which time you will be a qualified solicitor.
- If you have a degree other than Law, you can undertake the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) which takes 1 year (full-time) in order to effectively convert your degree into a law degree. You can then continue on the LPC and Training Contract route as above. Thus this route typically takes 7 years to complete.
- If you work in a legal office you can join the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) and study whilst in employment. There are entry requirements to join the CILEx, which include four GCSE’s. Qualifying by this route takes a long time because you will be studying and working at the same time and further requires the maintaining of CILEx approved legal employment.
How to become a Barrister:
There are two ways to become a Barrister:
- Obtain a Law degree at university, followed by the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and then 1 year as a pupil in barristers’ chambers or in another organisation approved by the Bar Standards Board as a Pupillage Training Organisation (PTO). The BPTC takes 1 year full time and thus this route typically takes 5 years.
- If you have a degree other than Law, you can undertake the GDL (Graduate Diploma in Law) and then carry on the Bar Professional Training Course and the year as a pupil in barristers’ chambers. This route typically takes 6 years.
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