Pathways to Legal Profession
Many of our students are aiming for a career as a solicitor or a barrister, or considering this as a possible option. All our LL.B programmes satisfy the degree requirements laid down by the Bar Standards Board and the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Routes to qualification as both a barrister and a solicitor, however, are changing.
Qualification as a solicitor: The Solicitors Qualification Exam
In 2017 the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) announced that it was introducing a new centralised qualifying exam – the Solicitors Qualification Exam (SQE). At the moment, the standard pathway to become a solicitor requires students to gain a qualifying law degree (or a degree in another subject followed by an accelerated law degree or a graduate diploma in law) before moving on to do the Legal Practice Course (LPC). Following this there is then a two-year period of training within a firm, called a training contract.
What might the SQE mean for you?
If you do not intend to become a solicitor, the SQE will have little impact on you at all – this includes those of you who intend to practise as a barrister. Since the implementation of the SQE, there will be a period whereby students who have already started their legal studies will be able to choose whether to qualify though the new route (the SQE) or the traditional one (via the LPC).
The SQE removes the need for a qualifying law degree. Instead you will need to:
- hold a degree (or equivalent qualification/experience)
- successfully complete both parts of the SQE (the SQE has two parts: SQE 1 focuses on legal knowledge and SQE 2 on practical legal skills)
- have 2 years' qualifying work experience.
Nonetheless, an LL.B Law Degree is an excellent first-step to becoming a solicitor: The SQE will require you to demonstrate knowledge of a wide-range of legal subjects, including those currently required to be taught as part of a qualifying law degree.
Qualification as a barrister: The Future Bar Training Programme
In 2019 changes to the rules around qualification as a barrister were approved, enabling the Bar Standards Board (BSB) to implement a scheme of reform called Future Bar Training. At the moment, the standard pathway to become a barrister requires students to gain a qualifying law degree (or a degree in another subject followed by an accelerated law degree or a graduate diploma in law) before moving on to do the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT). Following this you join an Inn of Court and complete the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). You will also then complete a period of pupillage (a 12 month training period usually spent in a barristers’ chambers).
Under Future Bar Training those three broad elements will remain:
- academic learning (knowledge of the Law itself);
- vocational learning (developing core skills such as advocacy) and
- pupillage (learning to be a barrister).
There will be, however, more flexibility in how prospective barristers complete these components with four approved training pathways.
What might Future Bar Training mean for you?
If you do not intend to become a barrister, then the introduction of Future Bar Training will have little impact on you at all – this includes those of you who intend to practise as a solicitor. For those of you who intend to practise as a barrister, students starting an LL.B Degree will qualify under one of the Future Bar Training pathways.
This will not, however, have a significant impact on the academic component of your training. The BSB has confirmed that this must continue to contain the existing seven legal foundation subjects and the skills associated with graduate legal work, such as legal research. An LL.B Law Degree remains, therefore, an excellent first-step to becoming a barrister.