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How to become a lawyer

There are many careers within the legal profession, and each can have a different route to success. However, understanding the right path for you and your career could be a little daunting. But, with the right information and preparation you’ll be able to identify the right steps for you and make the most of your learning.  Below we explore the most important stages and decisions you’ll face in your journey to become a lawyer.

By Grant Longstaff. Published 26 June 2024.

Lawyers in the UK

First of all, it’s important to note that lawyer is a “catch all” term in the UK, meaning it doesn’t relate to a single career within the legal sector but many. The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the regulator of solicitors and law firms in England and Wales, points out that “lawyer is a general term used to describe people who provide legal services [and] has no defined meaning in UK law.”

That said, for many people, a lawyer can refer to either a solicitor or a barrister and we’ll explore the routes into both careers below. It's worth considering what it is you would like to do in the future, as the role you choose could mean a different path to qualification.

Don’t worry if you’re still undecided, depending on your education to date the final decision could be a little way off yet. There are other occupations too. You can explore a range of legal careers – including the work you’ll undertake and the skills you’ll need – on our Career Finder pages to help you decide what role is best for you.

What qualifications do I need to become a lawyer?

No matter whether you choose to become a solicitor or barrister you’ll need to study an undergraduate law degree, which is known as an LLB. In order to study a degree, you’ll need either A Levels, a BTEC (level 3), or equivalent qualifications. You’ll often require a GCSE in Maths and English Language at Grade C or above too. As a rule of thumb having studied some academic subjects, such as English, History, or Maths, could help, but many universities won’t necessarily look for specific subjects. It’s also worth noting you don’t need to have studied an A Level in Law either.

Each university will set their own entry requirements. If you’re considering one of our LLB (Hons) Law degrees for example, we would expect you to have a minimum of three B’s, or DDM if you studied a BTEC.

If you choose to study a subject other than law as an undergraduate degree, or you already have a degree and are looking for a change of direction, you could still pursue a career as a barrister or solicitor, but you’ll need to take a Postgraduate Diploma in Law (PGDL). A PGDL is a conversion course which provides you with the necessary legal knowledge on which to build your legal career.

Once you have your LLB or PGDL, you’re ready to pursue the pathways to become a barrister or solicitor.

Becoming a solicitor

Once you’ve completed your academic learning you’ll need to undertake the following steps to become a solicitor:

  • You’ll need to take the Solicitors Qualifying Examinations (SQE). The SQE is designed to test your legal knowledge and practical legal skills.
  • Once you’ve passed the SQE you’ll need to undertake a period of two years qualifying work experience (QLE).
  • After completing this, you can then apply for admission to the SRA.

You can find out more about becoming a solicitor on our career page.

Becoming a barrister

Once you’ve completed your academic learning you’ll need to undertake the following steps to become a barrister:

  • Choose and apply to an Inn of Court. There are several Inns, and each is a professional institution for barristers in the UK. You need to have a position with an Inn of Court before you…
  • Take the Bar Practice Course (BPC), a vocational stage of training which prepares you for working as a barrister.
  • After the BPC you’ll need to complete a one year pupillage. You’ll work in chambers under the supervision of experienced barristers, and this forms the final part of your training.
  • You will be called to the bar.

Find out more about becoming a barrister on our career pages.

How long does it take to become a lawyer?

It can be difficult to say with any certainty how long it will take to become a lawyer as it will depend on the path you take, the experience you have and how quickly you’re able to progress through the various stages of education and work experience. That said, it will likely take around five or six years of full time education, training and employment for you to register as a solicitor or be called to the bar.

No matter what career you choose you’ll never truly stop learning. You’ll undertake continuous professional development so you can stay at the very top of your game. You’ll need to evolve and adapt with the law, an important skill for any lawyer.

If you’re at the beginning of your legal journey this may all feel a little overwhelming so it’s best to take things one stage at a time. If there are aspects of your career you’re not sure of just yet, or stages which you feel a little confused by, don’t worry. You’ll slowly develop your understanding and knowledge of the profession from those around you. You’ve already taken your first step towards your goal; we believe you have what it takes to keep going.


Take a look at our range of undergraduate law courses and apply today.