How to become a lawyer without a law degree

Written by Kim Bailey, Careers Consultant

Haven’t studied Law but considering a legal career? Firstly you are NOT at a disadvantage! Legal careers are open to all degree subjects, and law firms value a diversity of thinking.

Secondly you need to have a good hard think about the question why you are interested in the Law? Would you like being a solicitor or a barrister? If you don’t know the answers to these questions yet it’s time to get down to some research…

  1. To begin with, useful resources to check out are and our Law for Non-Law Students Guide


  1. Start talking to people who work in the profession. Most people will say ‘but I don’t know any lawyers.’ Don’t panic! There are lots of ways to get in touch with solicitors and barristers:
  • Come to the Law Fair on Tuesday 13 November, and check CareersLink for other legal events! Meet recruiters to find out what they look for in their applicants and learn about the different types of firms. Law Fair Social Media Image 2
  • Log onto the Manchester Network. On here you can connect with and ask over 3,000 alumni questions about their jobs, and ask for advice. Some are even offering work shadowing or work experience. Don’t be shy, our alumni have signed up to help you and offer their support!
  • Build a LinkedIn account to start connecting with people. Once you have a profile, a good place to start is searching for the University of Manchester’s page and clicking on ‘See Alumni’. You can even find people who studied your degree and are now qualified lawyers!

Ask people you meet and connect with about their pathway to law, what work experience would be useful for you to undertake, and about the rewards and challenges of their jobs.

  1. Start looking for work experience
  • Volunteering is a fantastic way to start building experience. Start with the Volunteer Hub. Click on advanced search and either look to develop the skills you need to be a lawyer, or look by area of interest to help people in your local community, many of whom are vulnerable and need support.
  • Look for a few days, or a week’s work experience. Send off a tailored CV and covering letter to local, high street firms to ask for work experience. Be persistent and follow up your emails with a call a week or two later!
  • Once you’ve built up some experience (not forgetting valuable part time jobs, student societies, and other life experience), you can apply for more formal work experience, such as vacation schemes (solicitors) and mini pupillages (barristers).

After working through steps 1-3, if you’re sure that the Law is the right path for you, you currently need to undertake a one year Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), followed by either a one year Legal Practice Course (LPC) or the Bar professional Training Course (BPTC). This can either be self-funded (there are some scholarships and bursaries available at the institutions who offer the courses) or sponsored by employers up front, although the latter is very competitive. During and after the courses you can continue to apply for vacation schemes, training contracts (on the job training for solicitors) and pupillages (training for barristers).

However, the route to qualifying as a solicitor is changing, and the current courses will be phased out, and replaced by the Solicitor’s Qualifying Examination (SQE), from no earlier than 2020. If you start the GDL before the SQE is launched, you can still complete your training on the current route, as the two routes will run concurrently until the ‘old’ route is phased out. You may want to discuss this with the firms you meet on campus.

It’s a competitive career path which is in the midst of further changes, but with the right determination, perseverance and motivation it can be an extremely rewarding one.

Sign up for the Law Fair on Tuesday 13 November, 12.30 – 4pm at Manchester Central and visit the event’s Facebook page to keep up to date with what will be happening at the fair.



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