If you want to become a barrister or solicitor but don’t have a law degree, a law conversion course is essential. The only requirement is that you already have an undergraduate degree.
If you do not have an undergraduate degree and want to study law then you should read our guide on law degrees.
Law conversion courses allow non-law students to convert to law after undergraduate study. Regardless of the subject gained in their original degree. Most law firms have a fairly equal intake of non-law and law graduates for solicitor roles. Although commercial barrister roles are more usually taken by law graduates.
But does it matter if your first degree is not in law? Not at all. More important than the subject of your first degree is the result you have achieved. Proof that you are able to apply yourself enough to obtain a 2:2 or greater is the only requirement. In Northern Ireland you need a 2:1.
There are a few acronyms that you’ll come across when looking at studying a conversion course in law. Finding a course can be confusing if you’re not familiar with the may acronyms. Here is a handy list to help you:
BPTC – Bar Professional Training Course
BVC – Bar Vocational Course
CPE – Common Professional Examination
GDL – Graduate Diploma in Law
LPC – Legal Practice Course
PDL – Postgraduate Diploma in Law (same as GDL)
Which Law Conversion Course?
There are two main options when it comes to conversion courses. The common professional examination (CPE) and the graduate diploma in law (GDL). Both courses broadly offer the same content as they are aimed at equipping you with the knowledge to start a career in law. It doesn’t matter which of the two courses you choose.
These courses are typically one year full time (two years part time or distance) and prepare you for further studies in law. Following the course this will either be the legal practice course (LPC) or the Bar professional training course (BPTC).
If you already hold a good degree (2:2 or higher), you should be able to take the course. A legal career might be something that has always interested you. A conversion course could provide you with the right qualifications that lead to an exciting, rewarding and often very well-paid job.
Why Study a Conversion Course?
Law is necessary to organise and maintain order within society. Studying law allows you to evaluate the nature of human relationships and broaden your general knowledge. Law as a career has the ability to improve the lives of others. Law degrees hold a considerable gravitas in both professional sectors and educational institutions. Studying a conversion course in law is the first step for graduates without a law undergraduate degree.
Once you complete the course, you can train to become a solicitor or barrister. You can also advise businesses on legal issues. Average starting salaries in Law sectors are usually higher than non-Law graduates. A newly qualified solicitor could earn in excess of £40,000, with salaries rising with experience.
What does the course involve?
The GDL will include seven core foundation modules. These will be common across all GDL / CPE courses regardless of the course provider. The foundation modules will usually be:
- contract law
- criminal law
- equity and trusts
- European law
- property / land law
- public law
- tort law
These are common for England and Wales. If you are studying in Scotland or Northern Ireland the foundation modules may differ slightly.
You will also be able to chose at least one more module which may be specific to the university. This can include topics such as legal ethics, immigration law and patent law.
There is a lot of course material to learn. However, if you have been able to achieve at least a 2:2 undergraduate degree this should not pose a problem. Of course good time management skills are essential.
In recent years mooting has become a common part of law courses. What is mooting? Mooting is kind of like debating. It involves the presentation and discussion of an hypothetical legal issue. Excitingly, it will be performed in a court like setting. Yes there will be an opposing counsel and even a judge.
Choosing a Course Provider
When choosing a university it is important to look at the rankings, course content and many other factors. When courses are identical though, as they largely are with theses courses, the decision becomes more difficult. Each of the major providers are generally regarded as equal too. This makes the decision even harder. With no technical differences to pick between, choosing one can come down to personal preference or location.
If you’re struggling to choose between a few courses then it is worth looking at the structure of the course. The way it is delivered can vary between universities.
If you’re looking at a higher ranked law school then you will need a high grade in your undergraduate degree. These institutions will receive more applications and they will be more selective based on first degree results. Work experience in and around the area of law may help if your grades are closer to a 2:2. Don’t let this get you down, the fundamentals of the course will be the same across all course providers.
If you are still struggling to decide then why not visit the institutions and check out the facilities.
Costs & Funding
Costs vary depending on the institution you want to attend. Fees range from £5,000 – £12,000, although the higher price band will usually be for international students.
It may be possible to have your studies funding by a law firm. If you already work at a law firm and are thinking of studying a GDL then it is worth discussing with your employer to see if this can be funded. Alternatively some law firms will sponsor future employees, so it is worth looking out for these opportunities.