How To: Become A Lawyer.

It’s no secret that I’m a lawyer in training. I pretty much mention it every 5.39 seconds because it’s the only thing I have going for me. It’s taken years of hard work and determination but my dream (and my parents’ dream) is coming true. And I’ve had quite a few people asking me how did I do it and what does it take to become a lawyer so I thought I’d write a blog post for those interested in finding out more about it as I went into it with not much information at all.

What is a lawyer?

In England, there are basically three main types of lawyers – solicitors, barristers and legal executives. And depending on what you want to do within law depends on which route you want to go down. Each professional branch has different roles and responsibilities and it all depends on your own personal strengths and abilities to which route you want to go down.

Solicitors mainly do work within the Magistrates and County Courts. Whilst there is a small amount of advocacy (speaking in court) that they do do, most of their work is preparatory or initial steps in the litigation process. For example, solicitors will be the ones who turn up to the police station when someone is arrested or will be the first port of call in civil cases (i.e. divorce or personal injury). Solicitors also partake in drafting legal documents, such as contracts and wills. Solicitors work mostly in firms.

Barristers’ main role is advocacy. The solicitors are instructed by clients and they brief the counsel (barristers) to represent their clients in court. They usually work within the Crown Courts and higher courts within the hierarchy. Barristers generally work within the criminal sector and are self-employed but work as tenants within chambers.

Legal executives are specialised lawyers who usually work within solicitor firms and focus on one area of law. Their areas of law are generally conveyancing or litigation.

There are other types of ‘lawyers’ but these are the main three branches in English law.

What does it take to be a lawyer?

Not gonna lie, you have to work your absolute ass off to become a lawyer. It takes determination, dedication and a hell of a lot of drive in order to pass the exams in the degree – let alone actually continue onto the next steps in the career. Look at it like this. I started uni with 350 students on my course and now, there’s about 35 of us graduating three years later. A law degree isn’t for everyone and it is stressful, it is demanding and it is hard work but it’s so worth it.

You don’t need to be the most intelligent genius to walk the planet. All you need to be is determined. My law degree wasn’t exactly hard to understand – most of it was just textbook learning – but there was so much to it, so many rules and so many more exceptions to those rules that you needed to learn that it was the sheer volume of work that became overwhelming at times.

I also think that you need to care and you need to fight for something you care about. 99% of being a lawyer in my eyes is being so passionate about what you’re fighting for that you put absolutely everything into it, doing your absolute best in order to get the result you want. And to become a lawyer, regardless of which branch you want to go down, you need to fight for your place – whether that be at university, Bar School, LPC, pupillage or training contracts. It’s a dog eat dog world.

What do you need to do academically to become a lawyer?

Everyone thinks that you need amazing top of the shop grades to even be considered as a lawyer, but this isn’t true. Yes, you need to do well. Yes, you need to get reasonably good grades.. but you don’t need to get three A*s in A-Levels and then a first degree in law. As long as you do your best, that’s all you can do.

Most universities that offer law teach the same syllabus so a degree is pretty much a degree whether you do it at Oxford University or your hometown campus. Most law firms or law schools want a minimum of a 2:1 but some offer places for 2:2 students depending on their work experience. To be a solicitor or a barrister, you do need a law degree, whether that is a full LLB law degree or a non-law degree and a qualifying GDL degree (conversion degree). And to be a solicitor, you need to progress onto the LPC course after your degree, whereas barristers are required to complete the BPTC or ‘Bar School’.

What do you need to do experience wise to become a lawyer?

Most law firms look for experience within any sector so long as you have some work experience. Being a lawyer is, to be honest, no different from any other job – they want you to have work experience as well as academic abilities. Before I finished uni, I went to tonnes of job interviews. They weren’t exactly for jobs I wanted to go into but I wanted to gain some ‘adult jobs’ interview experience to see what type of questions I would be asked and practice my answers. And, surprise surprise, most of the questions focused around jobs I’ve had before. I never once got asked about my best achievement at university. I never once got asked about a time I experienced a difficult situation at college. It was all about my work – part time work, voluntary work etc. You need to have work experience and the more relevant to law, the better. I volunteered in a county court throughout my second year and it was the main thing I was asked about. Even just doing a few hours a week made my application stand out from other applicants. And even now when I’m in the mist of applying for Bar School, I find the focus is more on my job now than anything else because I’m working in a law firm, dealing with 400/500 cases and seeing them through from start to finish. I’d say your work experience is as important as your grades. Most jobs within law for non-qualified students are voluntary but I guess law is one of those sectors where you get rewarded for what you put in – you might not get the rewards straight away but they will help you with adding experience onto your CV and provide you with contacts for your future career.

What is it like to be a law student?

It’s whatever you make it to be. If you completely ignore your studies and leave all your work until the night before your deadlines, you will be stressed, overworked (for one night a month) and won’t do as well as you could have done. But if you keep on top of your studies, you get to have chance to chill out and spend time with your friends too. One of the key qualities about being a lawyer is your organisation skills so if you start at university, you’ll continue to do it all the way through your career.

But it’s interesting – some of the cases you read about are wild. You get to learn about so many different areas of law, some you never even knew existed. You can choose your own areas in your final year depending on which university you attend. I got to choose medical law and then entertainment and media law. You can personalise your degree into something you are interested in. Don’t get me wrong, there are some boring topics that make it impossible to stay awake during lectures but swings and roundabouts, eh?

There’s lots of reading but there are so many resources out there that mean you can cheat and do minimal reading without losing out on the knowledge. I used to make reading fun by reading one case then doing something fun to reward myself. If you break it up, it’ll take no time at all.

And there’s the worst thing about being a law student.. the free legal advice. I’m constantly being asked to give legal advice. I’m like a walking talking citizens advice bureau. If it’s not employment contracts, it’s hypothetical scenarios about ‘how to get away with murder’.

Is a law career for me?

If you’re asking this question, it’s obvious you need to do more research into it. If you’re thinking of going into it from the criminal perspective, head to your local Crown Court and sit in on a trial. If you’re thinking of going it from a tort point of view, head to a solicitors firm and see if you can do a bit of shadowing over the school holidays. You don’t just get the feel for it by reading about it online. Ask people who actually work in the sector what it’s like – horror stories and all. It’s a huge, expensive investment and I’d only say to go ahead with it if you are 110% sure it is for you.

I want to be a lawyer. What are the steps?

To be a solicitor:

  1. Get a LLB law degree at university (three years) or a non-law degree (three years) and then a Graduate Diploma in Law (one year)
  2. Complete the Legal Practice Course (one year full time or two years part time)
  3. Obtain a training contract with a practising firm (two years) which is basically an ‘internship’ where you partake in day-to-day tasks around the firm and shadowing solicitors to see how it’s done until you get your own cases and ‘set free’

To be a barrister:

  1. Get a LLB law degree at university (three years) or a non-law degree (three years) and then a Graduate Diploma in Law (one year)
  2. Join an Inns of Court – they help you throughout your training but they are also the ones who will ‘call you to the Bar’
  3. Complete the Bar Professional Training Course (one year full time or two years part time)
  4. Complete a pupillage with a chambers (one year) which is split into two six month – the first you shadow a mentor barrister and the second six you get a small case load and represent in court on small cases and trials

I’m no expert in becoming a lawyer – I’m merely stating the information I’ve found out about on my journey to the career myself. But I thought it’d be a good idea to post this in case some of you are wanting to become lawyers or legal professionals!


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