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How to become a lawyer without a law degree

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Ever fancied yourself as a lawyer? Just because you haven’t done a law degree doesn’t mean you can’t go in to law. In fact, most law firms are keen to welcome trainees from a variety of degree backgrounds.

About half of trainees at most magic circle firms, don’t have law degrees. One firm, Slaughter and May employ solicitors who studied 126 different degree courses. Linklater’s also say that they only look at a candidate’s grades, not at what they studied, when screening applicants.

So how do you actually get in to law without studying law at university?

Students with a non-law degree, will need to take a conversion course, the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). The GDL is a year-long condensed course which covers the seven core foundation subjects that are prerequisites for the LPC (Legal Practice Course – for aspiring solicitors) and BPTC (Bar Professional Training Course – for aspiring barristers).

Peter Crisp, Chief Executive and Dean of BPP Law School, says that if you do the GDL “you get the best of both worlds” – you are able to come to the course with graduate skills, and so are already equipped in knowing how to study, allowing the GDL to be taught in such an intensive way.

The good news is that most city law firms pay for the full course fees of the GDL and the LPC, so your dream of becoming a lawyer won’t leave you out of pocket. On top of this, most law firms are now offering maintenance grants of up to £8,000pa in order to fund yourself through your studies. So if you’re lucky enough to land a training contract, studying to become a lawyer won’t hinder you in any way financially.

Gaining work experience

If you are a non-lawyer who’s interested in going in to law, there are a variety of things you can do to show your interest in law which is vital for applications and interviews.

Most law firms allow non-law students to apply for work experience just as law students can. Apply for vacation schemes and if you’re struggling to find out which firms offer these, ask your law society for help – as most have non-law represents who are willing to help. Don’t be afraid to ask around at local solicitor firms for work experience, or if this fails you, offer to volunteer at your local citizens advice bureau. This is a great way to gain some transferable skills.

Extra-curricular activities

Most university law societies run pro-bono schemes. This is a really good way to begin to familiarise yourself with legal advisory work. You will also be able to get involved with mooting (mock trials) through your law society, which will give you the opportunity to exercise advocacy skills. For mooting competitions at the University of Sheffield, keep your eye out for messages on the Edward Bramley Law Society Facebook group.

And don’t worry – any interesting extra-curricular activities or volunteer work that you’re involved with at university will still be regarded highly by employers.

Are you a non-law student who is now in the legal industry? We’d love to know about your experiences below!

Photo: bvi4092 / Flickr

Jessica SmithHow to become a lawyer without a law degree

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