Law degree requirements: everything you need to know

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 30 November 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Becoming a lawyer is a career choice that comes with a lot of prestige and a lot of responsibility. For obtaining a license to defend another individual or group in court, having a law degree is key. Knowing the years of practical training, formal education, sound knowledge of the law and other requirements that a law degree entrails can help you to decide if this challenging but rewarding path is right for you. In this article, we examine the various degrees in law, the skills to earn a law degree and law degree requirements

Related: How to become a solicitor

What are the law degree requirements?

Before you learn the law degree requirements, it's important to know that a lawyer is a trained professional who is knowledgeable about the law, its applications and interpretations. A lawyer defends the rights of citizens, residents, businesses, communities, organisations and aliens, by the constitution. Lawyers can also represent the state against lawbreakers to find justice. A lawyer can either be a barrister or a solicitor. While solicitors give legal advice and render assistance under the law outside the courtroom, barristers represent clients in a courtroom before a judge.

How to earn a law degree

Becoming a lawyer requires having various law degree qualifications. Follow these steps to learn what qualifications you require to study law:

1. Complete a law degree programme

The entry requirements for a law degree include a minimum of grade C passes in at least five GCSE subjects, including English. A-level subjects you require to study law are English, maths, history and political science. The Bachelor's of Laws degree, otherwise known as LLB (Hons), is a three-year undergraduate course for aspiring lawyers. An LLB degree prepares lawyers-in-training for the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE1) for solicitors or for the Bar Practice Course for barristers.

2. Earn a Certificate of Academic Standing

Another requirement to study law is earning a Certificate of Academic Standing from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) or the Bar Standards Board is one of the vital law degree requirements. The SRA awards solicitors, while the BSB awards barristers. This certificate lasts up to three months. A certificate of academic standing enables you to begin your graduate diploma course. This certificate also applies to individuals with a law degree in institutions outside of the UK. Exchange students apply for a certificate of academic standing before they can further their law education.

3. Get a graduate diploma in law

A Graduate Diploma in Law (also called the 'conversion course') is necessary, especially if you have your first degree in other disciplines. An undergraduate degree and proof of proficiency in English are two main law school requirements for a graduate diploma. The graduate diploma is also a one-year full-time course for law students. It can take part-time students two years (about 22 months) to complete the programme.

4. Complete the Legal Practice Course

The Legal Practice Course (LPC) is a one-year course for barristers and solicitors after having the LLB degree. When you complete the LPC, the next step is having mandatory recognised training for solicitors. This training typically lasts two years of practising and learning under the tutelage of experienced solicitors. While studying for a law degree, seek opportunities for hands-on training at law firms. You can also speak to your career adviser, practising lawyers or law professors for advice and career guidance.

Related: How to become a barrister

Responsibilities of a lawyer

The responsibilities of a lawyer depend on whether they're a barrister or solicitor and also what area of expertise they practise. Some duties of a lawyer include:

  • representing clients in court

  • advising clients on court proceedings

  • preparing or cross-examining clients for a court hearing

  • advising clients on legal rights, business law, marriage or divorce conditions and legal obligations outside the courtroom

  • preparing legal documents, including contracts, wills and leases

  • settling legal disputes out of court

  • researching previous cases, events and verdicts to prepare for a current case

  • selecting and overseeing legal assistants, including associates and paralegals

  • interpreting legal codes and regulations for individuals, groups or businesses

  • interviewing clients, witnesses, law enforcement officers and sources close to persons of interest in events related to an ongoing case

  • working with professionals in crime scene investigation, medical practitioners and other lawyers for information and expert knowledge on occurrences related to the case

  • ensuring that clients conduct themselves and their business by the law

  • identifying loopholes or inconsistencies in statements, confessions, client information and account statements

Salary for a lawyer

The average yearly salary for lawyers is £50,062, though your location may affect the amount you earn. The average salary for individuals with a law degree also depends on the industry, your experience and your area of specialisation. A legal counsel makes £48,382 per year on average, while a litigation associate earns £56,988 per year.

Related: FAQ: how much does a solicitor make? (With job information)

Skills required to be a lawyer

Having a law degree is vital to practising law. Besides having the qualifications to study law, there are various skills required to practice law for individuals and organisations. The following are some of the vital skills for a successful law career:

Excellent command of English

Becoming a lawyer requires a high level of proficiency in the English language or Welsh for lawyers in Wales. English is the official language for drafting legal documents, communicating with clients and representing clients. Being fluent in foreign languages can help you access legal documents in other languages related to the case and communicate better with clients who speak little English.

Articulate speaking skills

Being a lawyer requires the ability to speak rationally and clearly when addressing people or making a case. Applying this skill can help when interviewing witnesses, communicating ideas to colleagues or clients and defending a client in court. You can learn articulacy in advanced training or develop the skill while practising law.

Critical thinking

There are different sides to a story, and critical thinking can help lawyers determine fact from fiction. Having this skill is also essential in devising a strategy for winning a case or giving legal advice. Critical thinking can help lawyers analyse various aspects of an event, gather useful information and examine the validity of an argument before concluding.

Ethics

Lawyers aim to preserve the law by helping the innocent find deserved redemption while holding the guilty accountable. Practising law requires individuals to be law-abiding and to have a clean criminal record. Ethics can make lawyers operate in fairness to win cases and to help their clients find justice.

Attention to detail

Pleading a case depends on facts, but also on how well lawyers can prove their point. Lawyers interview individuals and groups of eyewitnesses, defendants and appellants inside and outside the courtroom. The ability to pay attention to gestures, main points in testimonies, confessions and statements can help lawyers find pieces of evidence to prove their point.

Research

Reading is an essential part of research and is a vital skill lawyers use to understand cases better. While some cases are common, others can be rare and may require thorough research to find all the facts and information to win the case. Lawyers request the assistance of a paralegal to help with research.

Related: 9 essential solicitor skills

Where can a lawyer find jobs?

A law degree is essential for a lawyer to work for individuals, organisations or businesses in various industries. They form an essential part of many organisations as they provide legal advice in different stages of a business. Sometimes clients temporarily hire lawyers who charge a fee whenever people require their services. Individuals or groups can also permanently hire lawyers to provide legal guidance inside and outside of the courtroom. Here are some places where you can find jobs with a law degree:

Health care

The health care industry comprises disciplines in medicine, pharmacology and fitness. These companies require help to interpret certain laws on research, testing, approving, producing and distributing medicine or performing a complex medical procedure. Lawyers ensure hospitals abide by state rules for practising medicine and running a business. They also advise pharmacology companies on producing drugs and supplements that meet health standards and assist experts in alternative medicine to function in accordance with the law.

Military

Lawyers can find work in the military as military lawyers. A job as a military lawyer requires the knowledge of general law and military law to operate in the required capacity. The army also encourages intelligent and ambitious barristers and solicitors to provide legal assistance on various subjects, including defaulting officers, war crimes and regulations on engagement during missions at home and abroad.

Business

Both small businesses and large corporations use lawyers to ensure that they operate lawfully and develop improved business solutions. Business owners require the expertise of lawyers from the idea conception stage to the execution phase. Lawyers can help businesses settle disputes or win cases in court. Organisations also use lawyers to settle cases out of court to avoid the story from getting to the public.

Engineering

The engineering sector specialises in innovative inventions and audacious approaches to solving problems. They involve their lawyers in their many activities to ensure that they operate by state laws. For instance, engineering companies in space technology or aeronautics seek special permission for testing various techniques and inventions. Lawyers help prepare the documents and give advice to facilitate these requests.

Please note that none of the companies mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

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