If you have a passion for justice and an interest in the legal system, pursuing a law degree in the United Kingdom may be ideal for your career goals. Not only is the UK renowned for its diverse and rich legal tradition, but its universities also offer an outstanding education in multiple aspects of the law. This article outlines what you need to know about studying law in the UK.
Different Types of Law Degrees in the UK
The field of law offers several different types of degrees catering to various interests, specialties, and career objectives.
- Undergraduate Law Degree (LLB): Typically lasting three years in England and Wales or four years in Scotland, this foundational degree exposes students to core areas of law, honing analytical and critical thinking skills.
- Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL): For those who hold a non-law undergraduate degree, the GDL allows them to switch fields and pursue a legal career, with courses typically taking one year full-time or two years part-time.
- Master of Laws (LLM): This postgraduate degree, lasting one or two years, provides an opportunity to specialize in a specific area of law, with many options like human rights, intellectual property, or international law.
- Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Law: Those looking towards an academic career should consider completing a PhD in law which usually takes a minimum of three years of research and writing on a unique topic.
Online Versus Traditional Law Degrees in the UK
While traditional brick-and-mortar institutions remain popular, online law degrees are gaining traction for their flexibility and accessibility. Some online law degrees in the UK allow you to complete your studies entirely remotely or through a mix of online coursework and on-campus sessions.
Both options have pros and cons: traditional institutions often provide networking opportunities, internships, and face-to-face interactions, while online options offer convenience for students with jobs or families. The best choice depends on individual schedules, priorities, and resources.
Qualification Requirements and Admissions
Admission to undergraduate law programs generally requires meeting specific qualification requirements. This includes having completed secondary education equivalent to the standard expected for UK high school graduates.
- A levels: England, Wales, and Northern Ireland applicants would need at least three A-Level passes in subjects like history, English literature, and philosophy.
- Highers and Advanced Highers: Scottish applicants must obtain five Highers and two Advanced Highers, including humanities and social science subjects.
In addition to academic qualifications, international applicants may need to take the International Foundation Year (IFY) designed to prepare students for entry into UK universities. Proficiency in English is also crucial with TOEFL and IELTS exams widely accepted by UK universities as proof of language proficiency. Specific exam score requirements vary among universities, so it’s essential to research each institution’s policies and standards.
Becoming a Qualified Solicitor or Barrister
Once you’ve earned your undergraduate law degree in the UK, you’ll need to qualify as a solicitor or barrister before practicing law.
Steps to Become a Solicitor
- Complete an LLB degree or a non-law degree followed by an GDL conversion course.
- Pass the Legal Practice Course (LPC) that increases practical skills needed for your career as a solicitor. The course lasts one year full-time or two years part-time.
- Secure and complete a Training Contract at a law firm. This is typically a two-year period of paid practical experience that covers multiple aspects of law before qualifying as a solicitor.
Steps to Become a Barrister
- Complete an LLB degree or a non-law degree followed by a GDL conversion course.
- Undertake a Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) lasting one year, focusing on advocacy and other courtroom-related skills.
- Complete a mandatory pupillage – a one-year training period spent working under an experienced barrister, divided into two six-month periods called “sixes”.
Both solicitors and barristers must also join professional organizations: the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the General Council of the Bar, respectively.
Funding Your Law Studies in the UK
Costs to consider when studying law in the UK include tuition fees, living expenses, books, and transportation. Students may apply for various scholarships, bursaries, grants, or loans depending on individual eligibility and financial needs.
- Tuition Fees: These vary significantly between universities and depend on whether you’re an EU/EEA citizen or international student. Undergraduate tuition fees generally range from £9,000 to £14,000 per year, while postgraduate fees can reach up to £27,000.
- Living Expenses: Accommodation, food, and leisure costs typically amount to around £10,000 to £15,000 per year.
- Funding Options: Many universities offer scholarships, bursaries or grants based on merit or need. Additionally, UK citizens may be eligible for government-funded maintenance loans and tuition fee loans through Student Finance England.
The Value of Studying Law in the UK
Ultimately, pursuing a law degree in the United Kingdom can provide an unparalleled advantage in your legal career, whether you intend to practice law within the UK or internationally. Among the benefits are exposure to a revered legal system, access to prestigious institutions, and opportunities to specialize in various aspects of the law. The process may seem daunting, but with dedication and determination, a successful career in law could be well within reach.