Becoming a lawyer in the UK

Studying Law at Goldsmiths provides you with a wide range of skills and can help you on your journey to becoming a Lawyer in the UK.

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Lawyers in England and Wales are split into two categories: barristers and solicitors.

Barristers and solicitors require different qualifications and advise clients on different cases and at different stages of the legal process.

Solicitors

When someone says they’re going to see their lawyer, they’re usually referring to a solicitor. Solicitors are generally the first point of call for clients as they offer legal advice, prepare the necessary paperwork and communicate with others involved in the client’s case.

Solicitors deal with a wide range of issues such as providing expert guidance on things like buying and selling houses, drawing up wills, and dealing with relationship breakdowns. They also help businesses with the legal side of commercial transactions, advising people on their rights, undertaking legal aid work, and representing clients in the lower courts like County Court or tribunals.

Some solicitors with specialised training can also represent their clients in the higher courts such as the Crown Court.

Becoming a solicitor

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has introduced a new system for qualifying as a lawyer – the Solicitors Qualifying Examination or SQE – that is coming into effect on 1 September 2021.

Goldsmiths is one of the first Law Schools in the UK to embed elements of SQE preparation into the LLB, requiring no additional fees from its students. We offer a bespoke SQE module in Year 3, integrate SQE1 workshops delivered by solicitors in relevant modules in all years of the LLB and provide our students with invaluable opportunities to develop the professional skills assessed at the SQE2. To find out more about the unique ways in which we support your preparation for the SQE, read here.

The SQE consists of two parts. SQE 1 focuses on legal knowledge, while SQE 2 focuses on the practical legal skills you’ll need as a practising solicitor, and we will provide you with a solid foundation in both. By the time you graduate from Goldsmiths, you will be well familiar with the key themes, and assessment methods, that are part of the SQE. You will still most likely need to spend a short period of time in a professional short-term programme that will provide you with the more intense final preparation required to sit the SQE. We will advise you about the available providers and facilitate your transition from the LLB to their programme.

To get quickly to grips with how the new SQE will operate, see the infographics prepared by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) here, which include what becoming a solicitor will involve, what the assessment covers, how qualifying work experience works and provide information on sitting the SQE. Or read in more detail here.

Barristers

When a case needs to go to court, a solicitor will instruct a barrister to advise about the law or go to court to represent the client.

Barristers develop legal argumentation before a jury about the facts of the case, and to judges about the interpretation of legal rules and their application to evidence and other issues affecting trial processes and the outcome of a case. 

Barristers are highly trained in the art of advocacy and often deal with serious and high-profile court cases. 

Advocacy is when a lawyer puts forward an argument to a court with the aim of persuading the court to come to a decision favourable to their client.

Becoming a barrister

There are three stages to becoming a practising barrister in England and Wales once you’ve completed an LLB law degree.

  • You’ll need to become a member of one of the four Inns of Court. The Inns of Court are professional associations for barristers who have the sole right to call qualified students to the bar.
  • You’ll have to complete the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).
  • You’ll have to complete a year of vocational training, which is often called pupillage.

If you’re aiming for a career at the bar, you’ll find plenty of opportunities to hone the essential skills you’ll need to represent clients during your studies at Goldsmiths. Option modules like Criminal Evidence will complement the insights from legal professionals, and visits to courts to see advocacy in practice, that are built into your degree from the beginning.

Other career paths

Law is a strong foundation for a range of professional careers. Goldsmiths’ focus on multidisciplinarity and giving students access to a varied network of professionals will enable you to pursue opportunities in other areas such as human rights and the third sector, the civil service, journalism, media and creative industries, art and cultural heritage litigation or government positions.

Make the most of the opportunities here...to complete mini-pupillages, work pro-bono for London law clinics, and be given mock trial experiences in the Royal Courts of Justice.

Olivia, LLB Law

Olivia, LLB Law