This section highlights how you can qualify and progress your career in law without necessarily going down the traditional university route.
Non-university routes to qualifying in law
If you are interested in pursuing a career in the law, there are a variety of roles you could consider, many of which offer flexible entry points and career progression opportunities.
For example, there are a range of legal apprenticeships available, such as those listed below, as well as courses which don't require a degree and lead to a professional qualification in law.
Scroll down for information on apprenticeships and alternative legal qualification routes.
The solicitor apprenticeship is aimed at post-A-level students and non-law graduates as well as those with existing experience and skills, such as paralegals and chartered legal secretaries. It is also a route you could consider taking as part of a career change later in life, balancing work and study with other commitments.
You don't have to hold an undergraduate degree to apply for a solicitor apprenticeship and so if you can't, or don't want to, go to university, its an ideal way to qualify as a solicitor.
How does it work?
The standards expected of apprentice solicitors are the same as those expected of all solicitors, and at the end of your apprenticeship you will have to successfully pass the SQE assessments.
The apprenticeship is structured around you spending approximately 80% of your time working and 20% studying. You will be learning on the job and earning money while you gain your qualification.
An advantage of qualifying through this route is that you don't have to pay for your training or the cost of the SQE assessments and completion of the apprenticeship gives you a Level 7 qualification - a law degree and LLM (Masters) - without the accumulation of debt that going to university usually entails. The work you do in your job will count as qualifying work experience (QWE) when you come to apply to the Solicitors Regulation Authority for admission to the Roll of Solicitors.
How long does it take to qualify?
A solicitor apprenticeship takes 5-6 years to complete, enabling you to earn as you learn. The period of study is reduced for those who progress from other legal apprenticeships.
What are the entry requirements?
Entry requirements for a solicitor apprenticeship vary depending on who the employer is and what they are looking for, however, the recommended minimum requirements as set out by the Institute for Apprenticeships are:
5 GCSEs, including mathematics & English - grade C or above (or equivalent);
3 A Levels (or equivalent) - minimum grade C. And / or:
Relevant employer- led work experience;
Level 3 Advanced Apprenticeship in a relevant occupation - Business Administration, Legal Services, Providing Financial Services;
Level 4 Higher Apprenticeship in a relevant occupation - Legal Services, Professional
Services, and Providing Financial Services (may be entitled to exemptions from training);
Paralegal Apprenticeship (may be entitled to exemptions from training);
Legal Executive Apprenticeship (may be entitled to exemptions from training);
Law Degree/ Graduate Diploma in Law / Legal Practice Course (entitled to exemptions from training)
Graduate solicitor apprenticeship
If you already have a law degree or have completed the GDL, you could consider qualifying through a graduate solicitor apprenticeship.
You will still need to successfully pass both of the SQE assessments but your training will generally be between 2-3 years allowing you to earn money while you are pursuing your qualification.
An advantage of a graduate solicitor apprenticeship is that not only are you learning in a live environment while your employer covers the cost of your training and SQE assessments, your work should fulfil the QWE requirement for admission to the Roll of Solicitors.
In addition to working and earning a salary, 20% of your time will need to be spent studying, which might mean you work four days a week and have a day a week set aside for study, or you could be allocated blocks of study time.
Solicitor apprenticeship guidance
If you are interested in learning more about qualifying through this route, the websites below provide further guidance on solicitor apprenticeships.
Where can I find a solicitor apprenticeship?
You can find these roles in large City law firms and large corporations such as the BBC, alongside government departments and smaller firms. You can also choose to do a solicitor apprenticeship through a participating law school with industry links.
Solicitor apprenticeships are growing in number. A City of London Law Society (CLLS) initiative - City Century - for example, is a collaboration between over 50 City law firms to significantly increase the number of solicitor apprentices entering the City of London. The aim is that by 2040, there will be least 100 new Partners who will have come through the solicitor apprentice route.
In addition, the websites listed below are a good place to start if you are looking for an apprenticeship.
Depending on what you are seeking, useful search terms include case administration, conveyancer, compliance and risk, chartered legal executive, legal, paralegal, probate, solicitor.
The CILEX route to qualification
CILEX offers various non-university and career change routes into law, with flexible entry requirements.
Through their apprenticeships and CILEX Professional Qualification (CPQ), there are opportunities to earn as you learn through distance learning.
For example, the CPQ offers a progressive training programme which you can start from school leaver age or as a non-law graduate and work your way up to qualified CILEX Lawyer status depending on how far you want to go. There is also a fast-track option called the CILEX Graduate Qualification (CGQ) for those who already have a UK law degree or law conversion course.
Successful completion of CPQ Foundation qualifies you as a CILEX Paralegal. If you want to continue training, you could then go on to CPQ Advanced stage to qualify as an Advanced Paralegal, and finally CPQ Professional stage to qualify as a CILEX Lawyer.
Use the links below to find out more about the CPQ and CILEX Graduate Qualification.
Alternatively, you could consider a CILEX Apprenticeship.
CILEX offers three apprenticeships which enable you to progress from entry point roles in the legal profession through to qualified lawyer status.
To be eligible, you must be over 16 years old, live in England and be employed in a relevant job role with an employer who is happy to support your training.
CILEX Business Administrator Apprenticeship
This takes 18 months to complete, and enables you to work, gaining experience in a professional legal environment, alongside a minimum of 6 hours of study a week.
On completion, you will have an A-level equivalent level 3 qualification.
CILEX Paralegal Apprenticeship
Qualifying as a paralegal leaves your options open to either working as a paralegal and/or to fast-track into other qualification routes such as the CILEX Lawyer apprenticeship, the CILEX Professional Qualification, the Solicitor Apprenticeship or higher education (both legal and non-legal courses). It takes 24 months to complete, enabling you to earn as you learn. A minimum of 6 hours of study is required per week and on completion you will have a you will have an A-level equivalent level 3 qualification.
CILEX Lawyer Apprenticeship
The CILEX Lawyer apprenticeship is for those who want to qualify as a CILEX Lawyer and includes completion of the CILEX Professional Qualification (CPQ). It takes between 36-48 months to complete and you would need to be in a role which meets CILEX Regulation’s requirements for qualifying employment during the final years of your apprenticeship.
CPQ or CILEX Lawyer Apprenticeship?
if you are not sure whether to enrol on the CPQ or instead choose to apply for the CILEX Lawyer apprenticeship, here are a few pointers which might help you decide which route best suits you.
An apprenticeship will be a more structured approach to learning, guaranteeing 7 hours of protected time a week for study and live events. Your apprenticeship will need to be completed within a specified time-frame and you will need to be in employment from day one as your employer will be funding your course from the apprenticeship levy.
The CPQ offers a more academic and independent, as well as flexible, route, providing a modular approach to learning and enabling you to purchase modules as you go along. You can also choose when to sit your exams. This means that, unlike an apprenticeship, you can stop and start the CPQ depending on your circumstances.
Funding for the course and time off for study is not guaranteed and will depend very much on your employer and whether they are willing to support your qualification journey. You may, therefore, need to factor in studying in your own time.
If you want to qualify as a CILEX Lawyer, you will need to submit evidence of qualifying employment to CILEX, however, you don't necessarily need to be in employment to start the CPQ. CILEX recommends that you are working in a legal environment from mid-way through the Advanced stage.
Other legal apprenticeships
Qualifying as a paralegal is a great introduction to law as a profession. You would be working in a legal environment, supporting solicitors, barristers and legal executives by providing legal and administrative support such as legal research, drafting legal documents and helping to prepare cases for trial.
Paralegal apprenticeships are government funded and tend to be pathway specific which means you will qualify in a particular area of law, with a focus on soft skills such as office etiquette. You will be working and studying at the same time, earning while you learn, and your training programme will be determined by your employer and training provider.
The apprenticeship takes 2 years to complete, at the end of which you will need to pass an independent end-point assessment (EPA) to ensure that the you have acquired the necessary knowledge, skills and behaviours required by the apprenticeship standard and to demonstrate that you are a fully competent paralegal.
The paralegal apprenticeship gives you a level 3 qualification. and leaves your options open to continue training if you wish to qualify further.
Probate Technician Apprenticeship
As a probate technician you would be working with a probate lawyer helping to administer the estate of a deceased person
This gives you a level 4 qualification and takes approximately 18 months to complete. The probate technician apprenticeship is, however, currently on hold pending the appointment of a new End Point Assessment Organisation (EPAO). In the meantime, further information about this apprenticeship can be found on the Institute for Apprenticeships website.