Choosing your A levels with a view to a law career?
When deciding on your A level (or equivalents e.g. international Baccalaureate diploma, BTEC level 3, Access to HE, NVQ level 3, T levels etc) subjects, it is not a requirement to have studied law to progress onto a legal apprenticeship or a university degree course. It can give you an understanding of whether you will be interested in this area of study or work, but it is not essential as a stepping stone into a legal career.
If seeking employment including an apprenticeship straight after A levels or equivalents, check employer job adverts and apprenticeship adverts to see if employers have a preference for any particular qualifications.
Paralegal apprenticeship positions will often require 5 GCSEs (or equivalents) at grades A*-C/9-4 including maths and English. Some may also ask for 3 A-Levels (or equivalents) at grades A-C as essential, or desirable. Normally they do not specify particular subjects.
If going on to study law at undergraduate level, check with institutions you are interested in to see if they have a preference for or against particular A levels or equivalent qualifications.
Subjects that are useful tend to be ones that demonstrate your ability to write clearly and concisely, summarising information and articulating complex information or sides of a debate. As such, subjects such as English, history, politics will be useful, but subjects which demonstrate your analytical abilities such as Maths or science subjects can also be helpful.
Some institutions will not accept certain subjects as the main A levels or equivalents, so do check this before making your subject choices if you know you plan to study law at university.
If going onto study a non-law subject at undergraduate level, check with institutions you are interested in to see if they have a preference for or against particular subjects based on the subject you intend to study at university.
UCAS provides guidance on entry requirements for undergraduate law and non-law degrees.
When to choose A levels (or equivalent)
Your school or Further Education (FE) college will be able to advise you on the specific deadlines, but generally you will be expected to choose your A level or equivalent subjects (e.g. international Baccalaureate diploma, BTEC level 3, Access to HE, NVQ level 3 etc) between October-January of Year 11. After you receive your GCSE or equivalent results, you may be able to change your options if you did particularly well or badly in a subject at GCSE and want to change to another A level or equivalent subject.
After A levels (or equivalent)
Once you have completed your A levels or equivalent qualifications, there are a range of options available to you if you are keen to pursue a career in the law that don't all involve going to university.
Leave school/sixth form/FE college and work in a legal setting, studying for specific legal qualifications (e.g. CILEX professional qualifications, Licensed Conveyancer qualification, Costs Lawyer qualification)
Leave school/sixth form/FE college and obtain a legal apprenticeship. Your options include a paralegal apprenticeship, a CILEX apprenticeship and a solicitor apprenticeship
Continue on to university to study a non-law degree followed by a further legal qualifications in preparation for solicitor, barrister, CILEX lawyer and other legal careers
Entry requirements for undergraduate law degrees vary, but UCAS indicates institutions will usually require a minimum of two A levels (or equivalent), with three A levels (or equivalents) needed for the most popular courses. Entry requirements at A level range from BCC to AAA, with universities and colleges most commonly asking for ABB. You will also require 5 GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades A*-C/9-4 including maths, English and, sometimes, science.
Be aware that, if you intend to ‘convert to law’ as a postgraduate after your undergraduate non-law degree, or undertake another postgraduate legal qualification that requires an undergraduate degree as part of the entry criteria, a good undergraduate degree result will help you obtain offers. Most institutions require a minimum of 2:2 class for further postgraduate study, but they will consider lower class degrees on an individual basis.
When to choose undergraduate university courses
Your school will be able to advise you on the specific deadlines, but generally you will be expected to apply for undergraduate degrees between May of Year 12 (AS level year) and January of Year 13 (A level year) if you intend to start your course in the September/October after completing Year 13.
The exception is for those applying to Oxford or Cambridge (or for specific non-law courses such as medicine). In these cases, the deadline is usually mid-October of Year 12 for courses starting in the following September/October. See UCAS for key date information.
Try before you buy!
Studying law is challenging, so why not do some free taster sessions to see if you like the subject first? The Open University Open Learn offers free taster sessions in various aspects of the law and we have highlighted some on our Career in Law page for you.
Ask your school to get involved in the Young Citizens' Mock Trials so you can experience what it's really like working as a legal professional in a court case! Mock Trials are available as Magistrates' Court mock trials for 12-14 year olds and as Bar mock trials for 15-18 year olds.