Are you interested in the legal sector but not really sure where to start? Many graduates find themselves overwhelmed with options after university. Here is a summative breakdown of a few options available:
The LPC (Legal Practice Course) is the most well-known and traditional route into qualification as a practicing solicitor. Qualification through this route requires a qualifying law degree (or GDL), passing the LPC and securing 2 years of work experience (also known as a training contract).
Many graduates choose the LPC as it is the most obvious option into qualification after university with some universities offering places on their LPC courses if high grades are achieved. However, with the legal sector becoming increasingly competitive, it is notoriously difficult to secure a training contract after the LPC unless you have top grades or an already established reputation. The number of training contracts will also significantly reduce due to the SQE.
However, the LPC does have its advantages. It is a tried and tested route into qualification which is less ‘risky’ for employers looking to fund further studies or take on potential trainees. It is also eligible for SLC funding which makes it, in a sense, more accessible.
With this in mind, where does this leave students? Looking into alternatives to the LPC may be a way to escape the looming stress of securing a training contract.
The SQE (Solicitors Qualifying Exam) is to replace the LPC over time and aims to make the legal sector more accessible by expanding the options for the ‘work experience’ or ‘training contract’ requirement. It still requires a law degree (or GDL) and passing the SQE exams but achieving the required work element is more flexible and experience can be ‘banked’ before even taking the SQE which can be helpful for students who have taken a placement year or undertaken work experience over their time at university. The SQE can also be taken full time or part-time which is a flexible alternative to the LPC.
However, if exams are not a strong point, the SQE may be a daunting prospect especially as it is a new route into qualifying. The SQE is made up of two sections, the first being knowledge-based multiple-choice exams and the second being skills-based written assessments. The SQE can also only be partially funded by SLC which may be something to keep in mind if costs are an issue.
Overall, the SQE may be a more flexible alternative to the LPC in terms of qualifying work but the fact that it is new, untried, and untested may be intimidating to aspiring solicitors. Whereas the LPC is tried and tested but is cut-throat in terms of the training contract requirement. However, undertaking either of these routes will lead to qualification as a solicitor.
The CILEx route is fundamentally different to the LPC route or the SQE route as it results in qualifying as a Chartered Legal Executive as opposed to a solicitor. These are specialist qualified lawyers who provide legal advice, research legal issues, draft and negotiate contracts and provide clients with legal advice. Chartered legal executives can become partners in law firms, become a court advocate or even take exams to eventually qualify as a solicitor.
It is not necessary to have a degree to go down the CILEx route but if you do have a law degree (or GDL) it offers the opportunity to fast track the course. The CILEx route is made up of three stages including studying two CILEx Level 6 Practice subjects and the CILEx Level 6 Client Care Skills unit. This is a great option for those who know what area of law they want to specialise in. This could also be considered a more affordable and flexible route into the legal sector with 70% of employers paying their staff to study with CILEx and the course can be studied full time, part-time or through distance learning.
Therefore, becoming a Chartered Legal Executive may be a more affordable and accessible option for those wanting to work in the legal sector but are flexible as to the role and are open to specialising early on in their legal career.
To sum everything up in this post, there are multiple routes into qualification which offer varying levels of flexibility and intensity. Even though the legal sector is increasingly difficult to get into, new routes are being developed to make it more accessible.