There are a number of routes via which you can qualify to practise as a solicitor in England and Wales. Taking a law degree is probably the most straightforward as your studies include everything required for the academic stage of training. If your degree is not in law, you can still become a solicitor, but you will need to realign your studies and also take the Common Professional Examination/Graduate Diploma in law course.
If you have already qualified as a lawyer overseas and wish to practise in England and Wales you can transfer under the SRA Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme Regulations 2011.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is the regulatory body for solicitors in England and Wales and sets the regulations and standards for the solicitors' profession including entry and training requirements. The SRA is currently undertaking a major review of entry and training into the legal profession. For the latest information see the SRA website.
Qualifying with a law degree
One of the routes to becoming a solicitor is to complete a qualifying law degree. The Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Bar Council are responsible for setting out the conditions a law degree course must meet in order to be termed a 'qualifying law degree', and you will find a list of institutions offering qualifying law degrees on the SRA website.
Getting a place at university
Competition for places on law degree programmes is fierce, and you'll need a strong academic record with at least three good passes in any academic A level subjects to get into some universities. You can choose to study full time, part time or by distance learning. Apply for full-time study through UCAS, which has a searchable database of courses offered by higher education institutions, including details of entrance requirements and information about the universities and colleges.
If you wish to take a part-time course, apply directly to your chosen institution - the SRA's list of institutions shows which can be studied part time.
What to expect during your studies
You are required to complete your degree within one year of the normal period for a full-time study programme, or within two years of the normal period for a part-time study programme. The foundations of legal knowledge form the academic stage of legal education and is compulsory for students seeking to enter the vocational stage of training. You must obtain a pass mark of 40 per cent in each subject, regardless of the pass mark set by the institution itself.
The foundation subjects are:
- obligations including contract, restitution and tort
- public law (including constitutional law, administrative law and human rights law)
- criminal law
- property law
- equity and the law of trusts
- law of the European Union
You also will be expected to have appropriate expertise in legal research skills and the English legal system. If your aim is to qualify as a solicitor, your degree is valid for seven years: after this, it is considered 'stale' for qualifying purposes and you will need to take refresher exams if you subsequently decide to become a solicitor.
After gaining your degree
Once you have your degree, you must enroll as a student with the Solicitors Regulation Authority and obtain a certificate of completion of the academicstage of training. You may then progress to the vocational stage of training, which includes the Legal Practice Course and the training contract.
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Qualifying without a law degree
Everyone who wants to become a solicitor must complete the academic stage of training. This is covered in a law degree course, but if you have any other degree there are two routes open to you:
- Join the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (see below)
- Take the Common Professional Examination (CPE)/Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL)
Candidates with no prior degree
If you already work in a legal office, you can join the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx), which is the governing body for legal executives. You must pass examinations to qualify first as a member and later as a fellow. Qualifying by this route takes a long time, is demanding and academically challenging, and requires that you enter and maintain CILEx-approved legal employment. The CILEx examination framework enables you to fulfil the requirements of the academic stage of training, including the foundations of legal knowledge.
If you want to know more about the structure and availability of training via this route, see the CILEx website, or contact the organisation by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01234 841000.
Common Professional Examination/Graduate Diploma in Law (CPE/GDL)
CPE/GDL courses cover the foundations of legal knowledge required for completion of the academic stage of training. If you don't have a degree, you may be able to qualify as a solicitor by this route, but you must be either a mature student or hold a suitable academic or vocational qualification.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority provides definitions of mature student and academic/vocational qualifications in the SRA Training Regulations 2011.
The Legal Practice Course
Before you become a solicitor, you must complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC). The LPC will help you to develop the skills needed to work in a firm of solicitors. The SRA sets the standards for LPC providers in the Legal Practice Course Written Standards (PDF).
The LPC is a key element of vocational training to become a solicitor. It must be completed by everyone who intends to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales.
The LPC will:
- prepare you for practice
- provide you with a general foundation for subsequent practice.
Before commencing the LPC, you must:
- complete academic training (or be exempt from it)
- apply for student membership of the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
For advice on how to prepare for the LPC, see the SRA guide: The Legal Practice Course: what you are expected to know before you start.
Download the guide (PDF)
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The training contract
The training contract is the final stage of the qualifying process and involves working as a trainee solicitor in a firm of solicitors or other organisation authorised to take trainees. The training contract period is for two years although it can be reduced by up to six months if you have suitable and relevant previous legal experience.
See our training contract page for further information.
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Professional Skills Course
Passing the Professional Skills Course (PSC) is the final stage to becoming qualified as a solicitor. Law graduates, and non-law graduates who have completed the Common Professional Examination or a Graduate Diploma in Law, attend the PSC during the course of the training contract. Those qualifying through the CILEx route may take the course at the end of their route. See the qualification route map (PDF)
What does the course consist of?
The PSC requires the equivalent of 12 days of full-time attendance, building on the vocational training provided in the Legal Practice Course. It comprises three core modules, and elective courses relevant to specific types of practice and areas of law.
- Client care and professional standards (two days)
- Advocacy and communication skills (three days)
- Financial and business skills (three days, plus exam)
You must complete 24 hours of elective courses, of which no more than half may be by distance learning. You can choose from a range of subject areas. Elective courses may be completed at any time during the training contract.
How is the PSC run?
The standard course consists of eight days of face-to-face tuition, spread over a number of months, interspersed with periods of normal work in the office. On the fast track course, the core modules are covered over eight consecutive days.
The PSC is offered by accredited external course providers.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority provides further details about the structure and accreditation of the PSC (PDF).
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Qualifying from outside the UK
If you are a qualified lawyer from an overseas jurisdiction, you may be eligible to transfer to the roll of solicitors of England and Wales under the Qualified Transfer Scheme Regulations 2011. The Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS) covers lawyers from a wider range of jurisdictions than under the previous arrangements.
To be eligible to apply, you must be a qualified lawyer from a recognised jurisdiction. Before you apply, see details of the transfer scheme, including the list of recognised jurisdictions, to check whether your jurisdiction is on the list. If you meet the eligibility criteria, you will probably need to undertake the QLTS.
As a candidate applying to transfer you will be considered under the QLTS rules and will be required to show that you are of good standing and suitable for admission as a solicitor in England and Wales - see the SRA guidelines used to assess character and suitability.
Before you can undertake the QLTS assessment you are required to obtain a QLTS certificate of eligibility from the SRA, which requires you to provide evidence. The QLTS certificate of eligibility is usually issued within 30 days of receipt of your application and remains valid for a five year period from the date of issue.
The Law Society's International Division has produced a webinar on becoming a solicitor through the QLTS.
Read more and watch the webinar
How to apply
If you are a qualified lawyer in the EEA, United Kingdom or Switzerland you are required to complete application QLTS1.
If you are qualified in any other area you are required to complete application QLTS2. The application form and guidance notes explain how to fill in the form.
Candidates are no longer required to show that they have gained work experience. Instead the assessment uses practical exercises to assess an applicant's ability to practise in England and Wales.
The assessments are in three parts and are designed to test applicants on most of the Day One outcomes. These are the outcomes each solicitor who qualifies via the domestic route is expected to have achieved at the point of admission.
Part 1 is a multiple choice that has to be passed before you can undertake Part 2, a practical examination testing interviewing and advocacy skills, and Part 3, a technical legal skills test.
In addition, intra-UK and international applicants will need to show they have met the English language requirements. Further information can be found at regulation 3.4 of the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme Regulations 2011.
To register and arrange your assessment programme you should contact Kaplan QLTS. You are required to show your certificate of eligibility and undergo an identity check when you take your assessment.
Qualified European lawyers
There is an alternative transfer route for qualified lawyers from the European Union who intend to practise in the UK. The conduct requirements for Registered European Lawyers is explained in the SRA Code of Conduct 2011 at Rule 15 and Rule 16. To apply to the SRA for initial registration as a REL, you must complete form RF6.
Non EU students
Students from outside the EU should follow the guidance provided by the Home Office UK Border Agency with regard to student and work permits.
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Admission to the roll
Upon successful completion of the qualification stages you are deemed able to seek admission to the Roll of Solicitors and apply for your first practising certificate. All solicitors are subject to continuing professional development requirements.
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