Law conversion courses have become more and more popular. Students who decide they want to pivot into the world of law have found that a conversion course can be an excellent way to gain a leg up in a more niche branch of an industry.
What is a law conversion course?
These courses usually allow students to have increased specialisation in specific areas of the law. For example, if you studied a finance degree at undergraduate level, then a law conversion course can be a great way to explore the financial aspects of law.
Law conversion courses in England and Wales
There are lots of different examples of law conversion courses in England and Wales. Scotland and Northern Ireland have different ways of entering the legal system, so law conversion courses are handled differently there.
There are different types of law conversion courses. Qualifications such as the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and the Postgraduate Diploma in Law (PGDL) are the most commonly studied conversion courses in the UK. They cover the same information that you would find on most postgraduate law degrees. The Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), the MLaw (Master of Law) and the Barrister Training Course (BTC) are also law conversion courses.
Changes to qualifying as a lawyer
There have been a few changes to the way you can become a lawyer. Previously, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and Bar Standards Board (BSB) would approve law degrees and any graduate law courses, but as of the 2022/23 admissions cycle, this has now changed.
There is now a new requirement which is to hold the SQE. This means a solicitor would need to have:
- A degree in a relevant subject (not necessarily law-related).
- Pass the SRA’s character and sustainability requirements.
- Passed the SQE 1 and SQE 2 exams.
- Two years of qualified work experience.
Don’t worry, though, universities are on hand to help. Most universities will run an SQE preparation course to prepare you for the exam.
But, why is this important?
Mainly because in order to become a solicitor, you will need to sit the SQE, which previously required students to either hold a law degree or to have studied a law conversion course. Under the new ruling, students don’t need to have sat a law conversion course.
But if I don’t need to sit a law conversion course, why should I do one?
The main draw of a conversion course is that you do not have to have studied law in order to pursue a career in it. Most students who pursue a law conversion course already have a degree in another subject.
This is also useful for students who have had a change of heart with their careers. Ifyou originally wanted to become an accountant, but had grown interested in the legal side of the industry after studying it, a law conversion course allows you to keep that option open while also providing you the chance for a different career!
While it’s not a specific requirement to work in the world of law, it can be very helpful. There is also no guarantee that the changes that have come into effect will not change in the future. Law conversion courses also arm you with more knowledge and a greater understanding of law than if you do not sit them.
All in all, while law conversion degrees are not a requirement, they are very useful. Sitting the SQE without a law degree or a law conversion course will be very tough, even if you have the ability to recite all passages of the law from memory (we’re looking at you, Mike Ross in Suits).
So…can you become a lawyer without a degree?
You will need a degree to become a lawyer. To be clear, it does not necessarily need to be a law degree that you hold, but you will need an undergraduate degree of some kind with good grades, as a minimum, to become a lawyer.
It’s possible to also become a lawyer through in-work training courses provided by the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx).
How much do law conversion courses cost?
The fees will vary depending on what course you are looking to study. Generally, law conversion courses will cost around the same as a normal postgraduate law degree, but some are cheaper. You will need to speak to the university or law school you wish to attend to see how much it will cost.
The location of your course will also factor in. Courses in London tend to be more expensive than those studied elsewhere. It is also worth bearing in mind that not all universities will necessarily offer a law conversion course.
Is there any funding available for law conversion courses?
Yes, there is! As with any form of funding, students have to first qualify for the funding before it is granted. As long as you meet the requirements, then funding will be made available.
The Inns of Court has four courts available in the UK, which may potentially provide funding. Some law schools and universities have been known to offer postgraduate law scholarships for students who specific criteria.
You will need to check with the university you are applying to in order to see what’s on offer.