The vocational stage involves completion of the Legal Practice Course (LPC) for aspiring solicitors or a Bar course for aspiring barristers, plus a two-year training contract/period of recognised training (solicitors) or one-year pupillage (barristers). Lawconversion courses The GDL/PGDL is a conversion course that non-law graduates can take to enable them to apply for an LPC or Bar course place. It is normally a one-year, full-time course designed to enable non-law graduates to fulfil the academic stage of legal training. The course can also be taken over two years, either part time or by distance learning. If you intend to study the GDL full time, you should apply through the Central Applications Board (www.lawcabs.ac.uk) from September onwards in your final year at university. There is no closing date for applications; rather, applications are dealt with as they are submitted and institutions are notified weekly of new submissions. Applications for part-time courses must be made directly to the provider. To be eligible for the GDL, students must hold a degree from a UK university or an overseas institution recognised by the SRA. Alternatively, a student can hold academic and vocational qualifications which the SRA deems equivalent to a degree. Subject to various criteria, the following people may be eligible for exemption: mature students; chartered legal executives; assistant justices’ clerks; and those with professional qualifications equivalent to a degree (eg, obtained through the Institute of Chartered Accountants). If you think you might fall within one of these categories, you should contact the SRA (www.sra.org.uk/contactus or 0370 606 2555) or consult its “Equivalent means (exemptions)” page.
Broadly speaking, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the Bar Standards Board (BSB) are responsible for laying down the training requirements for qualification as a solicitor or barrister in England and Wales. The past few years have seen a lot of change in the postgraduate training world, for both would-be solicitors and barristers. With new qualifications approved for both the solicitor and barrister route, there are set to be plenty of changes to postgraduate training in the next few years. Recent changes Before we start, be aware that the route to becoming a solicitor is changing in 2021 with the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), which will replace the Legal Practice Course (LPC) – find out more about the SQE and the transitional arrangements for current students further on in this chapter. Meanwhile, the process of becoming a barrister has also changed, with the Bar Professional Training Course replaced by a more flexible system enabling law schools to design their own Bar courses. Find out more about these Bar courses later in this chapter. The current route This is the required postgraduate training to become a barrister or solicitor in England and Wales. For both solicitors and barristers, training comprises of two stages: academic and vocational. The academic stage can be completed in one of three ways: • a qualifying lawdegree (LLB); • a lawconversion course such as the GraduateDiploma in Law (GDL) for non-law graduates; or • theCILEx exams for thosewishing to qualify as chartered legal executives, which enable peoplewho are already in legal employment to qualifywhile they areworking (see “Alternative careers” on p46).
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