School of Law

Professional qualification routes

Student discussing in library

Preparing you for your future

The legal sector is changing as we face new global challenges. In these pressing times, it's more important than ever before that graduates hoping to follow a professional qualification route are able to demonstrate exceptional legal skill, and the ability to adapt to a changing legal environment.

Routes to a professional qualification

The provision of legal services is rapidly changing, with exciting new opportunities opening up. We'll help you navigate through the maze. Lawyers work in a wide range of roles – advising businesses, individuals and public bodies and representing clients in courts and tribunals. We're a global law school, with many of our graduates moving into legal careers outside the UK.

In England and Wales, our LLB courses are 'qualifying law degrees' (QLD), through which you complete the academic stage of legal education. After this, you can progress through further vocational study and practical training to obtain a professional legal qualification. Below you can find additional information on professional qualification routes in France, Canada, Malaysia, and other jurisdictions.

Please note that the routes to becoming a solicitor/barrister is changing from 2021. We've provided more information about the changes to the solicitor-route, and the barrister route.

England and Wales

Our LLB courses are 'qualifying law degrees', through which you complete the academic stage of legal education. After this, you can progress through further vocational study and practical training to obtain a professional legal qualification.

  • To become a solicitor, you currently take a one-year Legal Practice Course and then complete a two-year training contract. This is due to change from September 2021. There are more than 130,000 solicitors working in a wide variety of law firms and in government dealing with a whole range of legal transactions and disputes for businesses, individuals and other organisations. Some solicitors, with further training, represent clients in court.
  • To become a barrister, you take the one-year Bar Professional Training Course followed by a one-year pupillage. Note that The Bar Standards Board (BSB) regulates training to become a barrister, and new qualification rules are currently being introduced (between 2019-2021). About 15,000 barristers practice as self-employed professionals, offering specialist legal advice on complex matters and representing clients in courts and tribunals. Some barristers are employed as in-house counsel by businesses, government and the Crown Prosecution Service.
  • To become a chartered legal executive, you take the CILEx Graduate Fast-track Diploma. Currently, there are almost 8,000 legal executives, most of them working in law firms. They do similar kinds of work to solicitors.
  • To become a licensed conveyancer, you take a part-time course authorised by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers while working. There are more than 1,000 licensed conveyancers who specialise in the legal process of transferring property from one person to another; some also deal with wills and probate when a person dies.
  • It's increasingly common for law graduates to work as paralegals in law firms without a formal professional qualification in law or as a stepping-stone to obtaining a professional qualification.

Changes to the pathway for becoming a solicitor

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has announced it will be introducing the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). The earliest date for introduction is autumn 2021. This will be a national assessment for anyone who wants to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales. It will provide a fair and consistent assessment for all candidates regardless of whether they have taken a law degree or qualified through new routes like the solicitor apprenticeship.

If you have registered for your course by 21 September 2021, you will be able to finish and qualify in the same way as before, or qualify under the new system. Under the current system, you must complete both the academic and vocational stages of training as well as meeting the character and suitability requirements to become a solicitor.

The academic stage is achieved by either:

  • a qualifying law degree
  • a non-law degree in a different subject and completing the Common Professional Examination

What will qualifying look like for solicitors after 2021?

  • having a degree or equivalent
  • two stages of the SQE assessment
  • having a two year period of work experience
  • meeting the character and suitability requirements to become a solicitor

The SRA has provided guidance about how to qualify in the new system.

 

Learn more from the Solicitors Regulation Authority

Changes to the pathway for becoming a barrister

The new framework for qualifying to become a barrister will continue to require an undergraduate law degree (or an undergraduate degree in a different subject area followed by a Graduate Diploma in Law). The requirements for the academic stage of training are set by the BSB. Our LLB degrees meet these requirements and, therefore, meet the academic component of training to become a barrister.

 

Learn more from the Bar Standards Board

Professional qualification routes in France, Canada, Malaysia, and other jurisdictions

France

Following the France’s Ministry of Education Reform in 2016 our new 3-year programme (LLB and Licence) gives you the flexibility once completed at end of license 3 to select a 2-year integrated Masters course you want to study at a University in France. The selection at master level takes place at Master 1 (at the end of the Licence 3) and no longer at Master 2 (at the end of Master 1) and once completed, qualifies you to take professional law examinations in France. The two professional law exams most often taken up by our students are the certificat d’aptitude à la profession d’avocat (CAPA) and the competition to become a judge (Ecole nationale de la Magistrature).

Under this new system the Master 1 and Master 2 must both be completed at the same University, if you change from one degree to another at the end of masters year 1, you will need to start a new Master’s degree from the beginning. The LLB English and French Law (Licence) gives you the flexibility in choosing your masters route.

Canada

You’ll need to demonstrate competence to the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA), which assesses the qualifications of anyone with legal qualifications obtained outside of Canada who wishes to be admitted to a common law bar in Canada. This involves completing more modules, either studying from home or at a law school in Canada (or a combination of the two). Once you’ve successfully completed the NCA requirements, you’ll be awarded a Certificate of Qualification, accepted by most Canadian law societies for entry to their bar admissions process.

Malaysia

The School of Law at Essex is recognised by the Legal Profession Qualifying Board Malaysia.

Other jurisdictions

Essex law graduates can be found working in law in many other jurisdictions. If this is a career path for you, we’ll support your ambitions.

Recent law graduate wins prestigious scholarship, enabling him to train as a barrister

We're extremely proud of Kwame Taylor, who has successfully been awarded the prestigious H.R. Light Scholarship by the Middle Temple. Kwame went on to graduate in 2019 with an LLB Law with Philosophy, after admitting to having a  "blip" at A Levels, but made up for lost time as an undergraduate at Essex.

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Penelope Breary-Horne Employability Director
School of Law