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Law and Legal Studies - Postgraduate Guide

As it is a subject that touches many other sectors, there are various postgraduate legal courses on offer in the UK. There are courses that are required to prepare students to become solicitors and barristers, which have changed somewhat in recent years. Because of the three different jurisdictions in the UK, different academic routes must be taken dependent on where students wish to work. Alongside this, legal professionals looking to develop their academic profile are also increasingly enrolling on master’s level LLM courses. Postgraduate law qualifications aren’t just for lawyers – they are also useful for those dealing with legal aspects in a whole range of sectors, including business, engineering and construction.  

England and Wales 

Common Professional Examination (CPE) / Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) 

Those who have not completed a qualifying law degree will need to take a conversion course if they wish to become a solicitor or barrister. The CPE is a law conversion course for graduates of a non-law undergraduate degree who wish to practise law in England and Wales. 

These intensive programmes of study also enable overseas graduates and mature students who may hold qualifications considered to be equivalent to an undergraduate degree.  

Legal Practice Course (LPC) and Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) 

To become a practising solicitor in England or Wales, students have had to complete an LPC, which would normally take a year of full-time study or two years part-time study. However, the LPC is currently being phased out to be replaced with the SQE.  

The SQE is a series of exams created to ensure that people looking to become a solicitor via any of the possible routes take the same exam and reach the same levels of knowledge and expertise. The transition of LPC to SQE is planned to be completed by 2032, allowing students time to finish their current LPC. 

Bar Courses 

Bar courses are the vocational part of training to become a barrister. There are a number of names for the courses that students can take depending on the institution offering it, including BTC, BVC, BVS and BPC, but they should all lead to completing the vocational component of Bar training. Bar courses replaced the BPTC in 2020. These courses can be taken full-time or part-time, or can also be combined with the academic component of bar training. 


Diploma in Legal Practice 

Taking a Diploma in Legal Practice is a necessary part of training to enter a career as a solicitor or an advocate (the Scottish equivalent of a barrister) in Scotland. Candidates will normally have passed the LLB undergraduate degree or professional examinations first and will follow the Diploma with two years of traineeship in order to become fully qualified.  

There are currently six universities in Scotland accredited by the Law Society of Scotland that offer a Diploma in Legal Practice course. They are... 

Northern Ireland 

Certificate in Professional Legal Studies 

The Institute of Professional Legal Studies at Queen’s University Belfast offers a one-year postgraduate course of vocational training for both trainee barristers and trainee solicitors. Anyone who intends to enter either branch of the legal profession in Northern Ireland must attend the Institute and successfully complete the course. 

Master of Laws (LLM)

For students looking to further their expertise in a particular area of law, LLM degrees offer an opportunity specialise in a distinct subject, such as Maritime Law, Tax Law or Human Rights Law. These master's level qualifications are provided by universities across the UK. Institutions will usually expect students to have at least a 2.1 honours degree in Law or a Graduate Diploma Law to study for an LLM, though some will consider students with degrees in other subjects if they have relevant work experience.

Go to: Read more about LLM Study: What to Expect

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