The Realities of A Law Career

The Realities of A Law Career

It is not all doom and gloom, but securing a law career is not easy. Here we take a realistic look at the facts and help you make an informed decision.


  • Books: You spend approximately £100 or more buying the essential books or guides for each year of your study. I would advise borrowing the books assigned for ‘additional reading’ from the library or alternatively, you could buy an old copy instead. (And let’s not forget about transport, food and accommodation costs)
  • Tuition Fees: Each year of undergraduate study will typically incur a cost of £9,000 (Home/EU students) or £13,000 (Non-EU students). Postgraduate study will incur further costs, however this will depend on what type of course you choose to study and the university you will be studying at.

Long route?

  • After completing your LLB Law undergraduate degree  which is usually three years, if you intend to qualify as a solicitor, you will need to complete the LPC (one year) and  if you intend to qualify as a barrister you will need to complete the BPTC (one year).
  • If you have completed a Non-law degree, and you wish to pursue a career in law, then you will need to complete the GDL conversion course (one year).
  • It is also possible to complete a Masters/LLM degree (one year)
  • Part-time study for the above courses is also a possible option (two years)


  • You will have lots of reading to do either from textbooks, law journals, websites or lecture notes which can be quite time-consuming.
  • You will need to read in order to prepare for tutorials, seminars and assignments, as well as for exams.


In order to maximise your chances, you should aim to typically obtain the following grades:

  • A good set of GCSEs (A*-C)
  • A good set of A-levels (A*-B)
  • 2.1 degree at undergraduate level

Work Experience

Work experience in the legal industry is vital in order to get a better chance of succeeding later on in your law career, whichever route you decide to take. So here is the type of work experience you should try to gain to qualify in your chosen route:

  • Solicitor route: Vacation schemes (one-three weeks) and  training contracts (working for two years at a law firm)
  • Barrister route: A mini pupillage (one week) or a pupillage (one year)

Competition: You are not alone…

Data from the Law Society highlights the competitive nature of pursuing a career in law:

‘In 2012, 32,345 people applied to study law at undergraduate level in England and Wales, out of whom 20,070 were accepted onto courses.Women made up 62.4% of students accepted onto university law degree courses.Overseas students made up 12.1% of those accepted.Students from minority ethnic groups accounted for 36.3% of those starting a first degree law course in 2012’

Facts and Figures

  • As of October 2014 there are over 164,000 practising solicitors in England and Wales (Data from The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
  • As of 2012, there are over 15,000 practising barristers in England and Wales (Data from The Bar Council).


  • The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) specifies a minimum starting salary of £18,590 for trainee solicitors working in Central London and £16,650 for trainees working elsewhere in England and Wales. (UPDATE – In August 2014, the SRA abolished the trainee minimum salary so trainees are now only required to be paid the minimum wage.)
  • Salaries for those undertaking a pupillage (the final stage of qualification for the bar) must be no less than £12,000 per annum, set by the Bar Standards Board (BSB)
  • Salaries for qualified solicitors range from around £25,000 – £75,000.
  • Salaries for qualified barristers range from around £25,000 to £300,000.

Studying law is a huge commitment. However, this is all down to how you like to manage your time. If you are still wondering whether you will enjoy studying law, then there is the saying: ‘Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life’- Confucius.
When you finally begin your career in law, it’s important to find a reputable firm such as Thomas Boyd Whyte, who specialise in the field of Law you’re interested in. The right job advert may not come around immediately so be patient!

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