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Can I do a law degree? To all you solicitors out there

(36 Posts)
iwantanafternoonnap Mon 26-Nov-12 14:52:01

Hi to all those trained lawyers,

I am thinking of studying law because I am a bit fed up of my job and wish to change careers. I have, over the last couple of years, looked at studying this through open university but feel that I would do better at actually going to uni.

I am fairly intelligent, nothing special but manage alright. I am not the best at wording things and lack the flowering vocabulary that some have and I am not the best at presentations or filling in applications.

I am just wondering if it possible for me to realistically achieve a law degree and wondered what those already working in law think? I don't want to become some hotshot lawyer etc just a family lawyer helping people.

I will have to work full-time hours as a nurse to be able to afford to go but the uni seemed to think this wouldn't be an issue and seemed quite flexible regarding seminars.

Any advice most gratefully received.

Thanks

mycatlikestwiglets Mon 26-Nov-12 16:34:59

There are schemes out there which enable people to study law to degree level without necessarily having the usual academic qualifications, so you may not need to worry from that perspective. What I would say is that studying law is pretty rigorous and you may find it very difficult to put in the necessary hours of study to do yourself justice and give yourself the best possible future prospects if you're working full time as well. If you're very committed you should be able to make it work but it won't be easy.

You also need to be realistic about your prospects of becoming a solicitor. Competition is very, very fierce and the cost of completing the LPC (which is a further qualification required before you can even begin the two years of training) runs into many thousands. If you hope to do family law you may have to shoulder the cost of that yourself as the smaller firms who specialise in that type of work don't give out many training contracts. That's not to try to put you off - just to make you aware of the reality that becoming a solicitor is a long hard slog and there are no guarantees. Far more people do the LPC than eventually find a training contract.

everynameistaken Mon 26-Nov-12 17:03:02

Added to that is the wage on a training contract - usually very poor and it will not compete with your nursing salary.

Living Mon 26-Nov-12 17:24:26

You'll probably find you can get taken on to do the GDL without a degree or with your nursing degree (if you have one). You can do this part time and even distance learning.

However, I echo the above its very, very competitive for any sort of training contract. You basically have to go into all the study realising it may never happen and (depending on your background) even probably will never happen. Ask the college you've been speaking to what their success rate is like. Have you thought about doing clinical negligence law? Your nursing background would be an advantage.

iwantanafternoonnap Mon 26-Nov-12 20:42:15

Thank you for your comments. I have degree credits but one lot is out of date for me to APEL into a degree but I do have recent study.

I think I am being very naive then as I thought it wouldn't be that difficult to get a job. I am a bit sad about that now but thanks for pointing that out. I knew you had to study more after the initial degree but not that it would be so hard to get taken on. I also did not realise that the training wage was poor and just assumed it would be the same or more than my rather crap nursing wage. I am really glad I posted on this site as I am a bit more enlightened.

What else do people do with a law degree then? I have looked at Clinical Negligence and you can study that by distance learning but only if you have a hons degree which I don't have.

kelly14 Tue 27-Nov-12 12:59:02

Why not try the 'Introduction to Law' short course with OU, its a great insight to Law and you have to do so many essays etc which really gets you into writing and wording and the tutors are excellent support.
I did this in June and finished in October, i was wanting to start the Law Degree in Febuary but finances restricted right now.

Living Tue 27-Nov-12 17:19:09

By Clinical Negligence I mean that area oflaw rather than a specific course. I think you need to spend some time doing some more research and maybe try to get some work experience so you can get a feel for it.

mumblechum1 Tue 27-Nov-12 17:26:16

Look at qualifying as a legal executive (do exactly the same work as a solicitor, up to District Judge level, but through a different route). I qualified as a legal executive many moons ago whilst working in a legal firm. I had prior experience of the law as I worked in the court system, but most Legal Execs don't.

www.cilex.org.uk/.

An experienced legal exec will earn either the same or almost the same as a solicitor, depending on what field they're in.

MatureUniStudent Thu 06-Dec-12 21:52:20

Had you considered studying your law degree part time but in a University?

I am not sure how many shifts you work nursing, but if you could cut some so it wasn't quite full time, you might be able to manage. Part-time Study fees are around half that of full time study per year. You have to complete your law degree in 6 years, and it will take that 6 years, part time.

I do an adhoc job, have four children (am a single mum) and am taking a law degree (am also the very wrong side of middle aged). You have to be incredibly disciplined as there is a lot of reading around the subject you need to do, if you want really good marks. I find my Sunday's are taken up with tutorials (the whole day) and that I need to spend another 10 hours a week on notes and lectures. BUT at assignment time and exam time (just around xmas and easter - sigh) that is rachetted up significantly for the month.

You do get the long summer off, where you could do extra nursing shifts.

I was dire when I started - really poor at essay writing and even the basics of how to take notes - but my Uni has helped me both with on line step by step guides and in person and you cannot beat asking your fellow students (most who are experts having just done A levels) how they work. So don't worry about "how to write" - it is a skill for law, it has to be done a certain way, and the Uni will teach you that.

You have the advantage of a clear hour each day for lunch - it is amazing what reading you can get done in the car whilst waiting for children etc.

Don't be put off if it really is your dream - but be aware of just how much work you will have to put in. But if law is your thing, then like me, when you start reading cases or text books, your world comes alive and is exciting and you don't want to put your law books down! Good Luck!

givemeaclue Fri 07-Dec-12 11:47:11

If you need to do the law degree it will be 6 years till yet have done that, legal practice course then 2 year training contract.

If you have a degree them it will be 4 years as you can do a law conversion course.

Legal practice and conversion courses cost thousands and there is no guarantee of a job at the end. Make sure its what not really want to do, do some work experience etc. If yet struggle to get work experience, that gives an indication of how hard it is to get a job at the end of training.

higgle Fri 07-Dec-12 13:31:45

My experience as someone who worked as a litigatin solicitor for over 20 years was that getting the degree was the easy bit. The professional training that follows is expensive and arduous. As a trainee they not only expect you to do your job but to work long hours and be utterly dedicated to prove yourself. Then you move on to assistant solicitor status where again your colleagues will be falling over each other to prove themselves. I opted out of the rat race and worked happily for several years as a freelance advocate and duty solicitor, but I had to go through the earlier stages to be able to do that. Not an easy choice at all.

BobbiFleckmann Fri 07-Dec-12 13:41:26

whether or not you want to be a hot shot city lawyer or "just" a family lawyer helping people, you have to pass the same exams after your law degree, and they are very expensive to take and will require a lot of practice in filling things in /using the correct language etc. The hotshot city types have an advantage in that they will normally find a firm to pay their fees & even a living allowance while they study.
like those above have said, your best options for finding a job at the end of all that training and studying are by using what you've gained in your career so far, so some form of med negligence perhaps. Does that interest you? bringing or defending claims made against health authorities for poor care?

there is an alternative route that you might want to consider. If you have good office skills, you could perhaps get work as a legal secretary / paralegal doing largely admin work and study alongside that to get your ILEX (institute of LEgal Executives) exams. Takes a long time but is designed for part time study and can ultimately lead to qualification as a solicitor without the need to go to university / hold a degree. I've sent my secretary off to do that and she did a couple of years and unfortunately stopped, but it is quite a cost effective / time effective way to study law.

Dawnporker Fri 07-Dec-12 14:52:57

Ex-Nurses are very employable in the legal industry because you can relate you knowledge to Personal Injury / Clinical Negligence related work. You'd be potentially an intriguing candidate.

If you have a UG degree then you don't need an LLB & can go straight to the GDL & thereafter the LPC. If you shop around & do it part time then the costs don't have to be prohibitively expensive.

iwantanafternoonnap Wed 12-Dec-12 11:39:58

Thank you for all your help. Although it is something I would love to do I don't think I have the money or the time however, I have looked at a distance learning course in medical negligence so I am going to give them a call and see exactly what that is about.

MOSagain Wed 12-Dec-12 18:07:06

Agree with Mumblechum ILEX is certainly worth looking at. So easy to do whilst working and a much cheaper way of qualifying. My DS is reading law at Uni and he will leave owing thousands of pounds sad

iwantanafternoonnap Wed 12-Dec-12 19:53:57

I have been looking at ILEX and it looks perfect for what I want/can manage. I am going to give them a call tomorrow and have also looked at local colleges but they don't seem to do the courses when I am not working!

The Ilex website though does it by distance learning grin I am feeling very positive about the whole thing.

Worley Wed 12-Dec-12 20:13:37

can I ask a question..
if you have done a law degree and then you are "called to the bar" what does that mean? do you apply or are you somehow picked ? and once a barrister is it a lot of extra training to change to become a solicitor?
like op I had been thinking if changing careers. I have a BSc and a PgC working in nhs. the medical negligence aspect is quite appealing!

girlynut Wed 12-Dec-12 21:31:41

Having done the GDL conversion part time whilst working (2 years and £4000) and the Legal Practice Course part time whilst working (another 2 years and £10,000), I'm now in the hideous position of trying to get a training contract. Best I've done is to get down to final 50 out of 480 candidates for 6 jobs (and I got Distinctions on both courses!)

Unless your uncle is Lord Denning or you can afford to work for nothing to get some experience on your CV, I'd think very carefully about a career change. It's fiercely competitive out there and stats suggest there are more graduates every year than there are training contracts.

Legal exec whilst working your way up in a firm would be easier but you may have to start as a secretary / admin assistant.

iwantanafternoonnap Wed 12-Dec-12 21:49:49

I suppose I am very lucky in the sense that I can continue to work as a nurse while studying due to nursing being 24 hours. I would rather give something a try than always wonder and I need to study as my brain is going to mush plus I am happy to do unpaid work and have the time now DS will be at nursery mon-friday.

I am sorry you are finding it so hard to get into your chosen profession girlynut must be hard for you but well done for getting distinctions. Good luck with getting a training contract and I really hope that happens soon.

I am sure someone will correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think you can go the ilex route if you are not working in law. I thought it was for people already working in legal firms who are learning on the job.

Or at least everyone I know who did ilex already had a job in a law firm. Then you still need an lpc although there is some facility for 'waiving' some or all of the training contract due to experience already gained.

3girliessanta Thu 13-Dec-12 18:25:50

Yes, you are right Flibberty you need to be working in a legal environment, ie firm of solicitors or perhaps local authority legal department where you must be supervised by a solicitor. Although some ILEX students start off as a legal secretary or receptionist, you have to progress to fee earning work.

In my day it was a requirement that had to have a minimum of 5 years work experience, at least two years of which had to be after you'd finished your final membership exams so in reality, many fellows had 6 or 7 years experience by the time they qualified depending on how long it took to get through their exams.

3girliessanta Thu 13-Dec-12 18:26:11

Arse! forgot to name change blush

iwantanafternoonnap Thu 13-Dec-12 20:59:39

Ah well that scuppers that then. I did try and find that out from the website but it wasn't too clear to me.

olgaga Thu 13-Dec-12 22:34:27

OP I think you will find this article interesting.

There are far more people wanting trainee solicitor jobs than there are jobs to be had, and many of them are training as legal secretaries and executives - the pay looks more enticing for a start, if you are tens of thousands in debt. Even for those jobs, competition is fierce (unless you are happy with temp work).

I noticed an ad for a paralegal recently for a "niche City firm", wanting a law degree and offering a six month unpaid probationary period.

Have you thought about FE teaching?!

mycatlikestwiglets Fri 14-Dec-12 10:09:25

Worley asked upthread what it means to be "called to the bar". It basically means nothing more than that someone has chosen to become a barrister. A lot of non-lawyers don't appreciate that solicitor and barrister are separate professions with different routes in. A "trainee" barrister will do the Bar Vocational Course (BVC) rather than the LPC, then a 1 year pupillage (not always paid) before they, if they are lucky, obtain tenancy in a chambers (i.e. become a fully fledged barrister).

It's not at all unusual for people to cross over from solicitor to barrister or vice versa. Each way, there's some further training and exams involved before you can formally cross-qualify. That said, in the city, there are a number of former barristers working in law firm in effect as "solicitors" but without necessarily having taken the formal qualifications to do so.

iwantanafternoonnap Fri 14-Dec-12 13:09:18

olgaga that is interesting and I think also very sad. It appears that unless you have a lot of money then you will find it very very difficult to get a job in law. That will then mean the only people becoming solicitors will be rich people who may not understand the lifestyles/issues of those they are attempting to help.

iwantanafternoonnap Fri 14-Dec-12 13:27:46

I have just spoken to CILEX and they have said that I don't need to be working in law to do the course but that I will have to have had 5 years of working in law at a minimum of 20hrs per week to qualify. That it can either be voluntary or paid and that if I start the course it will make it easier to find a job.

The lovely man I spoke to is going to email me all the info I need about doing the course by distance learning. So even if I don't get a job it will at least be interesting to learn.

MOSagain Fri 14-Dec-12 13:34:27

Thats right iwant. I would say quite a few people don't work in the legal profession when they start studying with ILEX but most try to get something during the course of their studies. Good thing about ILEX is that you can start studying whilst still working so you are not giving up a career and can see whether it really is for you.

I do worry about DS who has his heart set on becoming a barrister. It is a very long and very expensive road with no guarantees sad

iwantanafternoonnap Fri 14-Dec-12 13:39:22

Once DS starts pre-school I will look at doing a bit of volunteer work on the days I am not at work. So hopefully that will help and help me understand some of the work better.

I hope your DS gets his dream. My niece also wants to be a barrister but she is only 15 at the moment so I will encourage her to get some voluntary work in once she is 16 so she can network as early as possible and boost her CV.

TrazzleMISTLEtoes Fri 14-Dec-12 13:50:18

Echoing what just about everyone has said but just wanted to add: I work in Legal Aid and the pay is very poor.

Many of my friends (I'm 5 years qualified) work in the City and have 6 figure salaries. I earn less than the binmen round here and I suspect that they did not have to spend thousands of pounds educating themselves to get their jobs.

Conversely my friends work evenings and weekends whereas I work basically 9-5 with a bit of catching up in the evenings and on my days off but being a Solicitor is not necessarily the ticket to all your financial dreams.

I enjoy every second of my job though.

TrazzleMISTLEtoes Fri 14-Dec-12 13:52:21

Oh and flowery language is actively discouraged nowadays. Things like letters to clients are meant to be easily understood!

iwantanafternoonnap Fri 14-Dec-12 14:03:09

I am not too fussed about pay as long as it isn't lower than I am on now as I need to pay mortgage. I wouldn't want to be a city lawyer at all I think that must be very stressful and also they must never see their families.

olgaga Sat 15-Dec-12 00:43:26

If you are a qualified clinician you are bound to earn far more in your already established career than you ever would going into law at this stage. Competition is really fierce.

Even in London and the major cities it's difficult. Outside, you have to "know someone" or have an outstanding education and degree - and even then if you "know someone" it will help.

A friend of mine with a degree and 10 years experience in Social Work, plus 20 years of working as a trade union full-time officer, took a further law degree and 3 years on has not yet managed to change career. She accepts now that it was an impossible dream, and counts herself lucky that her employers paid for her excellent law degree. She doesn't regret the experience, but it's very sad that someone so capable simply cannot find anything remotely matching her current salary, or even something half her salary.

Keep working is what I say, and look to branch out using your already valuable qualifications.

MerryChristMoose Sat 15-Dec-12 00:55:06

Before I moved to Canada I spent 10 years working as a family law solicitor. It's not a job that guarantees security. I was made redundant twice in two years.

I'd seriously consider the ILEX route OP. Relevant experience looks good on your CV.

Best of luck, whatever you decide to do.

scarlettsmummy2 Sat 15-Dec-12 01:02:33

Something else to point out- to get a law degree that allows you to practice, you will have to do I think six core modules, some of which are fairly dry! So while family law is very people focussed, European, contract, land and property certainly aren't! Hence the reason I didn't go into practice but youth work!

scarlettsmummy2 Sat 15-Dec-12 01:04:27

Also, most non-corporate solicitors are not earning much more than 40k, those in the public sector are on mid thirties.

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