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Conversion course: BPP or University of Law?

(21 Posts)
pluck Thu 05-Jan-17 09:54:38

I've been investigating re-training in law, since my existing profession is somewhat unstable (financial pressures and low barriers to entry, meaning wages and actual positions under pressure).

I've got two DC at school now, and have found a couple of law conversion courses for part-time online study, which would save us commuting and childcare during the training. Has anyone heard of BPP or the University of Law?

I've worked freelance and also studied online, so I'm not worried about lacking discipline, but I want to be sure that this sort of study, and these institutions, are going to be acceptable when looking for jobs after the conversion and LPC. FWIW, my undergraduate degree was from Cambridge, so I hopefully won't look like a Mickey Mouse candidate in general.

Is it worth it?

didgeridooda Thu 05-Jan-17 10:00:45

University of Law, which is the former College of Law, is very respectable. BPP is also a big name, though College of Law was the original training organisation.
If you look on threads on MN you will find many warnings to people not to go into the law. I can only reiterate that and point you in their direction for the reasons why. Check out the more recent threads, as there is a lot of change going on in the legal profession.

MrsBertBibby Thu 05-Jan-17 10:05:30

What kind of law do you think of undertaking? It's an expensive and difficult undertaking getting into either branch, and it can be pretty soul destroying as a job. And everyone hates you!

I'm a family solicitor, and I certainly wouldn't encourage my son to follow his parents into law.

MrsBertBibby Thu 05-Jan-17 10:09:38

But in answer to your Q, either of those is fine, if you're really sure about law.

Can you wangle some time shadowing a solicitor? Just to see what solicitors offices can be like?

LauraMipsum Thu 05-Jan-17 10:17:38

Both BPP and the UoL are well respected. As is Nottingham, which I think also offers part time study.

To be honest, nobody is going to look at where you did your law conversion unless you have a really crap first degree. If you have a Cambridge degree then you may as well do what I did, and do your law conversion somewhere easy - mine was London Metropolitan University and significantly easier than UoL (College of Law back then) although they're all meant to be standardised.

You'd then need to do an LPC or the BPTC, both of which are fairly accessible. The difficulty is then finding a training contract or pupillage. I am involved in interviews at this stage and we would generally look favourably on someone with a good first non-law degree but would be worried about you leaving in the first few years when there was no money to be made.

Of course not everyone who does the law conversion course actually wants to become a solicitor or barrister. A law conversion can open doors other than those two.

JamieFraserskneewarmer Thu 05-Jan-17 10:27:04

City lawyer here who qualified as a mature student, studying while working full-time. BPP and the University of Law are the two main providers of the course so either of those are fine.

One thing I would say is that you really need your eyes open before you embark on the conversion course since it is only the start of a very long journey. In order to qualify, once you have done the LPC, you will need to complete a two year training contract (unless, as I did, you are able to demonstrate that you have met the "equivalent means" test - information on that is available on the SRA website). Getting a training contract is notoriously difficult and very competitive.

What sort of law are you interested in? Are you thinking High Street Practice or City? If City, what type of fim - Magic Circle where 70+ hours a week (and weekend working) are pretty much par for the course (especially for juniors) or a more boutique practice? What would be your "stand out" points as an applicant? For example, an ex-colleague of mine did her degree in theoretical particle physics and cosmology and then re-qualified to specialise in space and satellite law. Do you have a USP?

It would also be a very good idea to see if you can get work experience in the sort of firm you are interested in. Most firms of any size run vacation schemes and we expect people applying for training contracts to have done at least a couple of decent work experience placements. The big firms tend to sponsor future trainees through the LPC so, as you can tell, the majority of selection takes place way before people have finished the formal qualifications so you can't afford to wait until then. We do take mature trainees and they are often very very good since they have the life experience that others lack.

I am not trying to put you off since I did the same thing myself but, from your post, it looks as if you need to do a bit more homework before embarking on an expensive and time-consuming course. Aside from having a good prowl around the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, and the Law Society websites, this site has useful information on the process and a large number of firms training contract information

pluck Thu 05-Jan-17 10:53:50

Hi, all, and thanks so much for quick and detailed replies. I have been reading around the worries about law (as you warned, digeridoodaa and MrsBertBibby), although my existing profession, journalism, is in trouble, financially, legally and socially, so law probably isn't worse! Also, I've got a high boredom threshold!

JamieFraserskneewarmer, I do have some ideas about specialisation and my USPs, but given that MN is an open site, am somewhat reluctant to share everything here. An outing could poison both MN and future work possibilities for me....shock With regard to shadowing, is that at all possible before embarking on any study, or is it necessary to be studying before being considered for shadowing?

Thank you again for your feedback! flowers

MrsBertBibby Thu 05-Jan-17 12:05:43

Well I was mainly thinking through asking personal contacts, if you had any. But if not, it might be worth trawling local firms, seeing if there are any that are clearly woman-heavy, as you just might stumble on a partner who would feel good about giving another woman who isn't a kid out of school a hand up.

And you might have something to offer back, like re-working website stuff, since I imagine writing for the audience is a key skill.

Lots of lawyers have to chug along to networking stuff, so if you can face some of that, it might get you contacts.

SoberSusan Thu 05-Jan-17 12:14:14

I did the conversion course at BPP, although it was 10 years ago. From memory, at that time the Magic Circle law firms specified it, but things may have changed. I got a training contract so my law firm paid the fees and a small living allowance.

I couldn't fault the course, although I always felt that my knowledge was lacking compared to colleagues who read law as a first degree.

JamieFraserskneewarmer Thu 05-Jan-17 13:31:14

Hi there,

As SoberSusan says, most of the top firms have specific requirements as to where the LPC is done - we actually have our own dedicated course on top of that.

Personal contacts are a good way in but, if that isn't realistic, it is always possible to ask a firm if you can go in and shadow outside of any formal arrangements they may have. You will probably have more success with a personal approach to the right person so, if you have some idea of what area you want to go into, it will be worth looking at the legal directoris such as Chambers and the Legal 500 to see which firms are the top in those fields and to help identify key individuals. They are both available online.

Feel free to pm me

pluck Thu 05-Jan-17 21:49:18

Thank you all again! I was thinking of starting this September, but if it will be more profitable to have a period of shadowing first (and I have some other projects to put to bed before September), perhaps putting off till next January, after some work experience, wouldn't be too bad!

ellamr Fri 06-Jan-17 08:47:26

Have you considered the CILEx route? Or doing the GDL by distance learning? With both options you can work at the same time.
You should look at CILEx Law School, which offers both options. They are a lot more flexible and cost effective.

witwootoodleoo Fri 06-Jan-17 09:10:31

Either CoL or BPP would be fine but I would try to get a training contact before doing the GDL. This is the norm as most firms recruit at least two years in advance and is much safer than incurring all the expense and risking not getting good a TC.

A lot of excellent students don't get TC and end up having wasted the money on their GDL. Someone I know had a 1st from Cambridge and a distinction on her GDL and still took four years to find a training contract.

Also do bear in mind that now is a very uncertain time in the industry. A lot of people are predicting that Brexit will result in a significant contraction of the market for commercial type firms and when that happens they will slash recruitment and junior lawyers will he competing with far more qualified lawyers that have been made redundant and are prepared to work below their pay grade.

I don't want to put you off but in your shoes I would start applying for lots of vac schemes and getting other work experience. With those under your belt then apply for a TC and then do your GDL and LPC.

2014newme Fri 06-Jan-17 09:16:39

Your challenge will be finding a training contract. There is massive competition. Without that you can't qualify as a solicitor this is why many end up as paralegals. if you want to he a paralegal you should try to do that without incurring thousands of pounds of fees.
At my husbands firm they only offer training contract to those that have done vacation placements there
Good luck

TalbotAMan Fri 06-Jan-17 09:20:14

BPP and the University of Law are private universities. Their fees are set high to make a significant profit for their (foreign) owners.

There are a lot of other public universities that offer the same courses, and these are often significantly better value for money.

ricepolo Fri 06-Jan-17 09:25:21

I did a conversion course at BPP London after a non law undergrad at Cambridge. It was awful. Boring, patronising and totally spoon fed (no questions were allowed outside of what was on the script for that lecture). Sounds harsh but because the entry requirements are so low the academic standard there is also very low compared to Cambridge. But it was a means to an end.

I wouldn't even consider retraining without a training contract lined up. The costs are astronomical otherwise (BPP exists to make money!) and getting into that level of debt without a guaranteed role at the end is unadvisable.

pluck Fri 06-Jan-17 16:07:56

This is MN Legal Matters at its best! grin I often lurk here reading threads, actually, as you people are all so varied and resourceful, and are very kind to those seeking help and advice. flowers

Zimmerzammerbangbang Sat 07-Jan-17 14:45:51

I did it all part time. Finding a training contract in advance doesn't really work if you're doing the GDL part time (because they recruit in line with full time timescales). Which is a good thing in some ways as you can start and then start looking at training contracts either one year through (if you want to do the LPC full time) or at the end of the GDL. It gives you more time to think it through but does mean you will have to self-fund the GDL at least.

babybarrister Sat 07-Jan-17 22:07:32

without any shadowing on your CV you may also find it very difficult to get on a course and certainly at the training stage it is absolutely essential - I interview prospective pupils and they have all done a lot of legal stuff even though they are not yet qualified ....

Twilightsparkle84 Sat 07-Jan-17 23:29:23

I qualified as a Chartered Legal Executive in 2009 and as the others above have suggested, the legal profession is imploding at the moment. I'm clinging onto a job which I loathe as there simply isn't anything else out there. Even using my contacts, all I have been offered is a position which wouldn't even pay enough to cover childcare costs. I think people assume I make a good living as a lawyer but the reality is punishing billing targets, I may as well be in sales. My sister who is a sales rep is under less pressure than me and earns much more too!
You may find you're really successful, but the odds aren't great. I was planning on going on to become a solicitor after qualifying as a Legal Exec, but financially it's just not worth it. I'm even considering going into teaching, as after a few years I'd earn roughly the same as I do now. Also I'd have the school holidays (yes I know I'd have to do some work) with my children. Think carefully. If I could go back in time I would not have entered the profession and would advise accountancy, H.R or marketing instead.

lingle Thu 12-Jan-17 19:43:23

From journalism you may be able to become convincing about privacy, media and copyright.
There is some demand for data protection experts (but we all like them to tell us the answer then disappear).

I'm afraid that when I read the OP about low barriers to entry etc I thought it was law you talking about.

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