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THE UK: Subject Guides - Must read

The best law schools in the UK

What are the best law schools in the UK? In this guide we explore how to become a solicitor or barrister, salary expectations, entry requirements and more.

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Law is a particularly popular subject for international students who come to the UK for their studies. There are many reasons why law is such a sought-after degree including the world-class reputation of law schools in the UK. In this article you will find information on the best law schools at UK universities, earning potential and an overall idea of what to expect from a law course in the UK.


What is it like to study law in the UK?

Firstly, there are two types of lawyers in the UK. A solicitor is a legal professional who advises clients on their case outside of the courtroom, setting up meetings to advise on each case. Whereas a barrister advocates for clients inside the court room.


Law is a particularly respected and often rewarding profession. Gaining a qualification from a law school in the UK will be recognised globally, presenting opportunities to work in other countries if you wish.


How to become a solicitor in the UK

The process of qualifying as a lawyer varies depending on the country you choose for your studies. Studying law in the USA for example is a different process in comparison to the UK.


But if your heart is set on the UK, here are the steps you need to follow to qualify as a solicitor:


1. Undergraduate degree (+ three years)

Firstly, you need an undergraduate degree which could be in law (also known as an LLB) or another subject of your choice. However, if your undergraduate is not in law, you will need to complete a one-year Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) conversion course.

2. Graduate Diploma in Law (non-compulsory, only if your bachelor’s degree is not in law. +1 year)

Bringing non-law graduates up to speed on core legal concepts.

3. Legal Practice Course (+1 year)

A postgraduate course to prepare you for a career as a solicitor. This course is the equivalent of going to law school. This course is mandatory to begin your career as a legal professional in the UK.

4. Law training contact

The last stage requires gaining a contract with a law firm for two years. During this time, you will also need to complete a Professional Skills Course which will be funded by the firm.


How to qualify as a barrister in the UK

Training to be a barrister is only a slightly different process:


1. Undergraduate degree (+ three years)

2. Bar Professional Training Course (+ 1 year)

The BPTC is a postgraduate course, preparing you for a professional career as a barrister.

3. Pupillage in Chambers (+1 year)

A year spent in a barristers’ chambers where you will shadow an experienced barrister, supporting them on their cases.


However, this route into law is going to change as of September 2021 with the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) that all prospective solicitors will have to pass. This exam will replace the requirement of a law degree and legal practice course. Instead the process will involve completing two exams as part of the SQE followed by two years of relevant work experience.


How long does law school take in the UK?

Overall, it can take five to seven years to complete your training, depending on whether you choose to qualify as a solicitor or a barrister. Always add an extra year if you need to complete a GDL.


What are best law schools in the UK?

Check out the rankings of law schools at universities in the UK based on The Complete University Guide 2021 league table.


1st University of Cambridge

It’s not surprising to see Cambridge at the top of the rankings for law as the university itself has a world-renowned reputation for excellence. At Cambridge law school, you will gain a BA in law as opposed to an LLB at undergraduate level. Although the accreditation is different to other law courses in the UK, it is still a qualifying law course which doesn’t require a GDL afterwards.


2nd  University of Oxford

Another globally leading institution, the law school at Oxford University offers two options for law students. You can choose between a three-year degree or a four-year degree which includes a year abroad in a European country. While standards are high and courses are competitive, a law degree from Oxford University will put you in an excellent position when it comes to applying for further courses and training contracts.


3rd  UCL

Ranking in third place, UCL is based in the vibrant capital city of London, with easy access to the Supreme Court and the many prestigious libraries students at London universities can use. The law school offers a variety of courses including LLB Law plus a language, and the opportunity to extend a law degree to four years to study for a year at a partner university in Australia, Hong Kong or Singapore.


4th  Kings College London

Another London based law school which was formed in 1831, making it one of the oldest in the UK. The law courses on offer include Law with North American Legal Studies, Law with Transnational Legal Studies, Law with European Legal Studies, and several more. Entry standards for this programme are high with A-level requirements being A*AA (or equivalent).


5th  University of Glasgow

Based in Scotland in the thriving city of Glasgow, The University of Glasgow ranks in the top one per cent of universities in the world and is a member of the Russell Group. The subject of law has been taught at the university since 1714, reflecting the longstanding history of the subject at this institution.


As these are the top law schools in the country, entry requirements will be high. Luckily, there are many other reputable law schools that might be better suited to you or could be located in a more preferable part of the UK:


(Ranking source: The Complete University Guide 2021)


Entry requirements for law school in the UK

Entry requirements for law vary depending on the course and university so it’s important to check the university website for specific information. However, having top grades will make getting into law school an easier process, particularly for the competitive courses. This would be in the range of AAB-A*AA (A-level or equivalent). In the UK, grades also convert into UCAS points which means that if you studied another qualification such as a BTEC, your overall points may add up to the grades you need.


Now you know more about studying law in the UK, are you ready to start your journey? If you didn’t see a university you like here, use our course matcher tool to find the right programme, institution and destination. You can also check out our take on what makes studying in the UK unique.

Study in the UK


'Study in the UK' eBook

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