Blog > Careers

Can you work at a law firm without a law degree?

While a law degree is the usual path to becoming a qualified lawyer in the UK, there are options to work at a law firm without it. Some of these include:

1. An apprenticeship, which is becoming a more popular route to securing a job at a law firm and takes 5 – 6 years to complete

2. Working towards this role, which includes obtaining the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) Level 6 Professional Diploma in Higher Law and Practice qualification

3. The traditional solicitor qualifying route, available until 2032 if you started a qualifying law degree before 2021

In this article, we discuss each of these routes in more detail to help you determine whether there is a more suitable route for you than going to university and completing a university degree.

1. An apprenticeship

Apprenticeships are a great way to get paid for on-the-job experience. This route is particularly suitable if you are someone who learns through more practical methods. In combination with on-the-job training, there will also be some classroom learning, and you will need to complete a number of exams as part of the apprenticeship.

Undertaking a solicitor apprenticeship in a law firm helps you to develop those essential skills needed to thrive in a legal environment, including attention to detail, organisation, and communication. Developing skills such as these allows you to build those all-important professional relationships. 

By completing a solicitor apprenticeship, you’ll eventually receive the qualifications and knowledge that you need to practice as a lawyer in the UK.

2. Working towards the role

One of the best ways to get your foot in the door at a law firm is to work your way up. There are a number of non-lawyer roles within a law firm that can eventually lead to a solicitor role, many of which do not require specific qualifications to secure. 

Once you are in a law firm, it might be encouraged that you work towards your legal qualifications, and possibly even secure some funding from the firm to do so.

Two of the main roles that can lead to a solicitor position are:

· A paralegal – as a paralegal, you’ll be working alongside solicitors and lawyers and will assist with research, drafting documents, managing client data, and other administrative tasks.

· A legal secretary – as a legal secretary, you’ll provide administrative and secretarial support to lawyers, including managing diaries, preparing legal documents, and handling client calls.

Some of the other roles you might want to consider include legal assistant, litigation assistant, and caseworker.

3. Solicitor qualifying route

Anyone with a university degree, no matter which degree you studied, is eligible to take the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE). This means that, whether being a lawyer has always been your goal, or this is a new decision for you, you’ll have the opportunity to make this career a reality. 

Of course, a degree alone isn’t going to help you pass the exam. To pass the SQE, you will need to apply your knowledge of the law and legal principles, demonstrating the competencies required of a newly qualified solicitor. Studying the complex topics required can take a little time.

To help you succeed, it is recommended that you do an SQE preparation course which will prepare you with the knowledge that you’ll need and the format of the exam.

Once you have passed your SQE, you will need to apply for and secure a training contract to continue the process of becoming a qualified solicitor in the UK.

Ready to finalise your route to becoming a solicitor? 

Hopefully, this article has given you a better idea about the potential routes to becoming a solicitor, and what your next steps should be. You might even have a whole new career path in mind!

If you want to see which law firms are currently hiring for paralegals, apprentices or solicitors, head to our careers page.