Before starting my university journey, I knew in the back of my mind that I could
pursue a career as a solicitor without studying law. How I’d do that, I wasn’t too sure, but after plenty of research, I’m heading into my law conversion course after graduating from Warwick with a Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) degree this summer.
As I leave one chapter and head into the next, I thought I’d reflect on my journey so far as well as think a little about what is to come. I’ll also briefly discuss the logistics of qualifying as a solicitor
When choosing my degree, I wanted a course that would teach me more about the institutions, systems, and individuals around the world. It’s a big ask, I know, but PPE seemed to fit the bill. To be honest, I didn’t really know what career I wanted to pursue when I was leaving sixth form, and wanted to use the first year of my degree to understand what I was good at and what I was interested in.
I liked how solicitors worked closely with their clients, building a relationship founded on trust and respect. I appreciated the opportunity to work on matters that had an impact on the business world, perhaps promoting innovation and driving change. There’s also the chance to take part in pro bono work, which is free legal advice that lawyers give to those in need. This appealed to my interest in charity work. All of these observations, which I was able to gain through research and work experience, have meant that I am informed about the legal pathway and how I could find my place in the industry.
To understand whether law is right for you, consider the skills that you have and the experiences that have helped you to develop and recognise those skills. Then, consider what you are looking for in a career - what do you enjoy? What makes you feel fulfilled? This will help you to know yourself more.
Applying PPE to Law
Applying for legal work experience helped me to learn more about my degree subjects, too. If you’ve started your university study, you might be unsure how you’d go about explaining the connection between what you’ve studied and law. However, as law is such a broad field, you’ll be able to slot in a link between your degree and the law somewhere.
For me, I found that my economics studies helped me out when I was considering mergers and acquisitions, and understanding the economy as a whole helped me to interpret current affairs. Politics similarly helped me to get a grasp of current affairs, as well as understand the impacts of today’s issues such as climate change and inequality, and what can be done to solve them - law often tries to solve and remedy these issues. Finally, my philosophy training means I can argue well and in a logical way, and helps me to tackle common recruitment tests such as the Watson Glaser test with ease.
It makes sense to briefly lay out how students go from non law fresher to qualified solicitor. Firstly, it’s important to check the requirements of potential legal employers when choosing what route to take. To become a qualified solicitor, the most standard route is to undertake a training contract, a two-year graduate scheme where you rotate around different departments in the firm. After this training contract, you will qualify as a solicitor, and will choose which area of law you would like to become an expert in.
Before this, however, you will need to do some studying. All graduates, regardless of degree, will need to study for the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), while non law students will also need to take a law conversion course such as the PgDL before the SQE. So, this means that as a non law student, a typical journey will be 3 years of studying for your undergraduate degree, one year studying a law conversion, one year studying for the SQE, then a two year training contract. See this handy infographic that sets out the pathway.
Thankfully, there’s plenty of funding available for your studying, and many students are able to get sponsored by a law firm to do their conversion and the SQE. Exactly what you’ll receive is often listed on law firm’s websites.
This all may sound daunting, but fear not - 50% of those that take up a training contract place haven’t studied law as undergraduates. Think about the perspective that your course offers, and how the skill and knowledge you have gained could help you to be a successful lawyer. You don’t even have to go to university to become a solicitor - you could do a Solicitor Apprenticeship.
What can I do now?
There are plenty of opportunities to get legal work experience, and ultimately take your first steps towards becoming a qualified solicitor. In your first or second year as a non law student, there are formal work experience programmes, often called First Year Schemes’. You can find some upcoming deadlines for these on Legal Cheek’s deadlines calendar. If you’re still in school, check out PRIME to kick off your legal journey. Good luck!