Do I need a Law Degree? Level 7 Options (Part 3)

Jan 5, 2023 - Legal, Industry Insights

So after all of that, we’re finally ready to look at level 7 options. And I’ll be honest, there’s more to this than I thought. Some options are being replaced (such as the LPC) and some options are becoming obsolete if you’re going down the solicitor route (like the LLM, the P/GDL, and the MA Law Conversion Masters), so I won’t cover these in too much detail.

But there’s a lot to cover, so best we get started!

Law Conversion Masters (P/GDL, LLM, MA Law Conversion)

Professional Title upon Completion



Tuition Fees:

P/GDL - £5,000 to £13,000

LLM - £8,650 to £18,000

MA Law Conversion - £15,400

Overall Cost of Course

Up to £30,800 (however, this doesn’t include living expenses or course costs such as textbooks, and is assuming full-time study)

Length of Time
(Full-Time Study)

1 to 2 years

Entry Requirements

Varies depending on the university, but most require a 2:2 minimum degree.

Topics Studied

If doing a conversion course, then your compulsory modules are:

Contract Law

Criminal Law

Equity And Trusts

European Union (Eu) Law

Land Law

Public Law

Tort Law

But your other modules will vary, as will the modules on any non-conversion Law Masters Degrees. But some modules I came across in my research included:

Artificial Intelligence and Blockchain in Law (The University of Law LLM)

Comparative Equality Law (University of Portsmouth LLM)

Warfare and Lawfare (University of Manchester LLM)

Where to Find One?

The University of Law is a key provider of postgraduate law courses, but many universities offer a Level 7 law degree. However, these level 7s will likely be either the LLM or MA, with the P/GDL and the MA (Conversion) being phased out or replaced. UCAS can help you search for a Masters in Law


You can take a specialised Masters Degree. This means that if you know you want to become a lawyer specialising in technology, a Masters degree will give you a strong foundation within that specialisation.

It can help you find a job, since getting a job in the legal sector is extremely competitive. A masters can show your dedication to the subject, which may give you a competitive edge.

If you’ve already started, you have the choice to stick with the LPC route, which is the tried and true method that law firms understand and trust.


Taking a course conversion Masters is no longer necessary to become a lawyer if you completed a non-law degree.

Extremely expensive for something that isn’t necessary.

You still need to complete the LPC, SQE or the CPQ to become a lawyer.

Legal Practice Course (LPC)

The LPC will remain a valid route until 2032, but only for those who, prior to the 1st of September 2021, have completed, started, accepted an offer of a place or paid a non-refundable deposit for the GDL (and started it before the 31st December 2021), the LPC, a period of recognised training (PRT), or have completed, started or accepted an offer of a place or paid a non-refundable deposit for a qualifying law degree (QLD) / exempting law degree (ELD) that starts before 31 December 2021. 

Basically, if you were an LLB law student, an LLM student, a P/GDL student, an MA Law Conversion student in December 2021, you can continue down the LPC route

But if you started after December 2021, you’ll need to take the BPC (to become a barrister), the SQE (to become a solicitor) or the CPQ (to become a Chartered Legal Executive).

Professional Title upon Completion

If you’ve secured a training contract, you’ll be a Trainee Solicitor - you’ll need to complete a period of recognised training (PRT) before you’re a qualified solicitor.

If you don’t have a training contract, then there’s no title change. You’d still be a graduate.


Dependent on your provider but can range from £7,850 to £17,950

Overall Cost of Course

£7,850 to £17,950

Length of Time
(Full Time Study)

1 year

Entry Requirements

Either a LLB or a BA/BSc and a Conversion Masters (P/GDL, LLM, or MA Law Conversion)

Topics Studied

Split into two stages, you’ll study the following in Stage One of the LPC:

Business Law And Practice

Litigation, Including Civil And Criminal

Property Law And Practice.

Then there are the skills of:

Advising and advocacy
Practical legal research
Writing and drafting.

In addition are the areas of:

Professional conduct and regulation
Solicitors' accounts
Wills and administration of estates.

Then Stage Two of the LPC allows more choice which allows you to develop a specialisation within the legal sector. Stage 2 consists of two vocational electives which might include:

Private Acquisitions
Public Companies
Family Law
Commercial Law
Competition Law
Employment Law
Intellectual Property
Clinical Negligence and Personal Injury
Private Client

Where to Find One?

The SRA has a list of LPC providers on their site.


It’s the traditional route. Everyone in law knows and is familiar with this route, meaning they know what you’ve studied and the quality of work you’re used to.


The LPC is being phased out, meaning you have a limited time to complete this course. Many LPC courses are being withdrawn due to the transition to the SQE.

Taking the LPC is no longer necessary to become a lawyer if you completed a degree. The SQE is now the main route to becoming a Solicitor.

Extremely expensive for something that isn’t necessary.

There’s more to do - You still need to complete a period of recognised training (PRT) to become a solicitor.

Bar Practice Course (BPC) 

Previously known as the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) or the Bar Training Course (BTC), this is the vocational element of training as a barrister. A barrister differs from a solicitor or a chartered legal executive in that they advocate for their clients in the higher courts. A solicitor or chartered legal executive may support a barrister on these matters, and they can also represent their clients in the lower courts, but only barristers can act in high courts. 

Professional Title upon Completion

Graduate - you’ll need to complete pupillage with a Chamber and join one of The Inns of the Courts before you’re a barrister.


Vocational Training: The BPC/BPTC will vary by provider but the University of Law offers BPC courses ranging from £12,500 to £16,900. However, the University of London City Law School offers the most expensive BPC course at £19,500.

Pupillage: Paid for by your Chambers.

Overall Cost of Course

Maximum £19,500 per year

Length of Time
(Full Time Study)

Vocational Training: 1 year 

Pupillage: 1 year (split into two 6-month periods)

Entry Requirements

LLB in Law at a 2:1 or higher


BA/BSc at a 2:1 or higher and an P/GDL or LLM Conversion at 2:1/Merit or higher

Topics Studied

Civil litigation, evidence and resolution of disputes out of court.

Criminal litigation, evidence and sentencing

Advocacy, including examination-in-chief, cross-examination and civil applications



Opinion writing

Professional Ethics

Legal Research

Where to Find One?

Some universities offer the BPC, with The Lawyer Portal compiling a list of course providers.


The BPC is the only route to becoming a Barrister. So one pro is your pathway is far more simple than a solicitor, which has so many more options and routes (well, at least until 2032).

As a barrister, you’ll be self-employed, so you have complete autonomy over your revenue stream, hours worked, when you can take time off.

There’s an element of prestige, as you can represent your clients in higher courts.

You’ll be able to specialise and become an expert in your chosen subject matter(s). Whether you’re fighting discrimination cases, advocating for people’s rights in court of protection cases, or prosecuting or defending criminals, you’ll see academic and vocational challenges throughout your career. 

You’ll find variety within your matters, as barristers must accept any case offered to them. This means you can’t cherry-pick cases and need to take on whatever comes your way; you’ll find constant variety in your workload.


Self-employed, so you’re entirely responsible for seeking out clients, and you don’t have the security of a law firm behind you.

Unpredictable workload, as sudden changes in your cases, trials overrunning, or last minute briefs sent to you can cause you to have to redo your prep work. This can put a dent in your social life as your friends and family will likely hear the phrase “something came up” a lot.

You can’t be selective about your matters, as you must accept any case offered to you. 

Expensive - unlike the title of solicitor, which is seeing increased flexibility with price requirements to improve diversity within the role, barrister isn’t seeing such changes. 

Inflexible Entry Requirements - unlike the SQE, the BPC will still require a qualifying law degree, whether it’s an LLB or an LLM.

It’s highly competitive to get pupillage; if you thought getting into an undergraduate degree or getting a training contract was competitive, you’re in for a shock with pupillage. 

It’s (socially) hard to change Chambers; while it’s common to move Chambers, it can be hard to navigate, as the relationships you develop in your chamber can be complicated, and this can cause tension in these relationships

No help when it comes to finding new roles; as the Chamber Tenants are self-employed, recruiters can’t help you find a new Barrister role. You’re on your own.

Solicitors’ Qualifying Exam (SQE)

The usurper of the throne, taking the crown from the LPC, the SQE is the new and main route to becoming a solicitor. This is split into two exams, the inventively SQE1 and SQE2. You’ll also need qualifying work experience to pass the SQE, with some providers, such as the Law Training Centre, baking the work experience right into their courses

Professional Title upon Completion



SQE 1 exams: £1,558

SQE 2 exams: £2,442
(the SRA has more information on fees on their website)

SQE1 Prep Courses: Varies by institution, but the University of Law has SQE 1 courses for between £4,000 and £5,650.

SQE1 Prep Courses: Varies by institution, but the University of Law's SQE 2 courses are around £4,000 and £5,650.

(Alternatively, the University of Law offers an LLM focused on preparing students for the SQE at £12,800 to £16,950)

Overall Cost of Course

Just the Exams: £4,000

Exams and the  Prep Courses: £12,000 to £15,300

Length of Time 

Exam Preparation: To prepare for both exams, it’s recommended to allow for 9 to 18 months, when studying for 15 to 20 hours per week (per the QLTS Study Preparation Recommendations).

Qualifying Work Experience: 2 years (can be achieved concurrently with the exams)

Entry Requirements

You Need To:

Hold a Level 6 Qualification

Show you are of satisfactory character and suitability, per the SRA character standards.

Topics Studied

The SQE 1 covers Functioning Legal Knowledge (FLK), which are assessed through multiple choice questions. This is split into part 1 (FLK1) and part 2 (FLK2).

The FLK1 Topics include:

Business Law and Practice
Dispute Resolution
Legal System of England and Wales
Constitutional and Administrative Law and EU Law and Legal Services

The FLK2 Topics include:

Property Practice
Wills and the Administration of Estates
Solicitors Accounts
Land Law
Criminal Law and Practice

You’ll need to achieve an overall pass mark for each of these parts individually in order to pass the SQE1. If you pass one but fail the other, you fail overall.

The SQE2 assesses Practical Legal Skills over the course of five days, through a combination of written and oral tasks.

You’ll be assessed on the following skills:

Client interview and attendance note/legal analysis
Case and matter analysis
Legal research
Legal writing
Legal drafting

And within the following practice areas:

Criminal Litigation (including advising clients at the police station)
Dispute Resolution
Property Practice
Wills and Intestacy, Probate Administration and Practice
Business organisations rules and procedures (including money laundering and financial services).

You can find more SQE assessment information on the SRA website.

Where to Find One?

The SRA has a page dedicated to the dates and locations that you can take the SQE.

The SQE1 is stated as taken at any Pearson VUE location, but Pearson lists the SQE1 as an Online Exam so you can take this from the comfort of your own home.


Cheaper than alternative routes, as you don’t need to pay for a Conversion Masters or the LPC.

More flexible entry requirements, as it doesn’t require a law degree.

Can take the SQE1 online, saving you travel on a stressful day.

Many SQE courses include qualifying work experience, which can help with passing the SQE.

Many law firms are happy to take on Paralegals and Legal Assistants who are working towards their SQE, which can make it easy to build up your qualifying work experience.

You can work while studying, which makes funding the SQE exams more manageable. Working while you study also helps you develop a network of lawyers who can help you with your studies.


No student finance support, which means you pay the costs out of pocket.

Still relatively new, which means that not all law firms are aware of everything the SQE entails. A majority of their lawyers will likely have taken the LPC. This means you might be on your own regarding advice, exam prep, tips, etc.

Solicitor Apprenticeship

The most elusive of the options and one I only discovered in the course of researching these blogs; these are government-backed apprenticeships designed to provide an alternative to university to become a lawyer. There are three kinds of apprenticeship: Level 3 Paralegal; Level 6 Chartered Legal Executive (which is being phased out with the CILEx Level 6 qualification); or Level 7 Solicitor

As you’re here because you want to be a lawyer, we’ll focus on the Level 7 solicitor apprenticeship, but the paralegal apprenticeship is a great way to gain knowledge of the legal profession (plus, it can help offer you some exemptions for both the CPQ and the SQE, which can save you time and money). 

Hard to find but growing in popularity as Magic Circle Firms start introducing Solicitor Apprenticeships, with Allen & Overy, and Linklaters introducing their Apprenticeships. As with trickle down fashion, once those higher up support the latest qualifications, it likely won’t be long until we see more firms adopting the apprenticeship.

Let’s cover the last of our Level 7 options - The Apprenticeship…

Professional Title upon Completion



N/a - as it’s an apprenticeship, it’s considered a job. You would get lower wages than a traditional job, but this is because your employer is paying for your qualification.

Salaries range from £20,000 to £25,000, and there may be options for additional funding through schemes such as Access to Work.

Overall Cost of Course


Length of Time 

The Solicitor apprenticeship takes 5 to 6 years to complete, with 6 years being the most common. Some may take as long as 7 years.

Entry Requirements

The Solicitor apprenticeship requirements can vary depending on your employer. However, as a minimum, The Institute for Apprenticeships & Technical Education recommends:

5 GCSEs at grade 4-5 or C (or equivalent), including maths and English.

Relevant Level 3 Qualifications - e.g. 3 A-Levels at grade C (or equivalent) in relevant subjects.

Relevant employer-led work experience (non-essential).

Topics Studied

You’ll need to complete the SQE 1 and the SQE 2, so you’ll be formally studying all of the topics mentioned above.

But you will be working alongside these studies so your department might vary by employer. You might end up working in some or all of the following departments:

Contentious / Litigation / Dispute Resolution
Private Client
Real Estate

Where to Find One?

Big cities tend to be the best places to start your search. A majority of Solicitor apprenticeships are located in the South East of England, primarily in London. 

You can search for apprenticeships through Gov.UK. Alternatively, The Lawyer Portal offers a Apprenticeship Deadlines Search to show you all currently active legal apprenticeships offered (including some paralegal roles).

It’s also worth checking Law Firms careers pages as some may not advertise their apprenticeships through the above means.


The SQE is included in the Solicitor Apprenticeship, meaning you don’t have to pay for exam fees and once your apprenticeship is completed, you’ll be a fully qualified solicitor.

You don’t need to get a Level 6 Qualification beforehand. This means you can completely cut out getting a degree or the CPQ.

No student debt whatsoever. Since you aren’t paying for the qualification costs, and you get a salary, you won’t have any student debt.

You can learn on the job, which is great if you’re someone who learns more effectively through practical or hands-on means.

You’ll have the support of experienced legal professionals. As you’ll be working within a law firm, you’ll work alongside paralegals, solicitors, and legal executives that have years (maybe even decades) of experience. If you have trouble with a subject or need extra guidance, you’ll have a firm of people to turn to.

You can network while working and studying. As you’ll be working within a law firm, you’ll have the chance to network with solicitors.


Highly competitive. There are fewer places on an apprenticeship than there are for a university course. This can make them incredibly difficult to get.

Solicitor Apprenticeships are still relatively new. This means there is some apprehension about them, they aren’t widely offered, and the firms might still be working the bugs out of the process.

Starting salaries are quite low. With apprenticeship salaries starting at around £20,000 and usually maxing out at £25,000, you might look at Trainee Solicitors taking the SQE and find yourself envious of their starting salaries, which can be as high as £60,000 in their first year. This can make your salary feel quite low, especially if living in one of the pricier cities like London. But remember, you’ll become a solicitor without all that pesky student debt.

CILEx Professional Qualification (CPQ)

CILEx, or The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, used to offer a Level 6 Diploma in Law and Practice. But this is being phased out. If you’ve started it, you only have until November 2026 to finish the Level 6 Diploma in Law and Practice

Instead of the Level 6 Diploma, CILEx introduced the CPQ in 2021. As the Level 6 Diploma is being phased out, they aren’t allowing new applicants to it, so we’ll focus on the CPQ.

Let’s see how the CILEx compares…

Professional Title upon Completion

Chartered Legal Executive


Registration Fee: £40 (applicable to those who are in the process of completing the CILEx)

CILEx Student Annual Membership Fee: £132 (required for the foundation level)

CILEx Member Annual Membership Fee: £204 (required for the advanced level)

CILEx Advanced Member Annual Membership Fee: £240 (required for the professional level)

CILEx Fellow Annual Membership Fee: £367 (only applicable to those who have graduated)

Check out CILEx’s Membership Grades and Fees page for more information.

CILEx Costs vary depending on if you pay in stages or module by module, and which course provider you choose. Below is the cost of the stages through the CILEx Law School.

Foundation Fee: £900

Foundation Course: £2,800

Advanced Fee: £1,500

Advanced Course: £4,350

Professional Fee: £1,100

Professional Course: £1,850

But the full lists of costs can be found on the How to Apply for CPQ page.

Living costs are not listed above as this can vary widely depending on where you live, and you aren’t restricted to a specific university campus through CILEx.

Overall Cost of Course

For the study courses and exams: £12,500

Annual Membership and Registration: £1,032 (assuming 5 year study duration) 

Once graduated: £367 annually

Total Costs: £13,899 for study and first year after graduation.

Length of Time 

Each level is estimated to take 18 to 24 months. This means the total time to get the qualification is 4.5 to 5.5 years.

You’ll also need to complete professional experience alongside your assessment modules. This means you’ll need a minimum of 3 years of qualifying work experience taken alongside your course. However, this can be completed simultaneously, alongside studying for the CILEx. This means your minimum length of the course is 4.5 years.

Entry Requirements

It’s strongly recommended that you have at least 4 GCSEs at grades 4-5 or C, including English Language or Literature, or equivalent qualifications.

Topics Studied

Foundation Stage

Your mandatory modules are:

Ethics and Professional Responsibility part 1 (e-learning module)
Professional Skills (succeeding in a legal environment and legal research).
Legal Systems
Contract Law
The Law of Tort
Introduction to Property and Private Client

Advanced Stage

Your mandatory modules are:

Ethics and Professional Responsibility Part 2 (e-learning module)
Professional and Legal Skills
Dispute Resolution
Criminal Law and Litigation
Property and Conveyancing

Then you can choose at least one optional module from:

Business and Employment Law
Family Law and Practice
Probate and Private Client

Professional Stage

Your mandatory module is:

Professional Skills

Then you can choose one more module from:

Dispute Resolution
Criminal Litigation
Residential Conveyancing
Commercial Conveyancing
Employment Law
Business and Commercial Law
Family Litigation
Probate and Private Client
Immigration Law

Where to Find One?

The CILEx website has the full list of CPQ course providers.


Total costs are cheaper for the entire course than one year of university.

You can work alongside the CILEx, which makes it well suited to those who already have financial commitments.

You don’t need to pay all costs upfront if you pay for the modules separately. You’d only need to pay for the registration fee and the membership fee for your specific level. This offers more flexibility to financing your qualification.

You can spread out your studies since you can pay for each module one at a time.

The Assessments are completed online, which means no commuting to exams, and they can be taken wherever you have a strong internet connection.

The required work experience can help you gain valuable legal experience prior to becoming a lawyer, which can give you a leg up in the job market.

You can become a practising Legal Executive Lawyer immediately after completing the course, which means you don’t need to follow this up with the SQE. This means that the CPQ is the quickest route to becoming a lawyer overall.


The course is entirely self-funded, meaning it can be a large drain on finances. 

Paying for modules separately costs more than paying for the level in one go. This means that if you need to spread out your modules due to costs, you’re being financially penalised for doing so.

The course can take longer than some degree options. This means you would spend more of your life studying.

The requirement for work experience may cause your qualification to take longer. If you can’t find a suitable role or your law firm won’t sign off on your experience, then this can delay you from moving on to the next level of the qualification.

Some areas of law aren’t studied with the CPQ, such as charity or education law. This can make it harder to get into these sectors.

Your qualifying work experience must be in an area of law relating to that stage’s modules. This means you’ll be shifting departments, or even companies, a lot while you study. This can cause added stress to your studies.

Less options on where you can study, compared to a degree. This means that if you prefer to study in person instead of online, then you may need to commute or move closer to your local course provider.

You will likely see a reduced salary compared to those who became solicitors, as some law firms view the Chartered Legal Executive as a lesser title (it’s not, so we recommend a good recruiter to fight in your corner for you).

You won’t hold the title of Solicitor. You’re specifically a Chartered Legal Executive with this qualification. And for some firms, they may specify a Solicitor over a Legal Executive. This can make it harder to get a job, even though you’d be doing the same work as a solicitor. You’ll need a good recruiter to fight your case for you (*nudge nudge*)

To Sum Up…

The path to becoming a lawyer is not a single linear path that you have to follow; there are  several intersections that cross and merge into one another. 

You’ll end up in the same place eventually, but have taken a different way to get there. You might have taken the well-worn route, or some detours along the way, or maybe gotten lost down a different career path for a while, but there are many paths to becoming a lawyer (even if the map to getting there is a little complicated).

There’s different titles: solicitor, chartered legal executive, barrister. There’s different qualifications: LPC, BPC, SQE, CPQ. There’s different levels and different costs and different entry requirements.

One thing is certain; they sure don’t make it simple for you to become a lawyer

But (hopefully!) this blog series - our pros and cons, the resources we’ve included, and the information we’ve gathered - will make it a little simpler for you.

Extra Resources

We’re tried to provide extra sources throughout, but if you’re finding yourself a bit stuck, we’d recommend checking out…


The Not All Lawyers Have Law Degrees Podcast from the BBC, where solicitors, chartered legal executives, and barristers talk about their different routes into law - through degrees, LPCs, SQEs, BPCs, CPQs, and apprenticeships - their experiences and the challenges they faced. There are also episodes discussing Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion in the Legal sector, and CV and interview tips.

The Talking Law podcast from Women In Law UK, where the barrister Sally Penni discusses the challenges and realities of the legal profession and the highs and lows of their careers with leading figures in UK Law.

The Law Talks podcast with aspiring solicitors, Katie and Ellie, where they discuss different areas of law, in an informal and easy-to-access way.


A great TEDx Talk, ‘Can a Good Lawyer be a Good Person?’, presented by Ronald Sullivan, discusses the legal system, the sense of morality and justice tied to it, and what it takes to fight for justice. However, as he is a US lawyer, his talk focuses on cases in the US.

Another good TEDx talk is ‘Think Like a Lawyer’; Adam Lange discusses the need for zeal as a lawyer, and that what your clients will take away from your work is whether you were a zealous advocate for them.

And if you want a better look into the current state of student life, you should take a look at the docuseries ‘Students on Edge’ which is available on the BBC iPlayer. Similarly, check out ‘The Student Mental Health Crisis’

And the Londonist DMC offers more information if you’re an international student in their ‘Career Paths: How to Become a Lawyer in The UK’. However, they only consider the university route to becoming a lawyer.

And Gordon Chung discusses his experience as a trainee solicitor in his ‘Whats it like being a lawyer in the UK...?’ video.

And finally, here’s a helpful video comparing the differences between a solicitor and a barrister, by Chelsie Angeles.


Join us in the Recruitment Room for more help with interviews, CVs, and applications.

Alex Bull is the content writer for the legal division of Harvey John.

For expert advice on how to get the best out of your Legal career, contact Hayley Rose for recruitment of jobs within the legal sector, both in-house and private, across the South East and beyond. 

Search our latest legal jobs.