How Is a Law Degree Structured in the UK?

9 Oct, 2023 | Law, University Preparation

Most UK universities offer a Law degree as a three-year undergraduate course. This is different to law schools in the United States, where a Law degree can only be completed at the postgraduate level. Navigating the university application process – alongside planning for your future career – can be confusing, so to make things easier, we’ve put together a simple three-step guide to becoming a qualified lawyer in the UK!

Stage 1: Applying to University 

Most universities in the UK will offer a few different Law degrees. These can often be combined with a year of studying abroad, or with a separate honours subject like Business Studies. 

It’s important to research the universities that you’re looking to apply to because the range of modules on offer will differ quite significantly between them. It’s also a good idea to seek out student experiences to gain a detailed understanding of what it’s like to study Law at the different universities you’re considering.

Most universities in the UK offer a Qualifying Law Degree (QLD), where you’re assessed in a number of compulsory core modules, including EU law and contract law. Having a QLD allows you to go on to study for your Solicitors Qualification Exam (SQE). After passing the SQE – and completing a final two years of qualifying work experience – you can then qualify as a solicitor!

Stage 2: Completing Your Degree

Depending on your university, the core modules will be arranged differently across the three years, meaning you’ll be assessed at different stages in your degree. 

At the University of Oxford, you’re examined in three core modules during your first year, and seven more in your third year. In addition to this, you choose two modules in your final year to be examined in. 

Alternatively, the University of Bristol assesses students regularly across the three years. The core modules are arranged differently from the University of Oxford’s, and include a number of optional modules as well. 

Please note, OxBright does not have an affiliation with any UK university.

Ultimately, your choice of university should reflect your interests outside of the core modules. You’ll be assessed on these core modules in some form wherever you study, so these shouldn’t heavily impact your choice. Your optional modules won’t affect your overall degree or your ability to qualify as a solicitor, but they can be helpful in deciding which area of law you might want to work in after you leave university.

OxBright student gaining legal experience in a law court.

Stage 3: Qualifying as a Solicitor

Thanks to the new SQE qualification, which replaces the GDL (Graduate Diploma in Law) and LPC (Legal Practice Course), there are now more ways to qualify as a solicitor after completing your degree. Everyone must complete the two exams which make up the SQE, but you no longer have to complete two years of training in a traditional training contract scenario (TC). 

Previously, you would be required to spend these two years at a law firm. However, the SQE offers a wider choice of qualifying work experience. This can still include the traditional TC, but also includes paralegal and pro bono work. 

It’s incredibly encouraging to see the governing body for lawyers increasing the accessibility of the profession by offering these alternative routes to qualifications!

Upon qualification in England or Wales, you can practise law in both England and Wales. You also become eligible to train for qualification to practise abroad, like training to take the bar exam in the US.

It’s important to note that different states have different requirements for taking the bar exam in the US, and you may be required to also have a Masters of Law. The New York bar exam doesn’t require you to complete an LLM, though other states do. 

It should also be noted that studying for a Scottish Law degree will not qualify you to practise in the rest of the UK without doing a conversion course under the SQE, because Scots law comprises a different legal system with its own unique jurisdiction.

To experience a taste of a UK Law degree, and gain valuable experience and skills to boost your university application, check out our residential Law summer school.  


By Jamie Emerick

Jamie is a recent Law graduate of Trinity College, University of Oxford. Alongside his writing work, offering first-hand advice for those looking to study Law at university, Jamie works at a MedTech firm as an IP Law Assistant, helping to manage their IP portfolio.

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