Criminal Law - Careers
The work of a Criminal Law solicitor
Solicitors give advice and assistance on matters of law. Specifically, they are the first point of contact for people and bodies (members of the public, companies and charities) seeking skilled legal advice and representation. Most solicitors work together in private practice, while others work in central and local government, or in-house in a commercial or industrial organisation.
The work of a barrister
Barristers offer advice on legal issues and are on the front line, representing clients in court. They receive their information and instructions through a client's solicitor. When not appearing in court, they work in chambers where they prepare their court cases and arguments.
How to Become a Criminal Lawyer/Barrister
Top grades are required throughout your academic studies to become a solicitor or barrister. The quickest route into the profession is to get top marks in GCSEs and A-levels, at least a 2.1 university law degree, and then further training and qualifications.
The further training depends on whether you wish to become a barrister or solicitor. For barristers, the one-year Bar Vocational Course (BVC) followed by at least a 12-month pupillage in chambers is necessary. Pupillages are divided into two six-month periods, commonly referred to as 'sixes'. Solicitors take the one-year Legal Practice Course (LPC) followed by a two-year training contract, usually with a firm of solicitors, or the legal section of a commercial firm or government department.
The LPC and BVC are offered by colleges and universities throughout the country, and ensure that students have the necessary skills to work in a solicitors' office or barristers' chambers.
For solicitors, there are alternative routes into the profession - for example, qualifying as a legal executive through the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX) and undertaking training while working. The minimum qualifications to study for ILEX qualifications are passes in four GCSE subjects at minimum grade C, including English. Further details of the qualifying route can be found on the ILEX website and in our ILEX section.
Graduates in a non-law degree subject can still qualify as a solicitor or barrister by taking the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) before embarking on the LPC/BVC, although this entails an extra year's study and more expense. The GDL prepares non-law graduates for a legal career as it covers the foundations of law, namely contract, tort, criminal law, equity & trusts, EU law, property law and public law.