The study of English law is divided into the academic stage, the vocational stage and the professional stage.
The Academic Stage – The English Law Degree
Students can apply to study law at university for either a Bachelor of Laws degree (LL.B.) or a Bachelor of Arts degree (B.A.). At the University of Oxford, the English law degree is known as Jurisprudence.
The English law degree is typically for three years and to practise law as a solicitor or barrister, training in the seven core modules is required: constitutional and administrative law, contract law, criminal law, equity and trusts, EU law, land law and the law of torts.
Alternatively, students can study any degree and then do the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), which acts as a “conversion course”. The GDL is a year long and students study the seven core modules.
The Vocational Stage – Legal Practice Course (LPC) or Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC)
Following the completion of either an English law degree or the GDL, students then complete the LPC or BPTC depending on whether they want to become a solicitor or barrister.
The LPC and BPTC act as a post-graduate qualification and they are more about “work-placed learning” than academic theory. They are recognised as being the more practical stage of academic learning and students learn about: drafting, advising clients, advocacy and interview technique.
The Professional Stage – Training Contract or Pupillage
Students then complete a training contract if they want to become a solicitor or a pupillage if they want to become a barrister. Both of these routes are “on-the-job” and it is useful to think of them as apprenticeships. Students usually do a mini-pupillage at a chambers or a vacation scheme at a law firm and these act as internships.
A pupillage takes one year to complete and the training contract takes two years to complete.