Studying Law as a Mature Student
If you’re thinking of studying law as a mature student then you’re probably doing it for one of three reasons. You may want a career change and want to become a solicitor, barrister, or some other role in the legal profession.
Maybe your employer is requiring you to take the course, either as a promotion requirement or as a professional requirement.
Or maybe you just have the chance to study law at university and it’s always something you’ve wanted to do.
Regardless of the reason, the course you’re likely to take is the Law Conversion Course (GDL) because it can be completed in one year. However you could do an LLB if you wanted (if you want the full university experience) and do the course over 3 years – it’s all about personal choice.
It all depends how much time you want to dedicate to your education.
The GDL and the LLB will both give you a qualifying law degree and therefore fulfil the Law Society requirements. This is what you need if you’re doing the course so you can get your career in law started.
Minimum requirements & applications
The entry requirements differ substantially depending on which institution you’re applying to and the exact course you want to do. If you already have completed an undergraduate course at university then the normal GDL route will apply to you. So depending on provider you will need at least a 2:2 at degree level and some sort of interest in the law.
It gets more complicated when you don’t have a prior degree and A levels. You should consult each institution you’re interested in taking the degree at and talk to their admissions staff. You may have to complete an Access to Higher Education course, attend an interview, or demonstrate relevant work experience. So if you’ve worked as a paralegal for 10 years then your chances of getting a place will be greatly increased. The more relevant the work experience the better.
But generally speaking course providers do like to see some sort of recent academic experience to ensure that you have the relevant study skills.
If you want to apply for a GDL course you need to apply through lawcabs. And if you want to apply for the 3 year course you must go through UCAS. Because the applications aren’t judged the same way as they are for younger students we strongly encourage you to contact the course provider first. They will inform you exactly what you need to do to get a place on the course.
Chances of training contract success as a mature student
You shouldn’t be worried about your chances of obtaining a training contract because of your age. Depending on your previous career you may have experience that recent graduates would kill for! Obviously if you’re applying for a training contract when you’re 60 then you may not have much luck, but for an experienced professional with relevant (doesn’t need to be law!) experience you should be in with a good chance. As long as your academics are decent.
However there are some very talented youngsters out there who you will need to compete against in order to obtain a training contract. You need to understand and demonstrate your strengths. So explain how the knowledge from your previous career can help, and explain how your soft skills have been perfected over the years. Commercial awareness in particular will be incredibly useful to law firms. Try and give the impression that the firm aren’t just hiring a trainee solicitor, but also someone who is an expert in a certain field. A complete package.
You also need to be aware of some of the disadvantages of being a mature student. Some firms may think that you will be much harder to mould into the sort of solicitor that they want – they may believe someone older will be set in their ways. You can try and alleviate these concerns by emphasising your eagerness to learn new things and ways of doing things.
Whatever you do, don’t go in with a mind set that you’re too old. When I was doing the GDL one of the best performers on the course was in his 30s (and he already had a training contract). So think of your age as an advantage!
Accept the challenge
You will be faced with a unique set of challenges studying law later in your life. You may have to juggle family commitments or child care with the demands of a legal education. If you’ve been out of education for a bit getting back into the swing of things may be a challenge too.
But there are loads of reasons studying law as a mature student is a good idea. You will have the maturity, confidence and ambition that you perhaps didn’t have when you were younger. You can really commit to the course and fully enjoy the academic experience.