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Postgraduate study in law

A postgraduate law degree not only sets you on course for a legal career, but it's also highly valued by employers in many other areas.
Law books on desk

Job prospects

If you want to pursue a career as a solicitor or barrister, there are specific entry routes involving further vocational study, on-the-job training and professional examinations (see gradireland Law for more information).

Several colleges in the Republic of Ireland offer preparatory courses to help you get through the Law Society entrance exams (known as FE-1), needed to train as a solicitor, or the King's Inns Entrance exams needed to train as a barrister. These are useful even if you already have a law degree.

For those wishing to pursue a career in law there are specific entry routes, involving further training and professional examinations.

For non-law graduates who wish to train as solicitors, conversion courses are available that will prepare them for the necessary exams. Similarly, non-law graduates who want to take the Barrister-at-Law degree course will need to pass the King's Inn Diploma in Legal Studies before they can sit the entrance exams.

Working abroad

There are three different legal systems within the UK, with Northern Ireland and Scotland having separate systems from England and Wales. This means that there are different postgraduate training systems to consider, but typically an Irish BCL will suffice for entry if the relevant subject modules have been chosen.

For those who wish to practise as Attorneys-at-Law, there are opportunities to study for the New York or California Bar. Irish law graduates are eligible to apply to sit for the New York Bar exam and qualified lawyers who do not possess a law degree can apply to take the California Bar.

The options

Specialist law degrees range from diplomas to PhDs. The Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree is typically (despite its name) a postgraduate degree, usually lasting one year. Most students continue from the LLB degree into the legal profession or to the more specialised LLM programmes. The Master of Laws (LLM) can be done purely by research or by course work and minor thesis. It offers a wide choice of specialisms from criminal law to intellectual property law. You can find more information at www.llm-guide.

For admission to an LLB or LLM degree course, candidates must normally hold a second-class honours BCL (Bachelor of Civil Laws) degree or have other third-level qualifications or relevant professional experience. The LLM tends to have higher entry requirements than the LLB. For entry to diploma or conversion to law courses a background in law is usually preferred, but some courses may be open to people with other qualifications or relevant experience.

Conversion courses

It's possible for graduates from non-law disciplines to successfully pursue a professional practice qualification as a solicitor or barrister. Before they can train to be a barrister, non-law graduates need to undertake the Kings Inns' Diploma in Legal Studies (a two-year part-time course).

In Northern Ireland, graduates without a law degree need to take what is now called the Master of Legal Science at Queen's University, Belfast before they can train as a solicitor or barrister.

While the University of Ulster offers a Postgraduate Diploma in Professional Legal Practice enabling students to qualify as solicitors, it's not a conversion course and is only open to graduates with recognised law degrees.

Issues to consider

There are three different legal systems in the UK, with Northern Ireland and Scotland having separate systems from England and Wales. This results in different postgraduate training systems but typically an Irish BCL will suffice for entry if the relevant subject modules have been chosen. For those who wish to practise as Attorneys-at-Law, there are opportunities to study for the New York or California Bar. Irish law graduates are eligible to apply to sit for the New York Bar exam and qualified lawyers who do not possess a law degree can apply to take the California Bar.