Catherine Baksi explores the bursaries, scholarships, loans available for postgraduate studies and work placements
Training to become a lawyer is a competitive and expensive business. Unfortunately, finding where help comes from can be a challenge and a bit time-consuming. Here’s a guide to what’s on offer at the different stages of your journey into the law that might help make it a bit less bumpy.
Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and Legal Practice Course (LPC)
Non-law graduates looking to pursue a career as a solicitor or barrister will have to complete the year-long conversion course or GDL. The cost varies from around £4,000 to £10,000 depending on where you study.
Those who want to become solicitors then have to pass the LPC, which also lasts a year, and costs between £7,000 and £13,000 (although there are now some fast track programmes available), before completing a two-year training contract.
Trainee solicitors currently receive a mandatory minimum salary of £16,650 (£18,590 in central London). However, that is being scrapped from August 2014, after which firms will only be obliged to pay the national minimum wage of £11,265 a year. Trainee salaries vary enormously depending on the size of the firm. Those at large regional, national and City firms could expect to receive anywhere from £20-40,000 a year, while those in legal aid and smaller high street practices will receive considerably less.
Law school scholarships
The law schools providing the professional courses offer numerous scholarships to help talented students meet the costs. Again, it’s a case of trawling through the websites and prospectuses to find out what they offer and whether you might qualify.
Selection can be based on an application or following tests, essay or presentation assessments.
Here are a couple to get you going: The College of Law has just extended its Gold Award, which provides up to £3,000 to non-law graduates taking the GDL.
They are open to students with a first class undergraduate degree or a distinction at masters level. It offered 60 of the awards to help students who started the programme in September and will now offer 30 more to students starting the course in January 2013.
The awards are open to students accepting a place on the full time course and are aimed at students without sponsorship from a firm or chambers, although part-sponsored students will be considered.
Successful applicants will receive £2,000 towards their tuition fees. If they go on to study the LPC or BTPC at the college, they will receive a further £1,000 towards the fees, providing they are still unsponsored.
Eligible students can email for information. You will be required to submit a statement setting out what winning the award would mean to you and how it would help you attain your ambition of a career in law. The closing date is 7 December.
Kaplan Law School offers two diversity scholarships, giving LPC students, who have attended a non-fee paying secondary school or college for their A-levels, a 15% reduction on their fees.
Sponsorship from firms
A number of law firms, generally the large City and top 100 commercial practices, sponsor the students that they give training contracts to, paying GDL and LPC fees as well as maintenance costs. Many of these firms stipulate which law school you must attend as they provide courses tailored to the needs of the particular firm. Details are provided on the firms’ websites.
You can also get information from The Training and Pupillages Handbook, a new version of which will be published at the end of October. It is made available free to university careers services and law departments, but can also be purchased online.
If you have no other funding option, you might want to consider professional and career development loans offered by high street banks. Barclays Bank and the Co-operative will lend GDL and LPC students between £300 and £10,000. Interest rates are lower than for standard loans and you will not have to repay the loan until you have finished the course. Investec Bank offers loans for full time students studying at BPP.
Charities and grant-making trusts
There may be charities and grant-making trusts to which some students can apply. Details of can be sought from the local library (if you still have one) and the local authority awards officer. The website turn2us provides a searchable database of benefits and grants available. Qualification for these awards varies hugely, and they usually only provide small amounts of money, so don’t rely on one to provide full financial support for either tuition or maintenance.
The Law Society’s Diversity Access Scheme
To help improve social mobility in the legal profession, the scheme offers LPC scholarships to talented students who have overcome exceptional social, educational, financial or personal obstacles to train to qualify as a solicitor. Since it was set up in 2004, the scheme has helped 113 students, including some who have been in local authority care, resisted coercion into arranged marriage, and battled with severe physical disabilities. It also provides successful applicants with work experience and mentoring.
Last year it assisted 30 students. The Society has just confirmed that the scheme, which is supported by several law firms and law schools as well as by the Law Society’s charity, will be available next year. Details of how to apply will be posted on the Junior Lawyers Division website at the start of next year.
The Graham Rushton Award for visually impaired law students
Graham Rushton was a blind lawyer who left a large sum of money to the RNIB to be spent on assisting blind and partially sighted law students.The grant is around £7,000.
Awards and scholarships to fund work experience
A number of other awards and scholarships exist to fund overseas work experience. These include the Human Rights Lawyers’ Association bursary scheme which enables law students to undertake internships, work placements and other poorly paid work in human rights law. It provides around five awards and a maximum annual bursary fund of £6,000.
The H M Hubbard Law Scholarship, for trainee and qualified solicitors, funds the study of law and legal procedures in France, Spain or Canada.The Inderpal Rahal Memorial Trust provides grants towards legal training for women from an immigrant or refugee background who intend to practise or teach law in the UK. Candidates seeking to apply should email or write to: Inderpal Rahal Memorial Trust, Garden Court Chambers, 57-60 Lincoln’s Inn Fields, London WC2A 3LJ.
This is the second in a series exploring funding options for studying law. See the first article looking at paying for undergraduate study here
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