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Law and legal studies

Galleries of Justice Museum in Nottingham, set in a former law court and jail

Find thousands of Law courses and scholarships with the Search menu at the top of this page – just click Courses, select your level and enter ‘Law’.

Why study law and legal studies in the UK?

The UK’s legal systems are globally recognised and used in commercial and financial centres around the world. Each year around 18,000 students enrol on more than 1,500 law courses in the UK.

Did you know…

  • The UK’s common-law system dates back to the 12th century, and forms the basis for legal systems in Commonwealth countries and English-speaking countries around the world. English commercial law is often the governing law in international contracts.
  • Four of the world’s 10 largest law firms are headquartered in the UK, and hundreds of international firms have offices here. More international and commercial arbitrations take place in London than in any other city in the world. (Source: gov.uk)
  • Students in the UK are given unique opportunities to learn from professionals and make industry connections. The UK ranks second in the world for collaboration between universities and businesses. (Source: BIS)
  • As the UK is part of the European Union, the UK operates a consolidation of UK and EU law, and UK universities offer world-renowned courses in European law. Many international students choose to study European law here, or European law alongside other subjects.
  • UK degree courses are designed to develop your skills in critical thinking, reasoned argument and problem-solving – qualities that appeal to employers all over the world.

Courses and qualifications

There are three legal systems in the UK – one for England and Wales, one for Northern Ireland and another for Scotland – though elements such as commercial law and taxation law are similar. You may therefore find the content and structure of law courses is slightly different, depending on where you study. Ask the tutors before you enrol.

Schools and further education
You can study Law at GCSE, International Baccalaureate, Scottish Highers, AS- and A-level, at schools and colleges across the UK. Many students combine it with subjects such as economics, social sciences and languages.

There are several professional training schemes at further education level. To qualify as a legal executive or paralegal, you can take a course accredited by the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx). In Scotland, you can study for a National Certificate to become a legal secretary.

Vocational qualifications are also available in subjects such as youth justice, forensic science, prison justice, employment law or business with law.

Higher education
In higher education there are many different types of Law qualifications, including bachelors’ degrees, vocational certificates and Foundation Degrees – in subjects such as law, legal services, commercial or trade law. Most undergraduate degree courses start with a general introduction to the law, which helps you to decide your field of interest.

To qualify as a lawyer in the UK, you need to complete modules in seven areas known as the Foundations of Legal Knowledge – including subjects such as public, criminal and property law. Once completed, you will be awarded an LLB or BA (Hons) in Law. You can then progress straight to the Legal Practice Course (LPC) or the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), to qualify as a solicitor or barrister.

These seven modules are also valuable if you’re interested in studying the processes and theory of law, but don’t want to practise as a lawyer. You could focus more on business, economics or human rights legislation, for example.

At postgraduate level, taught law masters’ programmes are usually studied full-time over one year and lead to a Master of Laws (LLM) or Master of Arts (MA) qualification. These can be taken by law or non-law graduates seeking specialist knowledge (without necessarily becoming a practising lawyer).

If you have an undergraduate degree in a subject other than law, you can take a conversion course to join the legal sector. The Common Professional Exam (CPE) and Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) give the training required to work as a solicitor or barrister in England and Wales.

There are other postgraduate programmes in law, both taught and research (click here to find out about the different types of postgraduate programme). Many MPhil and PhD programmes are based purely on research, but some incorporate taught elements. A Master of Research (MRes) course usually involves one year of study and a shorter dissertation than for a doctorate.

Undergraduate criminology courses take a multidisciplinary approach, combining law with social sciences such as sociology, psychology and social policy. Some courses examine how crime is defined, why people commit crimes and how society responds. Others combine criminology with crime scene management and forensics, looking at the science behind crime.

You can study criminology alongside subjects such as modern languages, history, politics or other social sciences, as well as law.

Entry requirements

There can be a lot of competition for places on law degree programmes, and higher education institutions usually ask for a strong academic record with good grades in at least three A-level subjects or equivalent. These should be academic (focusing on theory, rather than practical) subjects, but not necessarily a subject related to law. English and maths are particularly important.

To apply to some undergraduate law courses (see the list here), you may need to take the pre-university LNAT (National Admissions Test for Law) – this tests your ability to think critically and argue effectively.

For most further education courses and training for legal executives, you need the equivalent of at least four GCSEs at A* to C grades. Applications to all Graduate Diploma in Law and Legal Practice Courses are handled by the Central Applications Board, but you should ask your chosen institution about entry requirements.

If you have a law degree from another country and plan to take the Bar Professional Training Course (to work as a barrister in England and Wales), you’re advised to contact the Bar Standards Board to find out if your qualifications meet the requirements. For solicitors, see the Solicitors Regulation Authority Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme.

If English isn’t your first language, many courses will also ask for evidence of your English language skills, such as an IELTS or equivalent qualification.

All schools, colleges and universities have different entry requirements, so make sure you read the course details thoroughly and ask your chosen institution directly if you have any questions.


Studying law in the UK can train you to be a solicitor or barrister, but it can also open the door to other careers – such as company secretary, patent agent, tax adviser or court reporter. You could specialise in environmental law, commercial law, financial, corporate, tax or intellectual property law. If you studied criminology, you might work with the police, in security services, forensics, welfare and social policy, or in journalism.

In the UK, the term 'lawyer' generally includes solicitors (usually employed by a law firm and work directly with clients), barristers (called 'advocates' in Scotland – usually self-employed, and work mainly in court or tribunals) and chartered legal executives (England and Wales only).

To work as a barrister in England and Wales, students must first gain an undergraduate degree – either in law or another subject followed by the CPE/GDL conversion course – then take the Bar Professional Training Course (regulated by the Bar Council), then work for one year as a pupil in barristers’ chambers or another approved pupillage training organisation (find out more about pupillage here). For Scotland, see the Faculty of Advocates, or the Bar of Northern Ireland for Northern Ireland.

To work as a solicitor in England and Wales, following your undergraduate studies (a law degree, a non-law degree followed by the CPE/GDL, or a CILEx course), you must train for up to two years in a firm of solicitors or other authorised organisation, and complete a 12-day Professional Skills Course. Find out more at the Law Society, the Law Society of Scotland or the Law Society of Northern Ireland.

However, with a good academic qualification, there are many more careers you could choose. UK law courses teach skills such as critical thinking and communication, which appeal to employers in many different industries.

For information about UK work visas, and whether your student visa allows you to do a work placement, go to UK Visas and Immigration.

If you plan to practise law in another country, check what qualifications are required there before enrolling on a course.

Student stories

Theodosios from Greece studied law at Swansea University in Wales.

'I had been trying to find a place that would equip me with appropriate legal training, prepare me to enter the competitive job market, and provide me with a diverse social life.'

Click here to read his story


Carlos from Colombia studied for an MBA in law at Durham University. Now, he is advising the Colombian Government and World Bank on a £15bn development project.

'Having an open mind, addressing problems from different disciplines, and effectively communicating with experts in those fields, can make a lawyer really valuable.'

Click here to read his story


Vansha from India is studying law at the University of Southampton. Watch her video diary here:

Akash from India studied for a joint degree in law and business studies at Swansea University. Here, he talks about cultural differences and what he's learned from living in Wales...