It's not impossible that you'll be saddled with upwards of £30,000 of debt by the time you finish your undergraduate degree. LPCs, BPTCs and GDLs aren't cheap either, so how can you ease the increasingly intimidating financial burden of law school?
Secure sponsorship before starting your training contract
If you’re interested in commercial law or want to work at one of the larger firms in the UK then you are in some luck. Securing a training contract with them will often result in sponsorship through law school. These firms tend to recruit two years in advance of the start of the training contract, so you’ll need to get your act together well ahead of time. Not only will such firms cover the cost of course fees (LPC and usually GDL too), they may well give you a few thousand pounds towards the cost of living. Details of what solicitors' firms are offering their future trainees are given in our overview of Salaries and benefits compared.
A hard-working (and extremely lucky) minority of BPTC students will already have a pupillage lined up. At the more affluent sets, the size of the pupillage award is now comparable with City trainee/NQ salaries. Usually a decent chunk of the pupillage award can be drawn down to cover BPTC expenses. At the more modest sets there may be no money available for the BPTC at all. Further information about funding is given in the Bar section of this guide.
The Inns of Court
If you’re training to be a barrister you can apply for a range of GDL and BPTC scholarships from the Inns of Court. Around a quarter of BPTC students get some funding, and there’s just under £5 million up for grabs. Check out our Inns of Court comparison table for more information.
Where to study
Studying in London could set you back as much as double what it would elsewhere, say in Sheffield, Cardiff or Nottingham, and the quality of training isn’t necessarily going to be any better. Our tables on the GDL providers, LPC providers and BPTC providers will allow you to compare the prices of all the relevant law school courses. In future, law schools will likely offer preparatory courses for the new SQE 'superexam', but the cost of these courses is not yet known.
Recently, a number of course providers have reformed the LPC that they offer, so that it doubles up as both a practice qualification and Master's degree – which provides the potential option of a government loan. A total of £10,280 is available – for more information visit the government's postgraduate student loans pages. Check out our overview of LPC providers to find out which law schools offer an LLM top-op or LLM-only LPC.
Career Development Loans
First of all, if the loan isn’t from Barclays or the Co-op then it isn’t really a Career Development Loan (CDL), it’s just a bank claiming there will be no repayments to make while you study. Though that may be the case, it doesn’t mean there is no interest accruing – it could just be piling up, ready to swamp you once your studies finish. A true CDL allows you to borrow up to £10,000, with the interest paid by the Skills Funding Agency while you study.
Because the CDL interest rate may be higher than that of another loan, some people recommend taking a CDL and, when the interest-free honeymoon is over, paying it off using another unsecured personal loan with a lower interest rate. Unfortunately, the GDL is no longer covered by the scheme, just the LPC and BPTC.
There’s a good chance that you’ve already emptied the last pennies out of your student overdraft, but never fear – you may still be eligible for more debt. Compare and contrast the interest rates of various banks.
Since 2010 most banks have withdrawn the special packages for customers entering the legal profession. However, check out graduate accounts, because they sometimes offer slightly better overdraft terms. Both Lloyds and TSB provide loans of up to £10,000, and repayment is made over a maximum period of five years. Whatever you do, don’t make any decisions lightly; loans involve a big commitment that only continues to grow once the debt starts to accrue.
Get a job!
Law firms are increasingly interested in applicants’ commercial awareness and ability to cope in a professional office environment, so what used to be an undesirable option can now be deployed in an interview as proof of your suitability for a career in law. Course providers tell us that part-time enrolments are on the rise as students increasingly look to ease the financial burden of law school by working jobs alongside their studies.
While this option does stall your legal career by another year or so, it does also help you avoid the heavy debts accrued by the average law student. Even students on full-time courses will look to boost their cash flow with evening shifts or weekend work. Be sure to set yourself a manageable schedule, though. You don't want to end up flunking your course for the sake of saving a few extra quid.
Benefits, benefactors, begging
Living at home with ma and pa during your course isn't a dream come true, but sometimes needs must. Forget ideas of declaring bankruptcy to evade student debt; consider other creative ways to ease the burden.
- A student card will get you low-cost travel, discount haircuts, cinema tickets, a cheaper Spotify subscription and all manner of other exciting things. If nothing else, it'll make you feel young.
- Websites such as Unidays and Save the Student have discounts and deals for meals, entertainment and more.
- Law books are pricey, so don't get overzealous before term starts. College libraries will have the core texts and you're sure to find former students hawking books. Check out notice boards and online for second-hand tomes. You may not need to buy some of the denser works.
- A number of law schools, chambers and solicitors' firms run competitions. The Times 2TG Moot run by The Times and barristers' chambers 2 Temple Gardens is a good example. Do a Google search to find others. Winning will bring kudos as well as cash.
- Market research focus groups will pay decent money for an hour or two of your time.
- Many law schools offer funding. For instance, national provider the University of Law offers various scholarships to those studying the GDL, LPC or BPTC. It offers 20 Law First Scholarships worth £5,000 for students about to start a GDL and another ten for those about to start the LPC. Applicants must have or be expected to get a First or a distinction at Master's level and come from a household with an annual income of under £25,000.
- Universities also offer a miscellany of scholarships: Oxford, for example, has many for students wanting to take its BCL or MJur courses.
- The Law Society's Diversity Access Scheme supports talented people who face obstacles to qualification.
- The Inderpal Rahal Memorial Trust supports women from an immigrant or refugee background. Contact [email protected] for more details.
- The Leonard Sainer Foundation offers scholarships of £15,000 for the LPC and £18,500 for the BPTC to students in financial need who intend to practise in social welfare law.
- The HM Hubbard Law Scholarship is for trainees and solicitors who want to study the law and legal procedures in France, Spain or Canada. Past scholarships have ranged from £14,000 to £27,000.
- The Human Rights Lawyers Association provides around five awards from a maximum annual bursary fund of £7,000 to those who wish to undertake unpaid or poorly paid human rights work, either during their training or soon after.
- The Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Chevening Scholarships are available for overseas students wishing to study in the UK. The fund offers several hundred scholarships worth a total of several million pounds.
- Postgrad Solutions offers two £500 bursaries for LLM students.
- ULaw recently introduced new full-fee scholarships in the names of three notable alumni, with a total of nearly £400,000 pledged.
- Universities and publicly funded colleges have discretionary access to learning funds available to especially hard-up students.