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Qualifying Law Degrees

What do I need to know about Qualifying Law Degrees?

What is a Qualifying Law Degree

A Qualifying Law Degree (known as QLD, or QD) is an undergraduate law degree that is currently recognised in England and Wales by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA) and Bar Standards Board (BSB) as the first stage of professional qualification which enable graduates to proceed to the vocational stage of training.

This could be either the Legal Practice Course (LPC) for aspiring solicitors or the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) for aspiring barristers.

All undergraduate degree programmes offered at Warwick Law School can result in a QLD. This applies to both LLB and BA awards. To gain the QLD, you have to pass particular subjects, spread over several years of your degree course. These subjects are called the ‘foundations of legal knowledge’.

The professional bodies have also set rules on the number of assessment attempts that you are permitted, and requirements relating to the number of credits (‘CATS’) that must be allocated to the study of law on the degree.

In addition, both professional bodies have standards of conduct which mean that the university has to report to them about any serious disciplinary matters such as academic misconduct (cheating or deliberate plagiarism). Misconduct may mean the professional bodies refuse admission, even if you pass the degree.

At the present time, the training requirements of the legal professions are under review. The Bar Standards Board has indicated that the QLD will continue to be recognised as the first stage of professional training. The Solicitors Regulation Authority has announced a new framework for qualification in which a new Solicitors’ Qualifying Examination (SQE) will replace the QLD. The new exam will be offered for the first time in 2020 or later. Any student who begins the process for qualifying as a solicitor by commencing a qualifying law degree before then will be able to complete their training under the existing rules.

Subjects of Study

To be awarded a qualifying law degree from Warwick Law School, you must take and pass the following modules:

Subjects normally taken in year 1
  • LA103 Introduction to the Law of Property Relations (30 CATS)
  • LA104 Criminal Law (30 CATS)
  • LA115 Modern English Legal System (15 CATS)
  • LA116 Introduction to Legal Theory (15 CATS)
  • LA124 Tort Law (30 CATS)
Subjects normally taken in year 2:
  • LA201 General Principles of Constitutional and Administrative Law (30 CATS)
  • LA240 Foundations of European Law (15 CATS)
  • LA243 Contract Law (30 CATS)
Subjects normally taken in the final year (year 3 or year 4, depending on the degree):
  • LA307 Law of Trusts (30 CATS)

Number of CATS credits

A three-year degree is usually made up of 360 CATS and a four-year degree is 480 CATS.

To achieve a qualifying law degree, you must have passed at least 240 CATS from Law modules. This means that, in addition to the modules listed above, you will need to have passed 15 CATS from the Law extensive list of Law options.

Students studying for the LLB in Law usually take all 360 CATS from Law modules, but there is flexibility to study approved modules from other departments.

Students studying Law and Sociology, Law and Business Studies, Law with Humanities or Law with Social Sciences will have compulsory modules in our partner departments, as well as the Law modules.

Number of assessment attempts

Foundation subjects required for the Qualifying Degree should normally be passed at the first attempt. Re-sits can be recognised for the QLD as long as this involves no more than two of the foundation subjects. The professional bodies will allow no more than three attempts.

To achieve QLD, you must pass each of the modules with a mark of at least 40%. In addition, the Bar Standards Board requires you to achieve an honours degree classification of 2:2 or better.

If you are studying part-time, the SRA has set 6 years as the time limit for completion of a qualifying law degree. If your degree takes longer than 6 years to complete, you can apply to the SRA for recognition if there are exceptional circumstances.

What happens if I fail an accreditation subject?

If you fail an exam in the summer of your first year, you can re-sit in September.

If you fail an exam in your second, third or fourth year, you do not have the opportunity to re-sit. There are two possibilities for what happens next:

  • if the fail is marginal (a mark of between 35% and 39%), and
  • the fail is in only one subject, and
  • your overall performance is good or there are significant extenuating circumstances

then Warwick Law School’s Board of Examiners can recommend that the SRA or BSB ‘condone’ the failed subject. This means that we would provide you with a letter of support so that you can apply to the SRA or BSB for recognition. Please speak to the Director of Undergraduate Studies for advice.

If it is not possible to ‘condone’ the failed subject, Warwick Law School might still allow you to continue until the end of the course, and you would transfer to a non-qualifying Law degree. This means you might still be awarded an LLB or a BA, but that it will not be recognised for progressing to the vocational stage of training as a solicitor or barrister. You might still be able to train as a solicitor or barrister by taking the subjects separately, as stand-alone assessments after finishing your degree.

Can I take stand-alone assessments at Warwick?

Warwick Law School sometimes offers the opportunity to take stand-alone examinations, purely for the purposes of professional accreditation.

These exams can only take place during the normal exam periods in June and September, and will take place in a particular session only if a paper is being set for students who are taking it as part of their degree programme.

To take a stand-alone examination, you should either be a current student or have just graduated. You should discuss the possibility with the Director of Undergraduate Studies and then apply for assessment by writing to the undergraduate administrator in the Law School.

The stand-alone examination is not part of your degree programme, will not contribute to the type or class of degree awarded, and will not appear on your degree transcript. It will not result in your being awarded a Qualifying Law Degree.

If you pass the examination, you will receive a formal letter which you can send to the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Bar Standards Board or providers of vocational stage training as proof that you have passed. Professional bodies allow re-sits of no more than two foundation subjects, and allow no more than three attempts at passing foundation subjects.

The professions will normally accredit candidates who have a non-QD LLB or BA Law degree if they have obtained appropriate passes in the foundation subjects. However, the rules for professional accreditation may vary from time to time and it is your responsibility to find out exactly what is required for professional accreditation. You can find this information in the handbooks published by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority and Bar Standards Board.

What if I want to practise law in other jurisdictions?

Warwick Law School can offer advice about professional accreditation in England and Wales, only. If you wish to re-sit a module for accreditation in another jurisdiction, we might be able to provide that opportunity. However, it is your responsibility to find out what that jurisdiction requires you to do.

What if I don't take a stand-alone resit at Warwick?

A number of universities and colleges who are recognised providers of the Graduate Diploma in Law will allow students to register for a single module in order to top-up other qualifications for professional purposes.

What are the professional conduct requirements?

The University of Warwick has procedures for investigating suspected cheating in examinations and assessed coursework assignments. If cheating is proven, the university is required to inform the professional bodies.

In accordance with the SRA Suitability Test 2011, deliberate academic misconduct may result in you being refused admission to the legal profession as a solicitor or barrister.