It has been published by Rachit Garg.


Wherever you are on this planet, it is widely accepted that the legal profession is one of the most competitive and challenging career options you may choose. 

And yet it is super exciting and super attractive because it promises real life, real problems to solve and real people held sleepless at night by these problems, and then a real and immediate impact of your professional insight and the joy of warm tears of gratitude and relief flowing in abundance from the eyes of your rescued clients. 

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It also gives you a good remuneration to boot.  

UK requirements for a legal career

Every country has its own requirements for a career in law. Some require that you have a first degree in an unrelated field and a second law degree, other countries require just a law degree, and others require lengthy professional training as an apprentice.

The UK, as always, is a bit different from everyone else. Here you don’t have to have a law degree to become a lawyer. The complexity of the British legal system is that it is not uniform – England and Wales have their own legal system, Scotland has its own, and so does Northern Ireland. A barrister or solicitor qualified in England and Wales is not accepted as a legal professional in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

UK requirements for an immigration law career

British immigration law is above these divisions and is the same for all parts of the country. Yet, a solicitor or barrister qualified in England and Wales cannot represent a client in Scotland unless they have additional qualifications or accreditation.

To become a country-wide UK immigration lawyer with permission to practice in any part of the UK you have to pass special exams in immigration law and get accreditation from the OISC – Office of Immigration Services Commissioner, which is the regulating body for immigration advisors across the UK. 

There are three levels of accreditation.

Level one

Level one allows you to handle cases that fall squarely under the immigration rules which do not require exercise of discretion by the decision maker and do not bring up any special circumstances or command special treatment. 

Level two 

Level two allows you to handle more complex cases. 

Level three 

Level three extends to challenging adverse decisions and representation in the immigration tribunals across the UK, including Scotland and Northern Ireland.

There is no formal requirement for a law degree but to pass the exams it certainly helps to have a legal background. Immigration law is notoriously complex and is often quoted as the most complex area of law in the UK!

Step-by-step guide : how to become a lawyer specialising in immigration

Step one: Initial degree

You need a degree recognised in the UK. It doesn’t necessarily have to be a law degree, but it can be a law degree outside the jurisdiction of England and Wales. You may also study history, physics, medicine or anthropology for your first degree. There is no discrimination. 

You can check with ecctis if this degree is accepted in the UK at its value. Sometimes, it may be downgraded and you may need a Master’s degree to be accepted as a Bachelor in the UK.

Step 2: Law conversion course

A law conversion course is for those who initially qualified in another jurisdiction or had a degree outside of law.

In England or Wales, you can take a graduate course which will allow you to convert your degree into a law degree within the jurisdiction. This course takes one year if done full-time, or two years part-time.

Once you have passed the exam, your academic tuition as a lawyer is over. You may think that it is not that much, but you will work very hard over this year and you would probably wish that you had more time to take it all in. – 

Step 3: Further academic specialization (optional)

Some aspiring lawyers wisely seek to dive deeper into a specialization area and go for a Master’s or an MPhil degree in a subject of their choice. 

Step 4: Professional course

The practical side of the legal profession is taught to barristers and solicitors separately. 


Barristers are lawyers who represent clients in court or give opinions on the legal position of the party and have to take a Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). They are trained in advocacy, examination of witnesses, and pleadings, but also in interviewing witnesses, delivering advice and negotiating settlements. It is a lot of fun and courses are often taught as a group play with roles assigned to all and each participant improvising their role.


Solicitors take a Legal Practice Course where they are taught court rules and procedures for filing and administering claims, as well as client interviewing skills, drafting witness statements and pleadings and … the rules about instructing barristers.

At the end of the course, both solicitors and barristers have to pass their respective exams and be “called”, or initiated, into the profession by their respective regulating bodies.

Step 5: Practical training

Practical training comes as a pupillage for barristers or a training contract for solicitors.


For barristers, it is pupillage. It usually takes 12 months. Pupillage is arranged with a chamber of barristers who have a very competitive selection process. You will have to pass an interview and sometimes several rounds of interviews before you are selected. A pupil barrister spends the first six months as an assistant to a qualified barrister and the second six months work under supervision, representing clients in court in less complex cases. Barristers normally specialise in a given area of law, but sometimes they have expertise in several related areas.


For solicitors, the training contract takes two years. The training contract is with a firm of solicitors and is usually divided between four different areas, with six months spent in each field. This allows the trainee to “taste” different areas of law and select where they feel most at home.

Training as an immigration lawyer

You can undertake the OISC exam at any stage of your career as a lawyer, but you will certainly find the skills taught in the Legal Practice Course and the Bar Professional Training Course most useful.

To find out if it is hard to be a lawyer, join a UK-based immigration law firm, and experience for yourself the joys and challenges of the legal profession.

Students of Lawsikho courses regularly produce writing assignments and work on practical exercises as a part of their coursework and develop themselves in real-life practical skills.

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