It is the role of a solicitor to provide clients with legal advice and act on their behalf if necessary. Solicitors work in many different areas such as local and central government, commerce, charities, the armed forces and in private practice. The specific work they carry out depends on the area they work in but general duties include work such as advising clients, drafting documents, research, negotiating and representing clients in court.
If you have a keen interest in law, are committed to further study after university and have good negotiating skills, a career as a solicitor could be the right path for you.
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The responsibilities of a solicitor generally include:
- Advising clients on legal matters relevant to their cases
- Taking instructions from clients
- Drafting the necessary legal documents and contracts for each case
- Researching previous cases and relevant laws so as to provide accurate advice
- Once an agreement has been reached, ensure that it is implemented
- Communicate with clients and opposing solicitors
- If necessary, represent clients in court
- Instruct barristers on cases that reach court
- Supervise trainee solicitors and paralegals
You will usually need a degree to become a solicitor. If you have a law degree you will be able to move straight on to study for the Legal Practice Course (LPC). If you study a different subject at university you will need to complete a conversion course, the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), in order to move on to the LPC.
After completing the LPC, you must secure a training contract for two years where you will be under the supervision of a qualified solicitor. While completing your training contract, you will have to pass the Professional Skills Course (PSC) which will ensure that you have reached the level of skill and knowledge necessary to become a qualified solicitor.
You should start applying for training contracts early as vacancies can be filled up to two years in advance for larger firms.
There are other routes to becoming a solicitor without a degree, however, these are long processes. The first of these is to qualify as a Chartered Legal Executive first and then convert this qualification to become a solicitor. A new route that was established in 2014 is known as the ‘paralegal shortcut’. This allows paralegals who have experience in three areas of law to qualify as a solicitor. The PSC is still mandatory for those qualifying via this route and it can take some time to build up the necessary experience to be accepted by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
There are several routes to becoming a solicitor, so we’ve put together this diagram to show you your options. The route via the LPC and training contract is the usual way to qualify.
Communication skills: Essential when explaining legal matters to clients and giving advice. You will also need to be confident with public speaking should you need to represent clients in court.
Written communication skills: You will need a high level of written English in order to prepare legal documents and reports.
Negotiating skills: These are essential if you want to give your clients the best chance of success.
Problem solving skills: An analytical approach will help you come to the best legal solutions for your cases.
Attention to detail: You will need to be extremely accurate in your research and in the drafting of documents.
Research skills: As well as having excellent knowledge of the law, you will need the ability to explore further and research similar cases from the past.
Commercial awareness: Keeping up with business and industry news is important for all roles within the legal industry.
Organisation: You will need to be able to prioritise and balance a potentially heavy workload.
Motivation and commitment: The route to qualify as a solicitor can be tough and can take several years. You will need to be dedicated to your career path in order to be successful.
Starting salary: £25,000 to £40,000 (after qualification)
Junior: £40,000 to £90,000 (with several years experience)
These figures are intended as a guide only and the actual figures will reflect the type of firm and location. Commercial firms in London will usually pay more than regional firms.
There is a steady route of progression for solicitors who have the potential to become partners in private practice or managers of legal departments in commercial firms.
When you complete your training to become a qualified solicitor, you will either be retained by the company that trained you or move on to another firm. As you build up experience you will be given more responsibility, such as supervising trainees or your junior colleagues.
In private practice, building up some experience and continued levels of strong performance is likely to see you promoted to senior solicitor. From there you will have the potential to reach associate partner and then partner. The equivalent in large commercial firms is likely to see you managing a department within the firm.
If you progress to a stage where you wish to represent your clients in court without a barrister, you may be granted rights of audience by the SRA.
Browse our solicitor jobs today on Simply Law Jobs.
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