Thinking of becoming a solicitor? The job can be a rewarding role that regularly challenges your intellect, and provides plenty of exciting opportunities. As a solicitor, you will play a big part in life for many people. You will be the first point of contact for clients, listening to their grievances and case, providing general legal advice.
In the event where the case proceeds to court, solicitors will liaise with both the client and representing barrister throughout the case, carrying out different tasks such as legal research, collecting evidence, and instructing the barrister ahead of court hearings and trial. In some cases, solicitors have rights of audience, meaning they are able to represent the client in court.
In this blog, we’ll take you through the basics of how to become a solicitor.
Would I Be a Good Solicitor?
If you’re asking yourself whether working as a solicitor is the right choice, the best way to find out is by getting some experience under your belt. Work experience will give you a true insight as to whether it’s a profession you would enjoy and succeed at.
If you’re an undergraduate and want to experience life within a law firm, there are three common opportunities you might want to look into:
- Vacation schemes
- Open days
You can also measure up your skills against the common skills required for a solicitor in general. For example:
- The ability to break down, analyse an articulate complex issues both orally and in writing
- Working effectively in a team
- Thinking logically
- Communicating effectively both verbally and in writing
- Thinking outside of the box
- Solving complex problems
- The ability to work under pressure
- Demonstrating academic excellence
- Commercial awareness
- Keen eye for detail
Other attributes of a good solicitor include:
- Confidence in your own ability
How Long Does it Take to Become a Solicitor?
If you study full-time, it takes around six years to qualify as a solicitor. This includes a three-year law degree, a one-year LPC and a two-year training contract with a law firm, which we discuss in more detail below. If you’ve chosen the degree route, and you’ve decided to complete a non-law degree, add on an extra ear, as you’ll need to complete the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) course.
The Route to Becoming a Solicitor
If you’ve read the above and think you’re the person for the job, the next step is to look at the route towards becoming a solicitor. Firstly, you’ll need the right education for the job. Below is a detailed route on the options you might wish to take.
A-level student – route to solicitor qualification
- Complete 3 A-levels (Grade C or above)
- Complete a 6-year law apprenticeship
- Qualify as a solicitor
- Complete either:
- An LLB law degree (2:2 (hons) minimum required) (3-4 years); or
- A non-law degree (with 2:2 (hons) minimum required) (3-4 years) and a law conversion course. The most popular one being the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) (1-2 years).
- Apply for work experience in the law e.g. vacation schemes, open days, internships
- Complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC) (1- years)
- Apply for a two-year training contract. You can apply directly to law firms, either before or after completing the LPC
- Complete a training contract*
- Complete the Professional Skills Course (during the course of your training contract)
- Qualify as a solicitor
*It is also possible to qualify via a period of recognised training, which would not take the form of a training contract. Law students tend to apply for training contracts in their second and third year of university (post- graduation if previously unsuccessful) whilst non-law students tend to apply in or after their final year of university and afterwards. Many of the large law firms offer funding to cover and contribute towards the cost of the GDL and the LPC, which is why graduates will apply early.
Prior to applying for a training contract, many students apply for vacation schemes with law firms. These consist of paid work experience placements offered in winter, spring and summer. Many firms recruit their trainees from those who have done work experience with them previously.
It’s also not unheard of for trainees to obtain a training contract by firstly becoming a paralegal. A small number of firms, particularly regional and smaller firms have been known to recruit their trainees in this manner. However, it is a much less established route, and it doesn’t guarantee that you will be able to work up to solicitor level in all cases.
- From September 2021, the current route to qualification as a solicitor will be replaced by the SQE – Solicitors Qualifying Examination. To qualify you must:
have a degree (in any subject) or equivalent qualification (such as legal apprenticeship)
- pass both stages of the SQE assessment (a functioning legal knowledge assessment and a practical legal skills exam)
- have two years’ qualifying work experience (which is much more flexible than the training contract)
- meet the SRA character and suitability requirements
Whether you can qualify as a solicitor through the current route or the SQE depends on several factors. The decision tree SRA is a useful tool to determine which of the two route applies to you. The SRA has also put in place transitional arrangements for those who have started the current route.
What’s it Like to Work in the Law?
If you’ve read all of the above and are now looking for an insight into the law, take a look at some of our day in the life pieces below:
- Day in the life of a managing partner
- Day in the life of an employment solicitor
- Working as a serious fraud lawyer
- A day in the life of an associate lawyer
If you’re currently on the hunt for a training contract, search the latest opportunities here.
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