Once qualified, solicitors often specialise in one legal area such as family, litigation, property or tax. Solicitors working in commercial law firms advise large corporate clients on transactions or cases. They might draft the contracts for the construction of a new shopping centre or advise on the merger of one FTSE 100 company with another.
High street solicitors advise smaller companies and individuals on legal matters such as writing wills, property conveyancing, custody cases, divorce settlements and so on.
Typical duties include:
giving legal advice
researching cases and legislation
drafting legal documents
liaising with clients and other professionals such as barristers
representing clients in court.
It is a responsible and trustworthy job which necessitates integrity, confidentiality and a non-prejudicial manner.
Typical employers of solicitors
private practice law firms
legal departments within large organisations known as ‘in-house’
the Crown Prosecution Service or CPS
the Government Legal Service (GLS) or local authorities.
There is strong competition for vacancies. Penultimate-year placements are popular, so early and speculative applications are advisable. Training contracts are advertised in careers services and specialist directories such as TARGETjobs Law. University campus law fairs are a useful source of contacts and further information.
Vacancies for qualified legal professionals appear in national newspapers: Legal Week, The Lawyer and Law Society Gazette.
Qualifications and training required
The main route to qualifying as a solicitor is still via a (law or non-law) university degree followed by a vocational, postgraduate course known as the legal practice course (LPC). Graduates from any academic background can train as a solicitor, but should have an excellent record of academic achievement, including good A level results. Graduates with a non-law degree must first pass a conversion course known as the graduate diploma in law (GDL) or common professional examination (CPE) before taking the LPC.
Following qualification, it is necessary to complete a two-year training contract or ‘period of recognised training’. At all stages early applications are essential: some firms arrange training contracts up to two years in advance.
It is possible to become a solicitor without a degree by qualifying as a registered CILEx (the Chartered Insititute of Legal Executives) fellow. Qualification requires passing the CILEx exams and undertaking a period of employment. To find out more about becoming a solicitor via this route see our article on legal executives
Another way for school leavers to become solicitors is by completing an articled apprenticeship. To find out more about becoming a solicitor via this route see the law section of TARGETcareers, our website for school leavers.
There are entry restrictions regarding criminal records. Relevant experience can be of benefit, particularly for mature candidates.
Key skills for solicitors
organisational skills
commercial awareness
good interpersonal skills
written and oral communication skills
analytical skills