A Career as a Solicitor
The legal profession is one that is notoriously difficult to enter due, primarily, to the sheer level of competition for any available vacancies. There are a wide range of sectors in which to practise law including central and local government, the Crown Prosecution Service, private practice, commercial practice or as a member of an in-house legal team. There are also a great number of legal fields in which to specialize including corporate law, conveyancing, probate, criminal law, personal injury and litigation.
Although primarily office based, Solicitors may be required to travel extensively both to visit their clients and to attend court hearings. The hours involved can be unsociable and may include offering an on-call service during weekends, evenings and public holidays. Excellent communication skills are essential as you will be managing relationships with a caseload of clients from a range of social and cultural backgrounds, and often be required to represent clients in court. Good analytical skills will be useful as you will be involved in the research and collation of large amounts of often complex information while ensuring that all client data is treated with confidentiality and discretion. Some clients may be emotional or under stress so you will need to be able to remain calm in potentially pressurised and challenging situations.
Entry into the legal profession as a Solicitor involves the completion of both academic and vocational qualifications. Graduate entry is possible with a law degree or a degree in another subject accompanied by an approved law conversion course. The most common degree is the internationally recognized LLB (Bachelor of Laws) which can also be followed by an LLM (Master of Laws) degree. Alternatively, members and fellows of the Institute of Legal Executives may qualify without needing a degree. The next stage will be the completion of a Legal Practice Course before a two-year training contract is undertaken with a firm of solicitors. Again, legal executives are exempt as long as they complete the Professional Skills Course which forms part of the training contract.
The salary for newly qualified Solicitors can vary dramatically depending on their specific role, location and field of practice. There are numerous large and small legal practices throughout the UK with major players based in London including Linklaters, Clifford Chance, Slaughter & May, Lovells, and Allen & Overy LLP. Solicitors can train further to become Barristers or Advocates, and there is also the opportunity to become the head of an in-house legal department or partner in a firm.
The legal profession is regulated by the Law Society, an organization which also provides support and training to Solicitors and other legal professionals. With Solicitors expected to be accountable for their own Continuing Professional Development (CPD), the Law Society also runs an accreditation program.
Solicitors undertake a highly demanding role that can also be extremely rewarding. The sheer diversity of the various fields of practice means that there is always the option to transfer to a new and more challenging area.
Author: James Innes