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Becoming a solicitor

Solicitors represent and defend clients’ legal interests and provide advice. Find out more about the work solicitors do, the skills needed and how to qualify.

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A career as a solicitor can be rewarding and intellectually challenging. There are many different areas of law you can specialise in, so the work can be varied.

A solicitor is different from a barrister. Someone who is looking for legal advice will normally see a solicitor first. If the client needs more specialist advice, then the solicitor may instruct a barrister.

Solicitors and barristers both offer legal advice, and can also represent their clients in court, but barristers are more likely to do advocacy work, representing clients in the higher courts

Find out more about becoming a barrister on The Lawyer Portal website

Becoming a solicitor takes a lot of commitment. You must study and train for at least six years full time, and competition for training contracts is high. Try to find out as much as you can about what a career in the law is like by:

  • talking to solicitors, for example at careers fairs
  • applying for work experience

What solicitors do

Solicitors represent and defend clients’ legal interests, and provide advice in many situations, for example:

  • giving expert advice on everyday issues, such as buying and selling homes, and dealing with relationship breakdowns
  • helping businesses with commercial transactions
  • protecting individuals’ rights, making sure they’re treated fairly by public or private bodies
  • providing free help (pro bono) in certain circumstances, for example for people who are unable to pay for legal services

A solicitor’s work can be divided into:

  • contentious legal work – resolving disputes between two or more parties, usually in a court or tribunal
  • non-contentious legal work – dealing with the legal aspects of a client’s business or personal matter, for example managing a company merger, or making a will

A solicitor’s duties include:

  • researching cases and legislation
  • drafting letters, contracts, wills and other legal documents
  • liaising with clients and other professionals such as barristers
  • representing clients in court or at tribunals

Where solicitors work

Solicitors can work in:

  • law firms (private practice)
  • central or local government
  • legal departments within organisations (in-house)
  • the Crown Prosecution Service
  • law centres

Read more about career options for solicitors

How much solicitors earn

The amount you could earn will depend on a number of factors.

Skills

You need to be determined and motivated to succeed as a solicitor.

A legal career demands:

  • intellectual ability – the law is complex
  • flexibility – no two days are the same
  • commitment – training requires significant effort and resource
  • strong oral and written communication skills

A strong academic background is important, but employers also look for personal skills and attributes, for example:

  • dedication
  • a capacity for hard work
  • personal integrity and an ethical approach
  • commercial awareness
  • being able to communicate with people at all levels and win their respect

Qualifications

To be accepted for a law degree, you’ll usually need:

  • at least five GCSEs at grade C or above, in English, Maths and sometimes a subject such as a foreign language
  • a minimum of two A levels, and three A levels at A grade for the most popular courses

You do not usually need to have taken A level law to do a law degree, although a few universities have specific subject requirements. You should research and compare courses to see what universities are looking for.

There are routes to qualifying that do not involve a law degree, such as completing an apprenticeship or through the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives. These routes may also take longer.

Read more about:

How long it takes

It usually takes at least six years to qualify as a solicitor if you study law full time. It will be longer if you study a different subject for your degree and decide later you want to follow a legal career.

After your law degree, you must complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC). The LPC helps you develop your practical skills and legal knowledge. It can be taken full time for one year, or part-time for two years. The LPC is an expensive course, so before you commit, consider whether you can meet the character and suitability requirements to be admitted as a solicitor.

Once you’ve completed the LPC, you’ll begin your period of recognised training, which is the final step towards qualifying. This will usually last for two years.

If you have a non-law degree, you must complete the Graduate Diploma in Law. It can be taken full-time for one year, or part-time for two years.

The qualification system for solicitors is changing. This page covers the current system, which will apply until autumn 2021, and during the 10-year transition period to 2031 if you’re already on the path to qualifying. Find out more about the Solicitors Qualifying Examination, the future route to qualifying.

Character and suitability requirements

The SRA assesses the character and suitability of anyone applying to be admitted to the roll of solicitors. You should consider whether there are any issues in your personal history that could mean that you will not meet the SRA’s Assessment of Character and Suitability Rules.

If you do not meet the SRA’s requirements you will not be admitted as a solicitor. Reasons for failing to meet the requirements may include cautions or criminal convictions.

The assessment is usually done before you are admitted as a solicitor but you can seek an early assessment if you think there's a risk that you will not qualify for admission.

To be assessed, complete the SRA's Character and Suitability Assessment form. You will need to complete the screening process before submitting your application.

If you would like some initial free confidential advice before contacting the SRA, you can call the Solicitors Assistance Scheme.

For more information see the SRA’s Student Information Pack.

Resources

Becoming a solicitor: Start planning your future today (PDF 618 KB) – our guide to becoming a solicitor

Disabled students: Start planning your future today (PDF 2 MB) – our guide to becoming a solicitor for people with disabilities

Mature students and career changes: Start planning your future today (PDF 2 MB) – our guide to becoming a solicitor for mature students

Routes to qualification – podcast providing insight on the traditional training contract route, the CILEx route and the paralegal equivalent means route

Gazette: SRA relaxes rules to ensure trainees qualify on time – information on SRA changes relating to the coronavirus pandemic

The Lawyer Portal – free guides and events for people considering a legal career

UCAS guidance on studying law

SRA student information pack – information for students and others wishing to qualify as a solicitor

Thinking of working in-house? Start planning your future today (PDF 3 MB) – our guide to becoming an in-house solicitor