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Career options for solicitors
Once you qualify as a solicitor, you can work:
In-house solicitors look after the legal needs of an organisation. Roles usually go beyond providing legal advice, such as understanding the context of the legal strategy and the business plan. Job titles may include legal officer or general counsel.
There are many in-house employers, such as:
- commerce and industry
- the Crown Prosecution Service
- the Government Legal Profession
- local authorities
- law centres
Legal journalist Grania Langdon-Down asks: Should I work in-house?
Most solicitors in England and Wales - over 93,000 - work in private practice.
Private law firms offer legal services to different types of clients, from individuals to businesses.
Sole practitioners are self-employed solicitors who are the only principal in a practice.
Sole practitioners make up 4.4% of all solicitors in private practice in England and Wales.
To become a sole practitioner, you must have practised as a solicitor for at least 36 months within the last 10 years and have authorisation from the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
For more information, see:
- our practice note on setting up a practice
- the SRA’s sole practitioners regulatory starter pack
- our Small Firms Division
- our podcast on working as a consultant or freelance lawyer
Solicitor advocates have the same rights of audience (the right to appear and conduct proceedings in court) as barristers. They can represent clients in the higher courts (High Court, Crown Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court).
Solicitor advocates usually practise litigation and specialise in civil, family or criminal law. As of 31 July 2018, 6,864 practising solicitors had higher rights of audience.
Highly experienced solicitor advocates can become Queen’s Counsel (QC). QCs are often seen as leaders in their area of law and generally take on more complex cases that require a higher level of legal expertise.
Judges in England and Wales are legal professionals with further career experience. Depending on the role, you’ll need at least five years’ post-qualification experience.
You start on a fee-paid basis. A fee-paid basis is an agreed payment for the work, regardless of the time it takes. You can work while continuing in practice, or as a full- or part-time salaried judge.
There are several starting points:
- deputy district judge – civil and family
- deputy district judge – Magistrates’ Court
- tribunals – a wide range of appointments
The selection process is competitive. If you’re submitting a judicial application, you should attend our event on judiciary interview training for solicitors.
The Courts and Tribunals Judiciary gives examples of days in the life of judicial office holders.
Should I move in-house? Changing career direction during the pandemic – hear from Jason Connolly, CEO of JMC Legal, on the considerations to keep in mind when thinking of moving to an in-house legal role.
Build confidence and move forward in your in-house career – hear from Bhavisha Mistry, general counsel at Mawdsleys and chair of the In-house Division, about how in-house lawyers can build confidence to move forward in their careers, take the leap and apply for more senior roles. There are also tips for those lawyers in private practice thinking of moving in-house, and where to start.
Gazette feature: New year, new career: career planning for 2021 – Jason Connolly writes for the Law Gazette about how you can plan for your career in 2021.