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Becoming a solicitor

  • 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. They both offer legal advice, but barristers also represent their clients in court in front of a judge and possibly a jury, or at a tribunal.

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

    Becoming a solicitor takes a lot of commitment. You must study 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 guidance 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) for those 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 and other legal documents
    • liaising with clients and other professionals such as barristers
    • occasionally 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

    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 becoming an apprentice 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.

    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 are already on the path to qualifying. Find out more about future changes.

    Resources

    Becoming a solicitor: Start planning your future today (PDF 666 MB) – our guide to becoming a solicitor

    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