Solicitor Career Advice

This page has solicitor career advice for those looking to study and work in the UK. We include solicitor training and qualification requirements, typical salary, job description and more.

Solicitor career advice

 

What does a solicitor do?

Solicitors advise people about the law – they advise both individuals and businesses. Solicitors who give legal advice to businesses are known as commercial solicitors.

As well as giving advice, solicitors also act on behalf of clients, for example, negotiating with third parties or their solicitors. However, a key difference between a lawyer and a solicitor is that ‘lawyer’ is a broader term that includes both ‘barristers’ and solicitors.

A barrister represents their client in the courts, whereas a solicitor does not usually represent a client during court proceedings.

Many solicitors specialise in a particular legal area such as:

  • Employment
  • Property
  • Finance
  • Family

Even within these areas, there are many niches and a solicitor may specialise even further. For example, within employment law, a solicitor may specialise in an area such as:

  • TUPE
  • Immigration
  • Health and safety
  • Contracts
  • Equality

 

Day to day tasks

What kind of work does a solicitor do on a day-to day basis?

Working as a solicitor, you’re likely to be involved in the following types of work:

  • Giving information and advice on legal issues
  • Representing clients
  • Briefing a barrister to represent a client in court
  • Putting together legal documentation such as contracts, letters and reports
  • Conducting research into legal matters
  • Preparing court papers

 

Solicitor training and qualifications

Embarking on a career as a solicitor in the UK can be both rewarding and challenging. Solicitors are legal professionals who advise clients, represent them in negotiations, and conduct litigation. Below is a comprehensive guide to becoming a solicitor in the UK, covering educational requirements, the process of qualification, areas of specialisation, and career prospects.

 

The Role – What is a Solicitor?

Solicitors provide expert legal support and advice to clients, which can include individuals, groups, public sector organisations, and private companies. They typically handle a wide range of legal matters, from drafting contracts to representing clients in court proceedings.

Educational Pathways

A. Academic Qualifications

  • Law Degree (LLB): The traditional route starts with a law degree accredited by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).
  • Non-Law Degree: Graduates with a non-law degree must complete a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) to convert their qualifications.

B. Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE)

  • SQE1: Focuses on legal knowledge and is assessed through multiple-choice questions.
  • SQE2: Tests practical legal skills such as client interviewing, advocacy, and case and matter analysis.

C. Trainee Solicitor – Qualifying Work Experience

  • A trainee solicitor must complete two years of qualifying work experience. This can be gained in up to four different organisations, providing a broad base of practical experience.

D. Character and Suitability Test

  • Applicants must also pass a character and suitability test by the SRA.

Specialisation Areas

Solicitors can specialise in a variety of fields, including:

  • Corporate Law: Advising businesses on their legal obligations, rights, and responsibilities.
  • Criminal Law: Defending or prosecuting in criminal cases.
  • Family Law: Dealing with family-related issues like divorce and child custody.
  • Property Law: Handling legal aspects of property transactions.
  • Employment Law: Addressing issues related to workplace rights and employment contracts.
  • Personal Injury Law: Assisting clients injured due to negligence to obtain compensation.

Person Specification – Skills Required

  • Strong Communication Skills: Essential for articulating legal advice clearly to clients and representing them effectively in negotiations and court.
  • Analytical Ability: Ability to dissect and interpret complex legal documents and case laws.
  • Attention to Detail: Crucial in legal drafting and research to avoid costly errors.
  • Client Care: Building and maintaining professional client relationships is key.

 

Solicitor Career Prospects and Professional Development

A. Entry-level Roles

  • Newly qualified solicitors usually start in supportive roles, gradually taking on more responsibility as they gain experience.

B. Career Advancement

  • Opportunities for advancement can include becoming a partner in a law firm, specialising in a niche area of law, or moving in-house to work within the legal department of a large corporation.

C. Continuing Professional Development (CPD)

  • Solicitors are required to keep their skills and knowledge up to date with ongoing professional development courses.

Challenges and Rewards

  • Challenges: The career can be demanding with high stress levels and long hours, especially in high-stakes areas like corporate or criminal law.
  • Rewards: The profession offers excellent financial rewards, intellectual challenges, and the opportunity to assist people with significant legal issues.

 

Solicitor Salary

The average salary for a solicitor in the UK can vary widely depending on factors like location, area of specialisation, and experience. Here’s a general breakdown:

Newly Qualified Solicitors

  • Starting Salary:

The average salary for newly qualified solicitors in the UK typically ranges between £30,000 and £40,000 per year. However, salaries can be significantly higher in larger commercial law firms, particularly in London, where starting salaries might range from £70,000 to £100,000.

Experienced Solicitors

  • Mid-Level Experience: For solicitors with several years of experience, particularly those working in mid-sized firms or specialising in niche areas, salaries can range from £40,000 to £70,000.
  • Senior-Level Experience: Senior solicitors or partners in law firms, especially in large commercial firms or those based in major cities like London, can earn anywhere from £80,000 to over £100,000. Top partners in leading London firms might earn significantly more, often several hundred thousand pounds annually.

Average Salaries Across the UK

  • Overall Average: The overall average salary for solicitors across various stages of their career is approximately £50,000 to £60,000.
  • Regional Variation: Salaries in London are generally higher due to the concentration of large commercial law firms and the higher cost of living. In contrast, salaries in other regions of the UK might be lower but are often accompanied by a lower cost of living.

It’s important to note that these figures are approximations and can vary widely based on the specific circumstances and the economic environment at the time.

 

Conclusion

A career as a solicitor in the UK offers a dynamic environment with the opportunity for continual learning and professional growth. It demands a strong ethical foundation, dedication, and a commitment to justice. Those who choose this path can find a highly fulfilling career with diverse opportunities across various sectors.

 

More solicitor career resources:

Learn more about becoming a solicitor on the Law Society website.