Overview of the solicitors’ profession
There are over 130,000 solicitors in England and Wales, representing clients in almost all aspects of life. Most solicitors work in private practice for a law firm while a minority work in-house for large companies or for the government.
The work of a solicitor
Solicitors are often the first port of call for clients who want a legal problem solved – whether that client is an individual selling their house or a company buying another company. Solicitors tend to specialise in one area of law, such as family, criminal or employment law. There are solicitors’ firms in every town and city in the country but the work of solicitors varies enormously depending on the size of the firm and the type of client.
Qualification and training
Solicitors need either a law degree or a degree in a non-law degree followed by a conversion course (known as the GDL). After graduation, there is a further course to complete known as the legal practice course before you are able to start work in a law firm.
You’ll need to take a two-year training contract with a firm where, typically, you will experience six months in four different legal areas – from banking law to tax law. You will work in teams and learn from experienced solicitors and partners. Successful completion of this ‘period of recognised training’ (as training contracts are sometimes known) allows you to call yourself a qualified solicitor.
Who can go into this profession?
The solicitors’ profession is a very competitive sector to enter – you’ll need a consistently strong exam record to get in and a determination to succeed. You’ll need As and A*s at GCSE level, between AAB and A*AA at A level and a 2.1 or first in your degree (the top two grades you can get). You’ll also need to show good attention to detail, research and people skills – you’ll spend a lot of your time communicating with clients and other lawyers.