Being a solicitor is one of the most sought-after careers. This article outlines some of the key pros and cons of this role to help you decide whether it’s for you.
As a solicitor, there is a lot of highly engaging work to become involved with. Often, the cases are high-profile, some even on the front page of newspapers. Therefore, a solicitor’s work can be really meaningful and high value.
Solicitors are societally well-regarded. Not only are there a lot of areas within the law that a qualified solicitor can work in (eg. real estate or mergers and acquisitions), but the intellectually challenging work completed by a solicitor can provide a solid and competitive base for them to progress onto other careers such as banking or the civil service
Solicitor salaries are high. The route to becoming a solicitor is relatively straightforward, earning more as experience is built-up. Trainee solicitors in London earn between £30,000-£45,000 in their first year and £40,000-£55,000 in their second year. Post-qualification salaries can range from £60,000-£150,000 depending on the type of firm. This brings stability to those who work as solicitors because they reasonably estimate their salary over the coming years. The opportunity to be earning such a high salary only a few years following graduation can be a very enticing prospect for potential solicitors.
Solicitors also have the option to work internationally, especially through a secondment in their training contract. This allows for a personal challenge whilst they develop professionally. Again this depends on the type of firm but most firms do offer this type of experience.
Solicitors can often struggle with balancing their work life with their home and family commitments. Hours can be long and taxing, particularly at American firms where weekends can also often be taken-up. Where a client would like a deal to be closed, the solicitor will have to complete this, even into the early morning hours. Many deals involve countries from all over the world, especially America. Due to the different time zones, a solicitor may need to work late at short notice. This can mean many cancelled plans with friends and family.
The work completed by solicitors can be stressful, especially when clients impose pressing timeframes that they would like their work to be completed by. The high pressure imposed on a solicitor when there is a deadline can lead to a lot of stress and anxiety, which, if frequent over several weeks, can lead to more serious problems including exhaustion.
Becoming a solicitor is an expensive process. Any promising candidate needs a qualifying degree, followed by (for non-law students), a GDL and (for all candidates, an LPC. Whilst some candidates secure LPC funding as part of their training contract offer, others need to self-fund this, which, on top of their GDL and undergraduate degree, can mean large student debt.
Becoming a solicitor has become increasingly competitive, with candidate numbers increasing year on year. Obtaining a training contract is the most tricky part of the process with law firms receiving thousands of applications. and some firms only offering as few as four or five training contracts.
The process of applying to firms and submitting high-quality applications can be time-consuming. Candidates often need several work experience placements in order to be successful, which, for some, is difficult to secure. The competitiveness continues even once a candidate has obtained a training contract. Within firms, sometimes there can be a surplus of solicitors who would like to qualify into practice areas such as commercial law which can inevitably lead to disappointment for some. There is a market for solicitors to move firms following their training contract but this funnel is also competitive, especially for those who would like to move into American firms.