How to Become a Solicitor
Want to know more about how to become a solicitor? In addition to providing helpful a step-by-step guides to becoming a qualified solicitor, this page aims to provide an overview of the solicitor profession and salary, as well as the types of experience you can gain to decide if the career is right for you.
If you are still in the process of weighing up your career options as between solicitor and barrister you may want to take a look at our Difference Between Solicitor and Barrister page.
NOTE: As at today’s date, to pursue a career as a solicitor, you will need to follow the pathways set out in this page. However, following the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA’s) announcement on 25 April 2017, the way solicitors will train and qualify will change dramatically once the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) takes effect. The SQE is set to be introduced from September 2020, which will mark the phasing out of the GDL, the LPC. To find out more, click on the link! The Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).
How to Become a Solicitor: What is a Solicitor?
A solicitor is a qualified legal practitioner, responsible for preparing legal documentation, representing and/or defending a client’s legal interests and providing specialist legal advice on a variety of areas of law. A solicitor is likely to act directly for a variety of clients including:
- Small businesses
- Large national and international organisations
You can learn more about becoming a solicitor at TLP’s Aspire Conference.
Learn More About TLP Aspire
How to Become a Solicitor: What Does a Solicitor Do?
A solicitor’s work will broadly fall into two distinct categories:
1. Contentious legal work
Contentious legal work is sometimes referred to as ‘litigious work.’ Essentially it involves resolving disputes between two or more parties, usually in a court or tribunal setting or via ‘alternative dispute resolution’ means such as arbitration or mediation.
2. Non-Contentious Legal Work
Non-contentious legal work is sometimes referred to as ‘non-litigious work.’ This type of work aims to deal with a client’s personal or business needs from a legal perspective. Examples include:
- Buying and selling commercial and residential property
- Buying and selling companies
- Dealing with company mergers
- Advising on design and build construction projects
How to Become a Solicitor: Daily Work
On a daily basis, a solicitor will:
- Attend meetings with clients
- Draft and negotiate legal documents and contracts
- Provide specialist legal and commercial advice on a variety of areas of law
- Interview and advise clients
- Research and interpret complex points of law
- With the requisite rights of audience, appear and speak on behalf of clients in court
How to Become a Solicitor: How are Solicitors Employed?
There are two main ways in which solicitors are employed:
1. Law Firm Employment
Most Solicitors will start their legal career in a law firm setting. This involves training and qualifying at a law firm and then specialising in one of many areas of law.
2. In-House Employment
‘In-house’ essentially means being employed to practice law in a commercial setting. Many large organisations, such as the BBC, Government Legal Service (GLS) and Virgin Media have in-house legal departments. Some companies (e.g. the BBC and GLS) even offer opportunities to complete an in-house training contract. But more often than not solicitors tend to start their working life in a law firm and then move ‘in-house’ once they have built up some relevant industry specific experience.
To find out more about life as an in-house solicitor, read our case studies:
How to Become a Solicitor: Would I Make a Good Solicitor?
If you’re wondering how to become a solicitor, you may also be wondering how to start your journey. The best way to discover whether you would make a successful solicitor is to seek law work experience.
First-hand experience will give you a great insight into whether it is a profession you would enjoy and excel at. Law firms provide plenty of opportunities, mainly for undergraduates, to experience law firm life, including:
Even before university you can seek out law work experience. Although opportunities don’t tend to be as structured, you could consider sending off speculative applications to local law firms.
To find out more, visit our page, what makes a good lawyer?
How to Become a Solicitor: Career Progression
Career Progression in a law firm setting is as follows:
- Trainee Solicitor
- Junior/Assistant Solicitor
- Senior Solicitor
- Salaried Partner
- Junior Equity Partner
- Senior Equity Partner
It is possible to train and qualify ‘in-house’ in a commercial organisation and work your way through the ranks of junior solicitor right through to a ‘head of legal’ position.
Alternatively, you could train and qualify in a law firm and move in-house at a later stage in your legal career.
With between five and seven years post qualification experience as a solicitor, it is even possible to join the judiciary and become a:
- Tribunal Judge
- Deputy District Judge
- Recorder in court
Solicitor salaries vary greatly depending on:
- Your chosen practice area
- Whether you work for a law firm or ‘in-house’
- Office size and location (London-based solicitors tend to receive a salary uplift)
- Level of experience
Trainee Solicitor Salaries
Trainee solicitor salaries range from £18,000 per year in smaller commercial and high street practices right through to £43,000+ per year in larger commercial city law firms.
Qualified Solicitor Salaries
Starting salaries for newly qualified solicitors in larger city law firms range from £50,000 to £70,000 with some law firms paying up to and in excess of £90,000. Starting salaries in regional law firms and high street practices tend to be slightly lower, ranging broadly between £22,000 and £45,000+.
Law Firm Partner Salaries
Depending on seniority, a partner in a law firm can expect to earn around £100,000 per year. Depending on the size and type of law firm, this figure could easily exceed £1,200,000.
In-House Solicitor Salaries
On average, in-house solicitors tend to earn less than private practice solicitors with salaries ranging from £50,000 to £100,000, depending on level of seniority.
Step-by-Step Guides on How to Become a Solicitor
A-level Student – Route to Solicitor Qualification
Step 1 – Complete 3 A-levels (Grade C or above)
Step 2 – Complete a 6 year law apprenticeship
Step 3 – Qualify as a solicitor
Degree Graduate – Route to Solicitor Qualification
Step 1 – Complete either a:
- Qualifying LLB law degree (with 2:2 (hons) as a minimum) (3-4 years); or
Step 2 – Apply for law work experience such as vacation schemes, open days or internships
Step 3 – Complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC) (1-2 years)
Step 4 – Apply for a two-year training contract. Applications to be made direct to chosen law firms and can be made before or during or after the LPC
Step 5 – Complete a training contract
Step 6 – Complete the Professional Skills Course (during the course of your training contract).
Step 7 – Qualify as a solicitor
Which Organisations Regulates Represent the Solicitor Profession?
The Law Society
The Law Society is the ‘independent professional body for solicitors’ which offers support and representation to solicitors whilst promoting them within the legal profession. It operates on both national and local levels, running a variety of events and conferences as well as providing a wealth of networking opportunities to its members. Membership to The Law Society is granted on qualification as a solicitor on payment of an annual fee.
An arm of The Law Society is the Junior Lawyers Division which, again, operates on both a national and local level. Free, automatic membership is granted to LPC students which continues until five years post-qualification. The Junior Lawyers Division runs a variety of events, lectures, and social events as well as looking after and protecting the interests of juniors in the legal profession whilst promoting equality and diversity.
Solicitors Regulatory Authority (the SRA)
The Solicitors Regulatory Authority – the SRA is primarily responsible for regulating law firms, their solicitors and other employees in both England and Wales. The SRA has developed a Code of Conduct and Principles which must be strictly complied with to ensure that any legal services are provided with integrity and with the best interests of the client and the wider public in mind.
If these principles are in any way breached, the SRA can take enforcement action which can have serious and career altering consequences for both the law firm, and its individual solicitors and employees.