If you’re on this page you may be at sixth form and deciding what you would like to do as a future career. Or maybe at you’re at university, still unsure of what you want to do but are interested in how to become a solicitor in the UK. Maybe you’re a professional looking for a career change.
Whatever stage of the process you’re at, follow this step by step guide on how to become a solicitor and you’ll have a clearer idea of what it takes to enter the field. Please note this guide covers the traditional route, so if you are looking for information about legal apprenticeships, visit our corresponding page.
NOTE: To become a solicitor in the UK, you will need to follow the relevant steps set out below. However, following the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA’s) 2017 announcement, the way in which solicitors will train and qualify is likely to change once the new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) takes effect. The SQE is set to be introduced in the Autumn of 2021.
1. Complete a qualifying law degree or GDL
Route One: Obtain an LLB law degree recognised by the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA). There are a wide variety of law degrees you can take but make sure that the one you choose allows you to qualify. This will involve taking a certain number of compulsory modules including tort and criminal law.
Route Two: For those who did not or aren’t studying law at university at undergraduate level, you must complete an additional year of study called the Graduate Law Diploma (GDL) or ‘law conversion course’.
2. Legal Practice course (LPC)
After finishing University, the next step is to take the LPC. This is a vocational course and will teach you how to apply what you learned at university into real-life settings. Some candidates have this paid for by a law firm as part of their training contract so it’s important to start the process of applying to training contracts early, otherwise you may experience difficulty in funding your studies.
If you haven’t received a training contract by your third year, you are still able to take the LPC straight away, but you have to take into account the financial implications of paying to study for the course yourself. Visit our LPC funding guide for information.
3. Period of Recognised Training (2 years)
This is what is commonly known as a training contract. This involves two years of full time work experience at a law firm, where you undertake several seats in different departments. Some of the larger firms will start the recruitment process as early as the second year of university so it’s important that you start thinking about your options early in the process.
Here, you’ll get on-the-job training and will begin to understand what it’s truly like to be a solicitor. You’ll also have to take additional compulsory training, making sure that your professional skills are up to scratch by the time you qualify.
4. Qualification as a solicitor
Once you have completed all relevant training, you must apply to the SRA for admission to the roll, which is the register of solicitors in England and Wales. When this has been approved, you are now certified as a solicitor!
Overall, this process will take a minimum of six years.
It’s important to note that this is the current process and from 2021, a new scheme of qualification will be open. This new system is called the Solicitor Qualifying Examination or SQE.
Here are the main differences:
It will not be necessary to have a qualifying law degree to undertake the SQE. Anyone with an undergraduate degree or equivalent will be able to become a solicitor with no law conversion course needed.
The LPC will be replaced by two sets of mandatory assessments.
Candidates will still have to do two years of qualifying work experience but the requirements for this are set to be looser with candidates being able to gain that experience from up to four different legal employers.
This system will be available at the earliest September 2021 but will run concurrently with the current process for some time in the future. This means that future candidates will most likely get the choice of either method of qualification.
If you are considering a career as a solicitor, law firm work experience or an in-house-based solicitor placement will be most appropriate and may include completing a vacation scheme, attending a law firm open day and/or do a legal internship.
Find out more in our law work experience guide.
Career Progression in a law firm setting is as follows:
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:
READ NEXT: Solicitor Salaries guide
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