How To Become a Solicitor

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 23 September 2022 | Published 20 May 2021

Updated 23 September 2022

Published 20 May 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you are passionate about the law and want to pursue a career in a law-related field, a career as a solicitor may be perfect for you. Becoming a solicitor can be rewarding and intellectually challenging. In this article, we explain what a solicitor is, how to become a solicitor and what skills you need to become a solicitor.

What does a solicitor do?

Solicitors provide their clients with advice on law-related matters. They also act on behalf of their clients on legal issues. The daily tasks solicitors perform daily include:

  • advising and representing their clients in court

  • instructing advocates and barristers to act on behalf of clients

  • drafting contracts, letters and other legal documents

  • researching case law and legal records

  • attending negotiations and meetings

  • managing their finances

  • preparing documents for court

  • keeping updated with changes in legislation

What is the difference between a solicitor and a barrister?

Barristers have to wear a wig and gown when appearing in court, which solicitors don't need to. Barristers plead clients' cases in court in front of a judge. They can provide specialist legal advice. Solicitors representing a client will give a barrister the details of new clients' cases to represent in the court. Barristers work as in-house advisors in organisations and may work independently in Chambers with other barristers. Solicitors work with a wider variety of cases than barristers, such as estate planning and real estate. They provide legal advice and draft legal documents for clients.

What skills do you need to become a solicitor?

To become a solicitor, you will need to pass enhanced background checks. You will also need the following skills and knowledge:

  • Knowledge about legal proceedings such as government regulations and court procedures

  • Advanced verbal and written communication skills to work with different people

  • Excellent active listening skills

  • Advanced analytical thinking skills to be able to understand and work on complex cases

  • Excellent knowledge of English to explain complex legal matters to clients and other non-experts

  • Attention to detail

  • Ability to work well under severe pressure

  • Competence in the use of computer and popular software packages

Related: 9 Essential Solicitor Skills

Where do solicitors work?

Solicitors can work in a range of work environments, including private practice, the local or central government, courts, law centres, prisons, police stations, Crown Prosecution Service, the military, or the in-house legal departments of organisations.

Related: A Guide To Civil Service Jobs

How long does it take to become a solicitor?

Becoming a solicitor will take several years, depending on the route you take. If you choose to study law full-time, it can take up to six years to become qualified, including a three-year undergraduate law degree, one year LPC and two years of training at a law firm. If you started with a non-law undergraduate degree, another year is required to complete the GDL conversion course. If you decided on the CILEx route to becoming a solicitor, each CPQ stage could take up to two years, meaning you can qualify as a CILEX solicitor in five or six years.

How to become a solicitor

The traditional route to becoming a solicitor involves university studies. You can follow the following steps to become a solicitor through university studies:

1. Complete secondary education courses

To qualify for entry into a university to pursue a bachelor's degree, you need to complete at least 3 A level courses in addition to 5 General Certificate of Secondary Education courses with grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent. The higher your grades, the better your chances of being accepted at a university for a law degree. Courses like English and Maths are recommended if you are interested in becoming a lawyer. Courses in history, science and maths involve reasoning, communication and analysis, giving you an edge in your university application.

2.Try and get exposure to law-related work

To make sure a law career is for you, try to organise informal work experience at a law firm during your break before you start your university studies. Try job shadowing for several weeks and carrying out general office duties to get a good exposure. In addition to making sure a career as a solicitor fits your personality and skills, informal work experience may improve your application for acceptance into a university for a law degree.

3. Complete an undergraduate university degree

There are two options for university studies if you want to become a solicitor, namely, starting with an undergraduate degree in law or an undergraduate degree in a different field. If you pursue a non-law undergraduate degree, make sure your course meet the Solicitors Regulation Authority's (SRA's) requirements. If you want to start with an undergraduate law degree, your chosen university may require you to complete the Law National Aptitude Test (LNAT) successfully before accepting you for a law degree. The LNAT assess the following:

  • Written and verbal reasoning skills

  • Ability to interpret and understanding information

  • Deductive and inductive reasoning abilities

  • Analytical ability and the ability to draw conclusions.

Related: Deductive Reasoning in the Workplace

4. Complete further studies at a university

If you completed an undergraduate law degree, you also need to complete the postgraduate Legal Practice Course.

If you completed a non-law undergraduate degree, you would need to complete either the Common Professional Examination or the one-year conversion course called the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). The GDL will place you on an equal footing with someone who completed an undergraduate law degree. You will also need to complete the Legal Practice Course.

5. Complete a period of recognised training

To become a qualified solicitor, you need to complete two years of recognised training at a law firm. During this period, you will undertake different positions in several departments to get on-the-job training to gain the required experience to understand and do the work of a solicitor.

Related: Higher Apprenticeships: Everything You Need to Know

6. Register as a solicitor

After completing your qualifications and training, you can apply to the SRA for admissions to the solicitors' roll (the solicitors' register in England and Wales) to become a certified solicitor. The SRA assesses the suitability and character of applicants before applicants' suitability and characters' roll. Reasons for non-approval include criminal convictions or cautions.

7. Join professional and industry organisations

As a certified solicitor, you can join the Law Society. Becoming a member of the Law Society will keep you informed about training opportunities, professional development requirements and can be helpful in building your industry network.

Related: Networking Tips for Job Seekers

8. Build and grow your law career

If you work in a private practice firm of solicitors, you can become a partner after gaining several years of work experience. Commercial solicitors can become the managers of an in-house legal department. With more than five years of post-qualification experience, you may apply to join the judiciary to become a tribunal judge, a recorder in court or a deputy district judge.

An alternative route to becoming a solicitor

If you want to become a solicitor without going to university, you can follow the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) Professional Qualification(CPQ) route and follow the three stages to become a paralegal (foundation), an advanced paralegal (advanced) or a lawyer (professional). To follow this route, you will finish your secondary education courses and then start working in a legal firm to do on-the-job training while completing the CILEx Level 6 Professional Diploma in Higher Law and Practice.

Many candidates will attempt to get an apprenticeship at an organisation to pursue the CILEx route. Good grades in your secondary education courses will improve your chances of getting a training contract. After completing the CILEx CPQ, you will need to undergo further training for several years to qualify as a solicitor.

Related: Key Attributes of Professionalism in the Workplace

Future changes to the process to qualify as a solicitor

The qualification system for becoming a solicitor will change from September 2021 at the earliest but will run concurrent to the old system making the transition to the new system more manageable. The new system is known as the Solicitor Qualifying Examination (SQE). The significant changes the SQE will introduce are:

  • Those who completed a non-law undergraduate degree will no longer need to complete the law conversion course.

  • Two sets of mandatory assessments will replace the LPC.

  • The period of recognised training will remain for two years, but candidates will be able to gain experience from up to four different legal firms.

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