Everything you need to know about becoming a solicitor

Have you ever wondered how you become a solicitor? Or what exactly solicitors do?

There are many considerations that you will need to make when choosing to become a solicitor. This article will give you an overview of everything you need to know about becoming a solicitor.

Topics to be answered in this article

What is a solicitor and what do they do?

A solicitor is a qualified legal professional who provides specialist legal advice on different areas of law. At times they may also be responsible for representing or defending their client in court. 

The primary role of a solicitor is to take instructions from clients and advise them on the necessary course of legal action. A client can be defined as an individual, group, private company or public sector organisation. 

Upon qualification, solicitors often specialise in one legal practice area and often choose whether they want to work in an area that represents private or commercial clients. 

Private client work deals with personal issues such buying and selling a property, making a Will or dealing with a divorce. Commercial work can involve assisting clients with buying and selling a business or commercial property, construction or land acquisition and disposal. 

Quite often solicitors will also make the decision early on in the career as to whether they want to work in private practice, in-house for commercial and industrial organisations, in local or central government or for the court service. 

Why would you want to become a solicitor?

The most popular answer given when solicitors are asked why they chose their career path, is usually because they like and want to help others. Often a client comes to a solicitor in a time of need so it can be rewarding to know that you’ve helped someone through a difficult time. 

The role can also be challenging in various ways from needing to have good attention to detail to being able to problem solve when under pressure. Some people thrive on these challenges! 

Practising as a solicitor comes with promising long-term career prospects which in turn means a good salary and benefits, but you have to be dedicated to the job to reap these rewards, which can mean working long hours and juggling the role against personal commitments/home life. 

What qualifications do I need to become a solicitor?

You’ll need to have at least five GCSEs at grade C (level 4) or above to include Maths and English and usually three A Levels at grade C (level 4) or above too. It is often useful if one of the A Levels is in an essay writing subject such as English or History. Some universities would also prefer for you not to have studied law at A Level although this shouldn’t stop you getting a place at university if you have. 

How long does it take to become a solicitor?

Because there are so many ways to become a solicitor, the time it takes to qualify can vary depending on the route you choose to take. There are a variety of advantages of qualifying in different ways, and at any point in your career, although each route requires consistent dedication and commitment.

Qualifying as a solicitor with a law degree

If you take the “traditional” route into law then it will take you six years to qualify as a solicitor from the time you start your law degree and that’s if you do each course on a full-time basis. A law degree takes three years and once completed you’ll need to take the Legal Practice Course (LPC) which is a year, followed by a two year training contract. As part of the training contract you will need to complete the Professional Skills Course (PSC) which is done whilst you work and usually takes around two weeks to complete across the two year period. 

Since the autumn of 2021, the Solicitor Qualifying Exams (SQE) has been introduced. SQE 1 and SQE 2 replaces the LPC and rather than complete a training contract, the student is required to do two years of qualifying work experience. This experience can be paid or unpaid and you have the flexibility to do this in up to four different firms. The time frame to qualification is pretty much the same as the “traditional” route. 

Becoming a solicitor with a non-law degree

It’s quite common for many solicitors to have started out their career journey studying something other than law at university, which is completely fine and doesn’t stop you entering the legal profession. In fact, experience of other professions can contribute to a well-rounded career in law.

Once your degree is complete you will need to complete a qualifying degree known as the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). This takes one year if completed full-time or usually two years if done part-time. Once this qualification is achieved, the next steps are the same as if you had done a law degree. 

Becoming a solicitor without a degree

You can still achieve the end result of practising as a solicitor without needing a degree. The Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) runs a training programme where you study as you work to sit exams and submit a portfolio of work. A CILEx Level 6 qualification counts as equivalent to a degree or you can move forward with a CILEx Level 3 qualification and the relevant number of years’ work experience. From here you can sit the SQE exams and then you’ll have to register at least two years of qualifying work experience to become a solicitor. 

Apprenticeships

Legal Apprenticeships are gaining popularity as they allow students to earn as they study and are exempt from tuition fees. To commence a Level 3 Paralegal Apprenticeship, three A Levels are required along with a minimum of five GCSEs at grade C (level 4) or above to include Maths and English. The course takes around two years to complete where you will be required to complete a portfolio of work and also pass an end of point assessment. From here you can continue on to a Solicitors Apprenticeship which will take a further four years to complete where you’ll study for a law degree and at the end will complete the SQE.

You can go straight into a Level 7 Solicitors Apprenticeship and entry requirements are a minimum of 5 GCSEs at grade C (level 4) or above to include Maths and English, plus three A Levels at a minimum of grade C. Completing this from scratch will take five to six years. 

So, how do you become a solicitor?

If you’re interested in becoming a solicitor then feel free to contact us at recruitment@goughs.co.uk so we can offer you more insight into the options and what we’re able to offer. 

Alternatively, get in touch via the form below.

For further information on each of the pathways, please visit the below sites:

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Author Bio

Lauren Bridger

I joined Goughs in February 2012 having previously spent five years working in accounts for a global insurance company.

I became an Associate Member of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in 2016 having completed the Level 3 Diploma in Human Resource Practice.

I undertake a very broad HR role within the firm, with a particular focus on working closely with the partners in attracting and selecting the right people to meet the firm’s strategic objectives. I also work closely with other members of the HR team on developing key processes to enhance the performance of the firm and make Goughs a positive, supportive working environment.

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