Solicitor jobs… did you know?
What is the difference between a solicitor and a lawyer? Well, “lawyer” is a general term and a solicitor is a type of lawyer qualified to give specialist expert legal advice to clients. As well as advising clients, you can act on their behalf to get their legal life on track, whether it’s setting up a business, carrying out their wishes in a will, or even representing them in court.
WEIRD FACT: “Solicitor” comes from a 15th century word meaning “one who acts on someone else’s behalf”. Just like a solicitor does today!
Industry: Legal, Finance and Accounting
Solicitor job trends
How much money can you make as a Solicitor?
£25,000 – £100,000 (UK average)
Recent labour market information says you can earn on average between £25,000 and £100,000 a year as a solicitor in the UK. Starting salaries for qualified solicitors in small firms are around £25-40,000. In the City or a large firm you can earn upwards of around £60,000.
Your starting salary can vary because of factors like level of experience, training, location or the size of the company. Your salary as a solicitor will increase over time as you build skills, knowledge and experience.
What qualifications do you need to become a Solicitor?
2020: the start of something new
IMPORTANT: The specifications below are currently up to date, but it will be a case of “all change” in 2020 with the launch of a new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) designed to be more flexible and inclusive to potential solicitors from a greater range of backgrounds. It will aim to do this by being more flexible in its approach to work-based experience. Importantly, students will also be able to save money by no longer needing to sign up to the Legal Practice Course (LPC).
School, college and training
Giving expert legal advice to people means you need to be able to communicate clearly both in writing and speech – after all, you might even be representing them in court. You also need to be able to research accurately and negotiate forcefully and strategically.
To study for a law degree (or some other degree followed up by a law conversion course), you will usually need at least five GCSEs or their equivalent with good passing grades and at least two A-levels or their equivalents.
A range of subjects could apply well to law, since law is so broad. But English and maths are very important, and other subjects like science, history or geography will demonstrate your skill in accurately researching and analysing data.
Do you need a degree to become a solicitor?
The graduate route is the most common route to becoming a solicitor, and it’s true that most solicitors have a degree.
The good news is you don’t have to have a law degree to become a solicitor. You can top up the degree you’ve already done in another subject with a one-year full-time conversion course. This gives you the knowledge and legal training you need to get started in law.
It is possible to become a solicitor without a degree. It takes a long time, but where there’s a will there’s a way! You can progress to your goal by becoming a chartered legal executive, and you can find out more with the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx).
You’ll need a good passing grade in maths at GCSE level (or its equivalent) if you want to consider either further study towards an accountancy career or getting into a junior role and working your way up. You’ll also find it useful to study for A-levels or their equivalent, as this will help you apply for a degree.
Apprenticeships and training programmes
The CILEx Law School currently offers a Solicitor Apprenticeship. This six-year programme leads to qualification as a Solicitor, and you can be a school leaver with three A-levels at grade B or above to apply.
Other kinds of legal apprenticeships are also available in the UK. Example law-related apprenticeships include:
- Legal administration apprenticeship
- Business administration apprenticeship
- Paralegal apprenticeship
Career Progression and further qualifications
When you become a newly qualified solicitor, you could start as an assistant solicitor and them move on to become an senior solicitor, associate, head of department, salaried partner and then an equity partner. As a partner you’d be involved in managing the firm and developing its business.
You could begin your journey as an assistant solicitor with the firm you trained up with, and this is known as being retained. This can be a useful first step as you will build up your legal, client-handling and business skills and gain more responsibility over time in a familiar environment – perhaps even supervising junior members of staff. However, sometimes you may find you need to switch firms in order to progress – it all depends on the size of the firm, and how great an impression you make with them.
What experience do you need for Solicitor jobs?
How can you get started with grabbing some all-important experience?
If you’re doing a law degree, bear in mind that the biggest firms have a two-year waiting list for training vacancies. Start applying near the second year of your law degree.
If you want to get some holiday work experience, it’s worth applying to smaller firms on spec. They may not advertise their holiday work experience schemes, but that’s great because there’s less competition for them.
Examples of relevant work experience include:
- Work shadowing (even if it’s just for a day)
- Work placements in a company
- Year-long placements on a sandwich degree course.
While at college or uni, find your nearest student law society and get involved with the activities they offer. This will look great on your CV, showing that you’re not only keen but proactive when it comes to building a career in law. Student law society activity could include pro-bono work (working for free), competitive debating, mooting (simulated court hearings), and useful networking events and business simulations to help you build your commercial awareness.
What skills do you need for Solicitor jobs?
Useful skills to highlight to your employer when applying for jobs as a solicitor include:
- Communication skills (writing accurately, communicating clearly and strong negotiation skills are vital)
- Problem-solving skills (helping clients tackle seemingly impossible challenges using logic, a clear head, analysis and even lateral thinking)
- Teamworking skills (you could be working with companies, organisations, individual clients and also colleagues in a team)
- Accuracy and an eagle eye for detail
- Self-management skills (whoever heard or a disorganised lawyer? It’s never too soon to work on those organisational skills!)
- Digital (I.T.) and numeracy skills
- Diplomacy, tact and integrity/trustworthiness
Vocational qualifications and work experience will help you build these skills over time.
Start building these vital life and work skills now with our free Young Professional training.
What does a Solicitor do?
You can do two things as a solicitor:
- Give expert legal advice depending on your area of specialist knowledge
- Carry out actions on behalf of your client
How can two such seemingly simple things lead to so much variety?
For a start, you could be giving advice on a huge range of issues including:
- Personal concerns (e.g. divorce, wills, buying and selling property)
- Commercial (e.g. starting a new business, business disputes, corporate changes like company mergers)
- Personal and human rights (e.g. informing people on how to get the compensation they are eligible to receive if they have been wronged by a company, organisation or person).
Who does a solicitor work for?
You could be working as a sole practitioner, or for someone else. The firm you work for could be small or huge. Some of the businesses and organisations you could work for include:
- Commerce/industry organisations
- Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
- Government Legal Service (GLS)
- Local Government
- Law centres
You could find yourself working long hours, including working over the weekend. But what kind of work will you be doing?
Just a few of the (hugely varied) activities you can do include:
- Advising clients on legal issues, and taking their instructions on how they’d like to proceed
- Researching the law and related documentation to ensure any activities carried out are the best ones
- Meeting and interviewing potential clients, working together to outline goals
- Court in the act – preparing court papers, representing clients in court or instructing barristers to take the client’s place in court if things get complicated.