- What do solicitors do?
- Solicitor career path
- Solicitor salaries
- Qualifications and training
- Solicitor skills
- Pros and cons of being a solicitor
- Solicitor work-life balance
- Typical employers
- Related jobs
What do solicitors do?
It’s a solicitor’s job to work with clients, advising them on legal action and preparing legal cases. In the role, there are many areas of law that you can specialise in which can be widely separated into civil and criminal law. Criminal law deals with any laws broken against the state and civil law deals with damages to people or organisations. Here are the tasks that you have as a solicitor:
- Meeting with clients to discuss their legal needs and the particulars behind a legal case.
- Research recent and historic legal cases which might be relevant to your client because they set a legal precedent.
- Drafting and proofing legal documents that a client needs.
- Sometimes representing your clients in court if necessary.
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Solicitor career path
As a solicitor, you work for a law firm and deal with many clients throughout your career. Some solicitors work for a single organisation providing legal advice on all the problems that arise but most work for a specific firm. Here is the career path that you could take as a solicitor:
You begin your career as a trainee solicitor. In this role, you can’t yet practise as a solicitor so you’re training for how to do the job. You work with different departments in the firm, learning about different types of soliciting work. You also do administrative work like drafting documents like letters for clients and court documents and answering emails to clients and colleagues.
Once you’ve completed your training, you become a fully qualified solicitor or an associate solicitor. You’re given your own clients, completing any relevant work that a client needs to be done and providing them with necessary advice when they need it. A senior colleague may supervise your progress whilst you’re relatively new to the role. As you become more experienced, you’ll have more freedom to work independently.
The highest job you can get in a law firm is as a partner. As a partner, you take a step back from working with the law and move into a more managerial position. Your work includes overseeing departmental work and monitoring the progress of junior colleagues when they join the firm. You may meet with clients, checking to see how happy they are with the work they’re receiving from the firm. You also liaise with potential new clients or prospects to try and secure their business.
The specific salary that you earn in your career as a solicitor often depends on the type of organisation you work for, the size of the firm, its prestige, its location and your experience level. Here are the salaries that you could earn as a solicitor:
- In an entry-level position like trainee solicitor, you earn an average of £35,000 per year, this could extend to £40,000 per year.
- As an associate solicitor, you earn an average of £60,000 per year.
- As a partner, you earn £70,000 per year on average which could extend to beyond £100,000 per year depending on the size of the firm.
Qualifications and training
Working as a solicitor requires having specific qualifications. Here is the education and experience you need to work as a solicitor:
Most solicitors have at least an undergraduate degree. Whilst this doesn’t have to be in law, having a legal degree is a great way to get all the necessary background information that you need for your career as a solicitor. Alternatively, you could do a degree of your choosing and a single year law conversion course or a master’s degree in law. Alongside the great background and contextual information you get from a law degree, many law degrees have an element of discussion and debate that is highly relevant to legal careers.
There are legal apprenticeships available if you want to gain a more practical understanding of the job. Most of these apprenticeships involve working for a law firm whilst completing a degree course. Whilst this gives you more practical experience of the work and knowledge of a firm, it often takes a long time to complete. You can explore the current apprenticeships available with the government’s apprenticeship search tool.
Your training isn’t over when you complete your degree. You need to pass the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) plus two years of work experience as a trainee solicitor whilst being supervised by a qualified professional. Once you’ve met the requirements of the Solicitors Regulation Authority, you can practise as a solicitor.
Since working as a solicitor is such a competitive field, having some experience is important for getting into a training contract. One way of doing this is through an internship. Internships give you the opportunity to work within a firm, learn the skills you need for the job and know what to expect from a legal job. It’s also a great way to make contacts within a legal firm which could help you get a training contract for when you graduate. Many legal internships are set up around degree courses meaning you could do a summer internship. Explore available commercial law internships and criminal and human rights law internships.
To secure a career as a solicitor, you need some key skills. Being able to discuss these key skills and provide examples of when you’ve gained or demonstrated them during your career is a great way to impress a hiring manager and get your application noticed. Here are the skills you need to succeed as a solicitor:
- Knowledge of your area of the law. You need to have a high-level understanding of the law in general but the area of law that you specialise in so you can apply it to any individual cases that your clients come to you with.
- Research. You should have great research, critical thinking and analytical skills. This is so you can look back on recent and historic legal cases, finding relevant points that could help your case. You should also think through any counterpoints that the other legal team may come up with so you can plan your argument.
- Communication. Being a great communicator is a necessary skill for solicitors. Your job revolves around speaking to clients but you also negotiate with opposing legal teams on cases, give out relevant legal advice and sometimes even represent a client in court. Not only do you need to be a great communicator, but you also need to adapt the way you speak to your audience, utilising legal jargon in formal court settings and being informative but more colloquial when discussing complex legal cases with clients. Brush up on your communication skills with this Bright Network Academy module on adapting your communication style.
Pros and cons of being a solicitor
As with any role, there are positive and negative parts of working as a solicitor. Being aware of these and taking time to think through the points means you can decide if the job is right for you and if it fits with your non-career based goals. Here are the pros and cons of being a solicitor:
- You can specialise in an area that interests you throughout your career.
- The career path offers you great progression and high salaries in more senior roles.
- You could work on many different projects, doing many different tasks throughout your working week which can keep your work interesting.
- If you’re good at your job and build up a few loyal clients, you can start your own firm and work as your own boss.
- It can be stressful work because not only will you be held responsible if your client doesn’t win a case, there can be major implications for a client if they lose depending on the type of law you’re working in and the cases you’re working on.
- The first few years of working for a law firm are demanding and you’re expected to do long working weeks.
- It’s a highly competitive field and getting a training contract so you can begin your career can be difficult.
Solicitor work-life balance
As a solicitor, you may have long working weeks. This can happen throughout your working life but is particularly relevant during the first few years of your career. Having long working weeks can make maintaining a good work-life balance difficult as you have less time to spend at home relaxing and doing non-work projects and hobbies. This can also make the job stressful so having some healthy stress management techniques can be useful.
Here are some of the typical employers that you could work for as a solicitor: