Trainee solicitor

Understanding What A Solicitor Does

To really understand what a solicitor is, it is somewhat important to understand that there are two main types of lawyers in the UK, of which a solicitor is one, and barrister is the other. Whilst the boundaries between the two professions are slowly becoming more blurred, there are still some differences between the two.

In general, the main responsibilities of barristers involve representing people in court, whereas solicitors tend to do most of their legal work outside of the courts; however there are always exceptions in both cases. For most people who need a lawyer, their first point of contact will be with a solicitor. In some cases, such as those which end up in the higher courts, a barrister may be called in to work with the solicitors to provide representation. Those who need a solicitor may not ultimately end up being represented by their first point of contact, because the solicitor that they speak to first may not be the best person to speak to. However, they will usually be able to point people in the right direction to access the legal support that they need.

Areas of employment for solicitors

There are a number of different areas in which a solicitor can be employed. Solicitors can work on their own, as part of a small law firm, as part of a large legal organisation, or in the legal department of any business or firm. Depending on which area a solicitor works in, the work that they do is likely to be slightly different. For example, a solicitor who is employed as part of the legal department in a business or firm will only represent the interests of that firm, but may have to understand that firm’s rights and obligations in regards to a wide variety of business tasks, whereas a solicitor who works as part of a small law firm may work with a lot of different clients.

Types of work

Much of the work done by solicitors is desk based, although there may be the opportunity to leave the office and visit clients in independent locations. The types of work which are regularly done by solicitors include advising clients, drafting documents, conducting research and checking legal contracts. Whilst solicitors often work on their own, they can sometimes work in teams or with support staff, such as a legal secretary.

A solicitor may also be expected to liaise with or negotiate with solicitors who are representing another party. It is important that solicitors have the necessary skills to communicate effectively with other people, because this will help them to understand the needs of their clients and to get the best possible results for their clients.

Most solicitors who make court appearances as an advocate for their client will only represent clients in a magistrate’s court or a county court. For most cases which reach the higher levels of court, a barrister will be drafted in to act as an advocate, although they will normally be supported by a team of solicitors. At present, a few top solicitors are able to work as advocates for clients in the higher courts.

Specialised solicitors

During training, most solicitors will choose an area of law to specialise in. Because law is an expansive field, it is easier to offer the best levels of service if you are able to focus on just one area of law, and therefore many solicitors will have a specialism. Areas of specialism can include; wills and probate (what will happen to a person’s estate once they are deceased or incapacitated), business law, employment law, small claims cases, accident claims or family law (child custody and divorces etc).

Some solicitors will have had the opportunity to specialise in more than one of these areas. Law firms will often include solicitors who cover a range of different specialisms, so if they themselves are not able to help out with a case, they will be able to pass clients on to a colleague who is better placed to provide assistance. Many solicitors for example are also well-networked, so that if they do not actually work with a person who can help, they will know of an external candidate who may be able to help instead.


How Much Can You Earn As A Solicitor?

Whilst being a solicitor is often thought of as a well paid role, the amount that solicitors earn can depend on a number of different factors, including where you work, what you specialise in, what stage of your career you are at and how successful you are. Training can also be costly if you do not already have a firm sponsoring your education, and people are often required to pay off the costs of their education with part of their earnings during the early part of their career. For most people their earnings will increase as they progress further in their career.

Training Salary

It is likely that you will receive the lowest salary level during your career whilst you are on your training contact. This reflects the fact that your firm is still supporting you through your training, and that you do not have the same level of responsibility as that which is held by your qualified peers. The only requirement for those on a training salary is that it meets the national minimum wage for a full working week (£6.40 per hour in 2014).

Whilst the SRA recommends that trainee solicitors are paid more than this, especially if they are living and working in London, the SRA does not enforce this recommendation. Regardless of this, many training contract providers will offer their trainees a much higher salary than this. If you want a better salary whilst training, it is best to look for a contract in a private firm, rather than public or third-sector firms. These employers also offer generous benefits packages to their employees, which can help to make these contracts an even more appealing prospect. Some of the top international law firms in London offer training contracts worth over £35,000 per year, and this figure can be higher in the second year of a contract. Graduates who go for these contracts face tough competition and once in position, they are expected to work exceedingly hard as part of their role.

How much do Newly Qualified Solicitors earn?

Starting salaries for fully qualified solicitors begin at around £19,500, and go upwards from there. Those who were lucky enough to secure a training contract with a high annual salary can expect to earn much more than this in their first year as a practicing solicitor, so long as they are able to secure a job at the firm that they trained with.

Newly qualified solicitors who are living and working in London will usually earn more than those who are living and working elsewhere in the country, however this is offset by the increased costs associated with living and working in London.

What is the Maximum that a Solicitor can earn?

There is no real maximum value set for how much a solicitor can earn, and it will often depend on the level of extra responsibility that they take on as part of their job. Solicitors who have been practicing for a while in a clear specialised area, and working as part of a successful and reputable firm can expect to earn up to £75,000 per year.

Solicitors who have taken on extra responsibility, such as a management role or a partnership role in a firm can earn over £100,000 per year. Partners in a law firm may also be eligible to draw an additional cut of the profits from their firm. However, being a partner in a law firm does not come without its own risks. If the firm is unsuccessful, the partners may earn much less than expected, and be forced to take drastic salary cuts in order to keep the business alive.

Do solicitors earn Commission?

Some solicitor roles earn money on a commission basis. Although employees are always given a salary that meets minimum wage, they have the chance to earn more by completing cases. If the cases are successful, the solicitor either earns a pre-arranged fee, or is awarded a percentage cut of the amount which has been awarded to the client. This percentage must be agreed upon when the solicitor agrees to represent the client. Good solicitors can earn a lot of money by taking clients on commission, but less successful solicitors may struggle to earn much.


Solicitor training

Solicitor Training

If your dream career is to be a solicitor in England & Wales, it is important that you have the proper training to become qualified. It is against the law to market yourself as a solicitor if you have not received qualified status and if you have not been accredited by the appropriate body. Thankfully, there are a lot of places in the United Kingdom where you can train to become a properly qualified solicitor and so we shall take a quick look at those below.

The University Pathway

Many of the people training to be a solicitor in England & Wales have studied law at university. Law courses can be quite competitive, so it is important that you achieved good grades in high school exams if you want to secure a place at a top university.

There are around 100 universities across the United Kingdom which offer law as an option, but it is important to be aware that the United Kingdom is separated into three different legal jurisdictions (England & Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland), and learning law in one of these jurisdictions can prevent you from practicing in other jurisdictions, unless extra training is completed. For example, if you study law at a Scottish university, this may only allow you to practice law in Scotland. If you have already completed a degree in a different subject, or if you have completed a law degree in an alternative jurisdiction, law conversion courses are also available at a range of different universities across the country. These courses usually take a year to complete if they are taken as a full time course, however these courses can be very intensive, so applicants must be prepared to work very hard if they want to pass them. Even after students have graduated from their degree or their conversion course, there is still plenty of work to do before they are qualified.

What is next?

The majority of people training to become a solicitor will need to complete a Legal Practice Course (LPC). In order to qualify as a solicitor, the LPC must be completed and passed at a training provider which has been accredited by the Solicitor Regulation Authority (SRA). Without this accreditation, the course is not an official one, and will not help you to become a fully qualified solicitor.

LPCs are offered by a number of different universities and private training providers across the UK. In order to find a training provider in your area, you can search on the SRA website. This is also the best place to go if you want to check whether your chosen provider is fully accredited.

The types of course which are offered by training providers can vary slightly depending on where you go, but the content will be similar in many respects. This is the stage in legal training where most people choose their specialism, so it is best to choose a training provider that is well-regarded in providing training in the specialism that you are interested in. Whilst most people take a year to complete their course when studying full time, part time, evening and fast track courses are available from some providers.

Training Contracts

Training contracts are available from law firms around the country, although the firm that you do your training contract with must have legal training provider status. The firm is required to carry out regularly evaluations about your performance, including at least 3 formal assessments which meet assessment requirements issued by the SRA. As an authorised training provider, the SRA can provide additional support to firms which are employing graduates on training contracts.

The most competitive training contracts offer large salaries and fantastic progression opportunities for candidates, although they require a lot of hard work and determination from those who are lucky enough to secure one.

Alternative Pathways

It is possible to become a solicitor without a university degree, if you have experience of working within a law firm. Candidates must work towards CILEx accreditation and membership by completing a series of courses and exams. As part of this route, candidates must usually complete the LPC, although many candidates choose the part time route so that they can continue to work whilst studying. The CILEx route takes at least 5 years to complete.