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 such as accident claims, 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 Long Does It Take To Become A Solicitor?

Training to become a solicitor is a long and difficult process. You should carefully consider whether you truly wish to become a solicitor before you embark on this path, as training requires a lot of commitment and can cost a lot of money. Here is some more information about what time frames you should expect if you choose to embark on the standard route towards becoming a solicitor.

Undergraduate Degree

The majority of people begin their training by completing an undergraduate degree. An undergraduate degree in law should normally take 3-4 years to complete if it is being studied on a full-time basis. Part-time registration may extend this to around 6 years. Tuition fees can be as much as £9000 per year. Trainees may also progress in their training with an undergraduate degree in any other subject, although they will then need to do a conversion course.

Students must achieve a grade of at least 40% if they wish to continue with their training.

Law Conversion Course

A law conversion course (either the Common Professional Examination or the Graduate Diploma in Law) only needs to be taken by trainees if they did not complete a qualifying undergraduate degree in law at a university in the jurisdiction that they intend to work in. People who studied law in Scotland may need to complete this course if they wish to work in England or Wales, as these jurisdictions have different legal systems.

When it is being studied on a full time basis, a law conversion course will normally take a year to complete. Some people prefer to complete this course on a part time basis, which takes 2 years. Completing the course on a part time basis may allow you to continue earning money to fund your course and it may allow you the opportunity to gain experience of working in a legal environment.

Legal Practice Course

Legal Practice Courses aim to give students additional practical skills which they may require once they are working in a law firm. Electives on this course also allow students to choose a specialism. When studied on a fulltime basis, a Legal Practice Course will normally take 1 year to complete. Part-time options are available which take 2 years. Distance Learning options are also available from some providers. Some providers also offer intensive “fast track” options, which allow the course to be completed in as little as 6 ½ months. Fast Track courses require a lot of commitment from students and are only recommended for learners who have a good support network in place.

Students on all courses must achieve a pass mark of at least 50 in all modules to progress.

Training Contract

Once the LPC has been completed, students may take up a training contract with a law firm. Some students are supported through their LPC by a law firm which intends to employ them on a training contract afterwards. It is also possible to complete an LPC part time whilst on a training contract. A training contract lasts for a minimum of two years on a fulltime basis. Trainees are given many of the same responsibilities that fully qualified solicitors have, although they receive on-the-job training and supervision to support them in their role. The training contract also requires the student to undergo three formal appraisals.

Professional Skills Course

The last thing that people need to complete if they follow this path towards becoming a solicitor is to undertake a Professional Skills Course. This is a short course which requires the equivalent of 12 days of fulltime attendance (72 hours). No more than half of this course may be completed by distance learning. Most people will do these courses whilst they are still on their training contract. This will allow them to become a fully qualified solicitor as soon as their training contract is completed.

This means that becoming a solicitor requires a minimum of 5-6 years of training. Many people take much longer than this as they complete at least some aspects of their course on a part time basis to allow them to continue earning money and gaining experience. Those who do not take the academic route to qualification can be expected to take twice as long.