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 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.
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.