About graduate careers as a solicitors
Solicitors advise clients about different areas of law, resolve disputes and represent clients in legal matters. Clients can be individuals, groups of people or companies. Typical duties include researching cases, drafting letters and documents, keeping financial records, attending meetings and preparing papers for court. Solicitors can work in private practice, in-house for companies or for the government, as part of the Government Legal Service (GLS) or Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
Training to become a solicitor is a lengthy process and is highly competitive, so aspiring solicitors need to be sure they have made the right career choice. Work experience offers students an understanding of how law firms operate and the chance to find out which area of legal practice suits their skills. Bigger law firms offer paid vacation schemes through the summer, spring and winter. These schemes are often open to penultimate-year law students, final-year non-law students and graduates. Students work on projects, research cases and attend meetings, workshops and seminars during the scheme. There is normally also an opportunity to meet and get advice from current trainee solicitors at the firm. Vacation schemes are a common pool of talent for law firms to draw on when hiring for training contracts. Smaller firms sometimes offer less structured work experience placements, such as work shadowing, or informal placements. Some graduates work as paralegals while applying for training contracts. Law firms also believe in the importance of non-legal work experience.
Opportunities for graduates in the law sector
If you are a law graduate, you must currently complete a one-year vocational course known as the legal practice course (LPC), which is designed to prepare students for working life and give them an awareness of the law and its application to practical issues. Non-law graduates must currently complete a conversion course, known as the graduate diploma in law (GDL), before undertaking the LPC. The final stage of qualifying as a solicitor is the training contract. Many firms, especially larger commercial firms, hire for training contract positions two years in advance. City law firms, including the ‘magic circle’ of leading UK law firms and their international counterparts, offer a higher number of graduate opportunities and often include secondments abroad. Training contracts are paid and usually rotational, allowing trainees to experience a number of seats. Successful completion and admission to the role will allow you to call yourself a solicitor.
The qualification process for solicitors is due to change in 2020 with the introduction of the SQE 'super exam'. We guide you through the changes and how the SQE will affect you here.
Students interested in a career as a solicitor…
- expected an annual income of £28,775; according to data collected by GTI, those joining commercial firms can expect considerably more
- were likely to have carried out work experience related to their course, as 74% of students surveyed had done so
- mostly studied law (78%); non-law students most interested in a career as a solicitor studied history/philosophy (7%)
- largely agreed with the statement ‘I would accept a lower salary if I thought an employer was very suited to me’ (64%), with only 12% actively disagreeing.