Job descriptions and industry overviews

Solicitor: job description

21 Jun 2023, 15:39

Solicitors are lawyers who act on behalf of and give legal advice to private and commercial clients.

Solicitor job description

What does a solicitor do? Salaries | Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Skills

Once qualified, solicitors often specialise in one legal area such as family law, litigation, property or tax. Solicitors working in commercial law firms advise large corporate clients on transactions or cases. They might draft the contracts for the construction of a new shopping centre or advise on the merger of one FTSE 100 company with another.

High street solicitors advise smaller companies and individuals on legal matters such as writing wills, property conveyancing, custody cases and divorce settlements.

Typical duties include:

  • giving legal advice
  • researching cases and legislation
  • drafting legal documents
  • liaising with clients and other professionals such as barristers.

Some solicitors can represent their clients in court.

Working hours in law can be long: if a deadline is approaching you will be expected to work late – potentially through the night at a commercial London firm.

Graduate salaries

Salaries for trainee solicitors can range from £22,000 to £50,000 depending on location and the nature of firms’ work. Some large commercial firms in London, for example, offer salaries of £50,000 to trainees in their first year; high street firms outside the capital are more likely to offer around £25,000. Solicitors’ salaries in Scotland tend to be lower.

Alongside your salary, you may be offered other benefits such as gym membership and private health insurance.

Once you’re qualified, your earnings will increase. A newly qualified solicitor at a US firm in London could earn over £100,000.

For in-depth information, see our breakdown of trainee solicitor salaries .

Typical employers of solicitors

  • Private practice law firms.
  • Legal departments within large organisations (known as 'in-house' solicitors).
  • the Crown Prosecution Service or CPS.
  • The Government Legal Department (GLD).
  • Local authorities.

Training contracts are advertised on targetjobs and by careers services. You’ll also find them on specialist jobs boards.

Search for training contracts and graduate law programmes.

Discover more advice on law and tips for graduate solicitors

Qualifications and training required

This profession is open to school leavers and graduates.

In England and Wales, graduates looking to qualify as prospective solicitors need to pass the solicitors qualifying examination (SQE), a two-part vocational exam. Non-law graduates technically no longer need to undertake a conversion course (known as GDL or PGDL), but it may be difficult to pass the SQE without some academic study of law. Course providers have reformed their conversion course offerings, as well as providing SQE preparation courses, so even though the ‘old’ legal practice course (LPC) is being phased out, vocational study may still be a requirement for some firms. If you started a law degree or conversion course prior to September 2021, you will still be able to qualify via the old route until 2032. Students on the LPC route complete a training contract, while those on the SQE route need two years’ qualifying work experience. QWE can be undertaken as a training contract or as other placements or types of experience that meet the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA’s) criteria.

In Scotland, law graduates can take a diploma in legal practice and follow this up with a traineeship at a law firm. Non-law graduates have an extra step: they take a Scots law degree followed by the diploma in legal practice and a traineeship.

You can become a solicitor without a degree. One option is to become a chartered legal executive lawyer via the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEX).

Alternatively, there are a few legal apprenticeships, which involves studying on day release while working in a law-related job. Many school leavers begin work as a paralegal with the aim of eventually qualifying to become a solicitor.

However you plan to train to be a solicitor, there is strong competition for vacancies. For students, penultimate-year placements (traditionally known as vacation schemes) are popular, so early applications are advisable. Vacation schemes are advertised on targetjobs, and university campus law fairs are also a useful source of contacts and further information.

Key skills for solicitors

  • Motivation.
  • Organisational skills.
  • Commercial awareness.
  • Good interpersonal skills.
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills.
  • Analytical skills and an eye for detail.

Next: search graduate jobs

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