Solicitors combine their people skills and legal expertise to advise and assist people from all walks of life, in a variety of legal matters. The work is demanding and often very challenging and in order to be successful you will need to:
– Be able to understand the complexities of law
– Enjoy versatility – no two days are the same
– Enjoy working with people
– Be extremely committed
Who becomes a solicitor?
It goes without saying that academic ability is important but employers also look for a number of other personal attributes and skills:
– Capacity for hard work and dedication
– Professional with integrity and an ethical approach, since this is a vital component of solicitor/client relationships
– Numeracy skills – an ability to understand accounts and financial statements
– Problem solving skills
– Written and oral communication skills
– Commercial awareness
– Comprehension – an ability to understand complex language and put it into plain easy to understand English
– Great team player
– Good IT skills – with proficiency in word processing, spreadsheets, financial accounting packages, case management systems and E mail and retrieval information
– Time management skills
– Flexibility and willingness to approach new ideas and concepts
– Commitment to continuous personal development
The role of a solicitor
As a solicitor you will provide legal services and advise in a range of different situations:
Everyday matters – providing guidance on matters which people face regularly such as relationship breakdowns, drawing up wills, buying and selling property
Protecting people’s rights – ensuring people are treated fairly by public or private bodies and helping them to receive compensation when they are treated unfairly
Promoting business – helping businesses with the legalities of commercial transactions
Support within the community – many solicitors spend some of their time providing free help for those who are unable to pay for legal services
Solicitors are able to represent clients personally in magistrates courts, country courts and at tribunals and with specialist training they can represent them in the higher courts, such as high court, crown court and a court of appeal.
Training to become a solicitor
To train as a solicitor you need to be very committed for several years. If you can, talk to people in the profession and try to get some sort of work experience, to see if is the career for you.
You will need to be highly motivated to train as a solicitor. Assuming you already have a law degree, it will require a minimum of three years training, four years if you are a graduate in another subject, and six years if you are not a graduate.
You will have to demonstrate that you have the academic ability to cope with what is a very demanding course; compete with some very able people to gain a place; be able to pay for the costs of qualifying; find a firm willing to supervise you while you complete your training; and finally, be extremely interested in, and have the aptitude, for the daily work of a solicitor.
What salary will you earn?
According to figures for 2011, The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) recommend that law firms pay trainee solicitors a minimum salary of £18,950 in London and £16,650 elsewhere in the UK. Most city firms offer around 39,000 to first year trainees and then between £58,000 – £61,000 when qualified. American firms tend to pay much higher with a £50.000 starting salary rising to a whopping £97,000 when qualified. Salaries elsewhere in the UK are lower, in line with the cost of living and range from £24,000 starting salary to £36,000 when qualified.
Solicitors may choose to stay at the firm where they trained, and this known as being retained. Or they may move to another firm.
Promotion in private practice usually revolves around meeting targets for levels of work to be billed to clients. Progression is normally from assistant solicitor to senior solicitor and then to associate. It is also possible to become a salaried partner and lastly, an equity partner.