Becoming a solicitor

A career as a solicitor can be rewarding and intellectually challenging. There are many different areas of law you can specialise in, so the work can be varied.

A solicitor is different from a barrister. Someone who is looking for legal advice will normally see a solicitor first. If the client needs more specialist advice, then the solicitor may instruct a barrister.

Solicitors and barristers both offer legal advice, and can also represent their clients in court, but barristers are more likely to do advocacy work, representing clients in the higher courts

Becoming a solicitor takes a lot of commitment. You must study and train for at least six years full time, and competition for training contracts is high. Try to find out as much as you can about what a career in the law is like by:

  • talking to solicitors, for example at careers fairs
  • applying for work experience

What solicitors do

Solicitors represent and defend clients’ legal interests, and provide advice in many situations, for example:

  • giving expert advice on everyday issues, such as buying and selling homes, and dealing with relationship breakdowns
  • helping businesses with commercial transactions
  • protecting individuals’ rights, making sure they are treated fairly by public or private bodies
  • providing free help (pro bono) in certain circumstances, for example for people who are unable to pay for legal services

A solicitor’s work can be divided into:

  • contentious legal work – resolving disputes between two or more parties, usually in a court or tribunal
  • non-contentious legal work – dealing with the legal aspects of a client’s business or personal matter, for example managing a company merger, or making a will

A solicitor’s duties include:

  • researching cases and legislation
  • drafting letters, contracts, wills, and other legal documents
  • liaising with clients and other professionals such as barristers
  • representing clients in court or at tribunals

Where solicitors work?

  • law firms (private practice)
  • central or local government
  • legal departments within organisations (in-house)
  • the Crown Prosecution Service
  • law centres

What Skills do you need?

You need to be determined and motivated to succeed as a solicitor.
A legal career demand:

  • intellectual ability – the law is complex
  • flexibility – no two days are the same
  • commitment – training requires significant effort and resource
  • strong oral and written communication skills

A strong academic background is important, but employers also look for personal skills and attributes, for example:

  • dedication
  • a capacity for hard work
  • personal integrity and an ethical approach
  • commercial awareness
  • being able to communicate with people at all levels and win their respect

What Qualifications do you require?

To be accepted for a law degree, you will usually need:

  • at least five GCSEs at grade C or above, in English, Maths and sometimes a subject such as a foreign language
  • a minimum of two A levels, and three A levels at A grade for the most popular courses

You do not usually need to have taken A level law to do a law degree, although a few universities have specific subject requirements. You should research and compare courses to see what universities are looking for.

There are routes to qualifying that do not involve a law degree, such as completing an apprenticeship or through the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives. These routes may also take longer.

How long it takes?

It usually takes at least six years to qualify as a solicitor if you study law full time. It will be longer if you study a different subject for your degree and decide later you want to follow a legal career.

After your law degree, at present, you must complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC). (However, this qualifying route is being subjected to changes and there is a new scheme known as “Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) which is scheduled to commence from September 2021. As per the transitional arrangements from LPC to SQE, the LPC course will be available until 2031. Please refer to the “Professional Development section of this website for further information). The LPC helps you develop your practical skills and legal knowledge. It can be taken full time for one year, or part-time for two years. The LPC is an expensive course, so before you commit, consider whether you can meet the character and suitability requirements to be admitted as a solicitor.

Once you’ve completed the LPC, you’ll begin your period of recognised training, which is the final step towards qualifying. This will usually last for two years.

If you have a non-law degree, you must complete the Graduate Diploma in Law. It can be taken full-time for one year, or part-time for two years.

Completing the recognised training is mandatory whether it is under the current system or the new SQE scheme. Finding a law firm or any other workplace for the purpose of completing the recognised training could become a daunting task.

This is where the Association of Sri Lankan Lawyers in the UK (ASLLUK) can help. Our solicitors and barristers who are in a well-connected network of law professionals of Sri Lankan decent may be able to assist you in finding a law firm/workplace to complete the recognised training. So, how will you establish contact with ASLLUK? Well, firstly it is advisable to become a member (please read “how to become a member” page of this website) and the membership is free if you are a student or a trainee. Secondly, you will be able make a request to the ASLLUK via the General Secretary to assist you with your query. Thirdly, for the purpose of acquainting yourself with ASLLUK, you will be benefitted ideally by attending the events organised by ASLLUK and members’ meetings and networking events. Once you have established your acquaintance with ASLLUK, you will find yourself in a more comfortable position to explore the contacts within the network of ASLLUK to seek assistance to progress with your career development.

The qualification system for solicitors is changing. This page covers the current system, which will apply until autumn 2021, and during the 10-year transition period to 2031 if you are already on the path to qualifying. Find out more about future changes.

Character and suitability requirements

The SRA assesses the character and suitability of anyone applying to be admitted to the roll of solicitors. You should consider whether there are any issues in your personal history that could mean that you will not meet the SRA’s Assessment of Character and Suitability Rules.

If you do not meet the SRA’s requirements you will not be admitted as a solicitor. Reasons for failing to meet the requirements may include cautions or criminal convictions.

The assessment is usually done before you are admitted as a solicitor, but you can seek an early assessment if you think there’s a risk that you will not qualify for admission.

To be assessed, complete the SRA’s Character and Suitability Assessment form. You will need to complete the screening process before submitting your application.

If you would like some initial free confidential advice before contacting the SRA, you can call the Solicitors Assistance Scheme.

For more information see the SRA’s Student Information Pack.

Source of this page

The main contents of this page have been derived from the website of The Law Society. For more information please visit;