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    Solicitor

    If you are wondering how to become a Solicitor, below are tips and advice on beginning careers in this area of the legal profession and where these law jobs could take you.

    The Job Description
    It is common for solicitors to study and specialise in a particular area of law and to work within either a general or specialist legal services firm. They are usually the main and often only direct point of contact with the client (whether an individual, charity or business) and work may involve:

    • Providing expert legal advice and assistance to clients.

    • Representing the client court during court procedings, or giving instruction to barristers or advocates to act for their clients in court.

    • Supporting clients through many types of stressful situation, such as arrest, divorce, moving house or disputes with third parties.

    • Paperwork and administration forms a large part of the workload, such as drafting of letters, contracts and documents, and keeping accurate client, case and financial records.

    • Conducting research of previous similar cases to use as a basis for action.

    • Attending meetings and negotiating with opposing parties.

    • Preparing paperwork for court officials.

    Person Specification
    The key personal attributes of a good solicitor include:
    • Confidence and excellent written and verbal communication skills.
    • The ability to take absorb and analyse large amounts of information.
    • A strong work ethic, as law is a taxing and highly competitive profession.
    • Accurate and good attention to detail.
    • Articulate – able to explain complex legal matters clearly and concisely.
    • Strong in negotiation and able to argue cases effectively.
    • Comfortable in working under pressure.
    • Empathetic and tactful.
    • Discretion in dealing with confidential information.
    • Good with financial skills for dealing with property and finance work.

    How to become a Solicitor
    Each region of the UK has its own separate legal system and therefore differing training requirements:

    England and Wales
    To become a solicitor, you must complete academic and vocational stages of training.

    The academic stage can be completed in one of three ways:

    • Gain an approved degree in law.
    • Gain a degree in another subject, followed by either the Common Professional Examination (CPE) or Postgraduate Diploma in Law (PgDL).
    • Qualify as a Fellow of the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX).

    Entry requirements for law degrees vary so check with the course provider. Some universities ask you to pass the National Admissions Test for Law (LNAT) before acceptance to a law degree course.

    Scotland
    Again, you must complete academic and vocational stages of training.

    To complete the academic stage you can either:

    • Gain an LLB degree in Scots law.
    • Taking a 3 year pre-diploma training contract with a Scottish solicitor, then pass examinations from the Law Society of Scotland.

    Northern Ireland
    Academic and professional stages must be completed.

    To complete the academic stage you can:

    • Gain an approved law degree or have a degree in another subject and prove that you have satisfactory legal knowledge.
    • Having several years of relevant legal employment experience.

    Browse the following Training and Development section below for details about the vocational stage in each country.

    Training and Development
    England and Wales
    After passing the academic stage, you must pass a vocational stage of to qualify as a solicitor, involving:
    • Legal Practice Course (LPC) – year full-time or 2 years part-time.
    • 2 year training contract with a firm of solicitors.
    • Professional Skills Course (PSC), which must be passed during the training contract.

    NB – Qualified legal executives do not usually need to complete a training contract, but must pass the PSC.

    Scotland
    After passing the academic stage, you must pass a vocational stage, involving:
    • 26-week Diploma in Legal Practice (DLP).
    • 2 year post-diploma training contract with a practising solicitor.
    • Professional Competence Course, which must be pass during the training contract.

    Northern Ireland
    After the academic stage, you must complete a 2-4 year solicitor apprenticeship with a law firm, including 1 year of study at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies in Belfast.

    Post qualification
    Ongoing training and development is mandatory throughout your career as a solicitor. Each Law Society runs a compulsory continuing professional development (CPD) scheme.

    The Pay
    Salaries can vary greatly, but as a rough guide:
    Trainees £15k to £20k per annum.
    Qualified solicitors: £25,000 to £50,000 per annum.
    Partners in large firms or departmental management: £100k + per annum.

    Sources and useful resources:
    www.lawsociety.org.uk/becomingasolicitor/careerinlaw.law
    www.learndirect-advice.co.uk/helpwithyourcareer/jobprofiles/profiles/profile167/
    Law Careers Advice Network – www.lcan.org.uk

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