Your Career in Law

Becoming a solicitor offers a wide variety of specialisations and the opportunity to make a significant impact on both individual people’s lives and on society in general. Solicitors are usually the first point of contact for legal advice. They can work in various environments, including private practices, government bodies, and in-house legal teams.


Routes to Becoming a Solicitor

There are multiple pathways to becoming a solicitor, each with its own set of requirements and stages. You will find a lot more information on this on the website of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

There have been some significant changes in the last few years, so the right choice for you depends mainly on what stage your studies have reached.

Until 1st September 2021, the route to qualification as a solicitor required you to take and pass the Legal Practice Course (LPC). Since that date, there is a new route to qualifying, the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) (on which see more below).

For those of you who had already commenced (or were about to commence) your studies when the SQE was introduced, there are transitional arrangements in place that mean you can still follow the LPC route to qualify as a solicitor.

If the transitional rules apply to you, then once you have passed the LPC, you will then need to secure employment with a solicitor who is willing to provide you with a formal ‘period of recognised training’, often known as a ‘training contract’. These are not always easy to find. However, if you cannot secure a training contract, you can still qualify, as long as you can show that you have two years of suitable ‘qualifying work experience’ (see below) and also pass the second paper of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE2).

The Solicitors Qualifying Examination

This is now the examination that most aspiring solicitors will need to take.

To be eligible to sit the examination, you must either;

  • have a UK degree or an equivalent level 6 qualification (which can be in any subject, it does not have to be in Law); or
  • apply for equivalence to a degree using other qualifications and/or relevant work experience. (See also the section on solicitor apprenticeships below).

You will then need to study for and pass both of the SQE assessments, known as SQE1 and SQE2,

Finally, you will need to be able to demonstrate that you have completed two years of ‘qualifying work experience’. This work must involve providing legal services and comply with the SRA’s rules on the competences needed to be a solicitor. You can find full details on the SRA website.


Solicitor Apprenticeships

It is also possible to qualify as a solicitor by taking the apprenticeship route. You will need to find a firm willing to employ you on this basis.

As an apprentice, you will still have to study and pass the SQE (for which you will be given study time during the working week) and also show two years of qualifying work experience.

The precise route to qualification and how long it will take depends on what qualifications you already hold.

If you already have a degree in Law, a Graduate Diploma in Law, you are full or part qualified Level 6 CILEX, a Licensed Conveyancer or similar, you can enter into an 18-month solicitor apprenticeship.

Non-law graduates, Level 3 CILEX, Conveyancing Technicians (Level 4 CLC) and similar can enter into a longer 36-month solicitor apprenticeship.

If none of the above apply, you can still qualify as a solicitor, even straight from school, by first successfully completing a paralegal apprenticeship. This takes around two years to complete. Once you have successfully passed, you can then move on to the 36-month solicitor apprenticeship as above.

In other words, if all goes well, you could aim to qualify as a solicitor within 5 years or so of leaving school after your A levels or BTEC Level 3 qualifications.

Essential Attributes for a Solicitor

Beyond just the academic qualifications, being a solicitor requires dedication, hard work, personal integrity, commercial awareness, and excellent communication skills. Employers look for candidates who can handle the intellectual challenge and the varied nature of legal work with both commitment and strong ethics.

The route to becoming a solicitor is demanding, reflecting the importance and responsibility of the role in society. Whichever route you take, the journey requires both academic and personal excellence.

For young people and their parents considering this career path, it is crucial to understand the commitment involved and to evaluate which pathway aligns best with their circumstances and goals.