Becoming a solicitor is a dream many people harbour. With meaningful work, excellent career progression and a high salary, it’s no wonder there are just under 150,000 solicitors in the UK. Becoming a lawyer in general is among the most popular professions for graduates, with the overwhelming majority going on to become a solicitor.
In order to do so, you need to attain a degree, before taking the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and undertaking a Period of Recognised Training (PRT) for at least two years — otherwise known as a training contract. This is in-work training that gives you practical experience in at least three separate fields of English and Welsh law. Then, once you’ve completed a Professional Skills course, passed a final assessment on your character and suitability, and registered with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), you’re all set to start practising as a solicitor.
The fact you’ve read to this point suggests that you want to be a solicitor yourself, or are at least considering this career path. While we’ve outlined the necessary steps to becoming one above, there are certain things you can do to boost your chances of making this a reality. After all, this is an incredibly competitive field — some law firms have over 100 applicants per PRT training place, for example. But fret not, by reading this article, you’ll know exactly what you need to do to make your dream of becoming a solicitor a reality.
Apply to a prestigious university
Study law or do a conversion course afterwards
Like with many careers, the first step to becoming a lawyer is to obtain a degree. While this can be a law degree (which would need to be an LLB qualification recognised by the SRA), if you want to study something different or are already doing so, you could instead undertake a Graduate Law Diploma (GDL) — known as a law conversion course — after you graduate. This is a year-long intensive course for non-law graduates who want to become lawyers, with almost 4,000 students taking this route in 20/21. Do bear in mind that the GDL will be replaced by the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) in 2022/23.
It’s important to note that there are routes to becoming a solicitor that don’t involve a law degree, like completing an apprenticeship or gaining a qualification through the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives. However, these courses do typically take longer.
Oxbridge is the way to go
When applying to universities, it’s important to pick the best, most prestigious institutions possible in your UCAS choices to bolster your chances of securing a training contract. Research released by legal research firm Chambers and Partners in 2019 backs this up. Data from the previous nine years regarding which universities legal trainees graduated from showed that the highest number of representatives were from Oxford and Cambridge. Accounting for over 15% of graduates between them, it’s no surprise that law firms seek out Oxbridge students seeing as the institutions are widely considered the UK’s leading universities.
Although getting into either one of them gives you a great chance of becoming a solicitor, it is very difficult considering the huge competition for places. We recommend getting help with your application to improve your chances of being accepted. UniAdmissions’s Oxbridge Law Programme, for example, can triple the odds of this, with those who enrol having a 68% acceptance rate, compared to just 16% of applicants generally. With one-to-one tuition, intensive courses covering the key components of the application and comprehensive study materials, the course can be the difference between you getting into Oxbridge and not.
Choose your specialist field
Once you’re studying law, it’s a good idea to choose a field to specialise in so you can start gaining experience in it — more on that later. Some of the main areas of law you can practise in include:
Personal injury solicitors assist clients that have been injured in an accident or incident that wasn’t their fault, helping them to secure compensation.
Solicitors who work in family law specialise in areas such as matrimonial agreements, divorce proceedings, child support arrangements and child custody.
Employment solicitors deal with matters relating to employment, whether it’s ensuring that employers meet relevant laws, or assisting employees who believe their rights have been infringed.
Wills and probate
Solicitors who work in wills and probate deal with the assets and estates of deceased individuals, as well creating wills for people.
Immigration solicitors help their clients navigate various immigration, migration laws and asylum laws, for both those entering and leaving the country.
Gain relevant experience
After choosing your specialist field, it’s now time to gain experience in it. This will not only help you decide whether this area truly is right for you, but will also stand you in great stead when it comes to applying for a training contract. In fact, this experience you have may even be the difference between you and another applicant. Among the best ways to gain this include:
Offering crucial insights into the ins-and-outs of a law firm, vacation schemes are usually month-long programmes taking place in university summer breaks. These give you the opportunity to meet partners, solicitors and trainees and work on live cases. As well as looking great on your CV, it’s not uncommon for law firms to offer students a training contract for when they finish their degree and LPC.
Alternatively called workshops or open days, these events also enable students to see what a law firm is like. Typically involving activities such as shadowing, group exercises and talks from partners, associates and the recruitment team, insight days are also often used to screen candidates for vacation schemes and training contracts.
Debates and mooting
Most universities offer debating and mooting competitions, which offer useful experience of acting like a solicitor. A moot is a mock trial, typically based around a fictional case, where students take on the role of counsel and present legal arguments. As such, they must undertake legal research and analysis before successfully arguing their case.
Pro bono work
Pro bono work is the free delivery of legal advice to those who don’t qualify for legal aid, and is the perfect opportunity for law students to both put legal theory into practice and help people in need. There are lots of organisations and charities that require individuals with legal skills but little to no formal qualifications, meaning you’re sure to find pro bono work with ease.