Like many professions, becoming a solicitor is not just of case of getting a degree and signing up with the Professional Society. Law student graduates must obtain a training contract and expect to spend two years working under supervision as a trainee solicitor. It’s a paid position with a minimum salary, but the current job market is very competitive. Final year students need to apply for a position, as with any other job.
Academic qualifications for becoming a solicitor can be obtained by taking a traditional law degree, studying the Graduate Diploma in Law, or passing the Common Professional Examination. It doesn’t matter which route you take, if you’re aiming to become a solicitor then you must also complete the Legal Practice Course, or LPC.
The LPC year is the bridge between pure academic study and everyday legal practice. The emphasis is on practical issues and procedures, and the courses include teaching of communication skills and practise management.
About two thirds of trainee solicitors go on to become practising solicitors in the same practice they trained in, so the type of practice and the location must be considered carefully when looking for a training contract. With the exception of very promising students entering the top law firms, the salaries of trainee solicitors are fairly similar and should never be below the minimum salary set by the Law Society.
The Law Society minimum is higher for London practices, and slightly higher salaries may be offered in other areas with a high cost of living, but ultimately the salary should not be a deciding factor when looking for a training contract. Students look for the type of practise they wish to eventually work in, and what experience they will gain, larger practices will usually offer a wider range of experience.
A trainee solicitor undergoes a programme that follows guidelines set by the Law Society. They are assigned a training principal, a partner or a senior solicitor, who is formally responsible for maintaining a record of the experience gained, and evaluating the trainee’s performance. The training principal will usually delegate the supervision to a monitoring supervisor, an ordinary solicitor which the trainee will assist. The monitoring supervisor will often be changed, as the trainee is moved around to obtain experience in different areas of the practise.
The first months of being a trainee solicitor are mostly spent doing research and other back office tasks, and they will have little direct contact with the clients. As their experience builds up they will be expected to handle workloads more autonomously, with supervisors limiting themselves to reviewing their work and discussing the approach to be taken with clients. » Read more: Trainee Solicitor – How to Become a Solicitor