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Solicitor
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Solicitors make up the majority of legal professionals in the UK. Unlike Barristers they tend not to do very much work in court. However solicitors can achieve a recognised qualification which enables them to work as an advocator in court, very much like a barrister. At the moment these are still very uncommon as the two jobs do not, in reality, overlap hugely.
 
The main steps taken to become a solicitor are:
 
University
Students will often take a variety of degrees instead of law and simply convert with a graduate legal diploma.
 
Law School
For solicitors because of the larger num-bers of jobs schools are less restrictive with offering an LPC rather than the BPTC, however they will often interview 3rd or 2:2 applicants. It is expensive and very competitive.
On the LPC you are largely taught the key areas of law, the major professional skills and then a selection of specialised subjects of your own choosing depending on what the school offers.
 
Training Contract
To get a training contract in a top Magic Circle firm is incredibly hard, but the benefits are worth the effort. For example, trainee solicitors at Allen and Overy can start on £30k and have all of their student debt paid off by the company. In comparison, a small local firm is unlikely to be able to offer the same incentives but will also not have the same levels of demand and stress. Many city lawyers work late nights and weekends whereas a smaller firm is more likely to have a traditional 9-5.
 
CILEx
The Chartered Institute of Legal Executive (of which you become a Fellow or FCILEx) offers training on the job which results in a solicitor qualification. Many firms will fund their employees through this route and it is a growing alternative to the academic system generally used until now.
 

Regulation and Representation
 
There are over 120,000 solicitors in England and Wales who are represented and regulated by the Law Society and the independent Solicitors Regulation Authority. In order to practise, solicitors must pay a yearly contribution for their certification. This money goes to the Law Society which is the major professional body representing solicitors. In turn, they set up and fund the Regulation Authority which is in itself now independent.
The first step to complain about a solicitor would be through the firm itself. However, if that fails a person can also get in touch with the Legal Ombudsman and they will investigate and force the relevant body to take action.
 
Organisation
 
Practising Solicitors are members of the Law Society for England and Wales and do have to regularly complete CPD (continued professional development) to show they are keeping up with the law and are fit to practise. Solicitors themselves will either work in a legal department in a firm or government but more commonly in a law firm itself. These range from multi billion dollar companies to small local firms. In a larger firm it is expected that a solicitor would work a part of a team. As firms are owned by its member, senior and high performing solicitors can be promoted to partner; that means they have a say in how the company is run and a share of the profits. There tends to a be a group of senior partners who do the actual running of the firm.
 
Work
 
  • Most Solicitors go nowhere near a courtroom.
  • A criminal solicitor may work closely with a barrister and hand them notes etc in court, but the reality is that they seldom actually address the court themselves. It will be the solicitor the client has a contract with and through him they retain the services of a barrister. As a result, solicitors also have a duty to honour the contract between the client as well as the standards of the Law society.
  • Most of a solicitor's work will involve negotiation and debate. For example, a solicitor in a divorce will negotiate on his client's behalf when the property is divided.
  • They also notarise, signing official documents and overseeing important transactions, such as when a house is bought or sold. 
  • Solicitors tend to have far more contact with people than a barrister and will also often have international roles as well.
  • Solicitors provide clients with expert legal advice and assistance.
  • The best solicitors combine legal expertise with people-skills to help their clients cope with stressful situations, such as divorce, bereavement, moving house or arrest.
  • Solicitors also appear in court in enforcement proceeding, such as repossession cases.
  • In criminal cases they often represent their client in the Magistrates Court.
  • Another key area is trusts. A solicitor may have to protect property for someone, often inheritance that is not available until someone comes of age.

 

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