A solicitor or lawyer is someone who has learnt and interprets law and can act on behalf of their clients to represent them in a court of law, whether it be a County court, Magistrates’ court or a Crown court.
Although the law is a very versatile and diverse area of work, the solicitor may have a general law knowledge base, on various different areas of law or may just specialise in the one area, for example conveyancing. The main purpose of law firms, whether small or lager private firms is to make their clients aware of their legal rights and responsibilities and to then represent them in cases in a court room.
They can be described as being persons learned in law, and more importantly able to give advice and guidance to the general public because they are licensed to practise law. The ultimate objective of any lawyer being to see that their client receives justice in the courts.
In the United Kingdom those that can give advice on legal matters also include barristers and legal executives. In the UK it is usually barristers who will stand before a judge and jury to argue a clients case.
The work of a solicitor regardless of the area of expertise or employer, involves:
- interviewing clients to get an idea of how the firm will be able to help them
- listening and taking on the clients instructions if they are being prosecuted by the police
- explaining various charges and fees to clients
- based on the matter, the solicitor would research and analyse information, such as statements and reports- including medical, legal and police reports as well as case histories.
- referring and working with colleagues who might specialise in other areas of law that apply to the matter in hand, or referring to head of department. This also includes some administration work – such as to calculate charges for work
- contacting opposing solicitors and parties in litigation cases
- preparing documents for court cases and meeting with barristers to prepare a clients defence
Types of solicitor jobs
Solicitors offices’ vary significantly in the type of work they do and is based on their clients and the size of the firm. There are two types of solicitors.
The salary for commercial solicitors would be a lot higher and they work for large private practices, normally specialise in an area, such as finance, employment or property. Others may choose to specialise in areas like the public sector or looking after tenants rights.
A non-commercial lawyer in which case even the higher earning solicitor would earn a generally lower salary-compared to that of a Commercial solicitor. Non-commercial solicitors work in what are known as ‘high street firms’.
As they offer expertise and provide service in a wider area of law and would generally cater for the local community, including smaller businesses and individuals, whereas others in this sector would expertise in a certain area of law.
The salary a criminal lawyer or a defence lawyer can expect to earn can vary depending on the type of firm they are employed by. As stated above those employed by larger private firms will earn more than if the solicitor is at a high street branch.
The salary for a commercial solicitor would start at around £16,000 which can increase up to about £30,000 for one of the larger London firms. However a more experienced solicitor can expect to earn a lot more, going into about £100,000.
Salaries for non-commercial newly qualified solicitors would start at around £15,000 and rise to about £22,000 and a more experienced member employed in any legal jobs in this area would earn up to £55,000. Although if they progress to become a barrister later on in the legal profession then they can earn more.
Education and training
Just to give a basic outline of the possible to a graduate wishing to apply for any solicitor jobs, the first route to becoming a qualified UK solicitor would be to study for an undergraduate law degree. Due to high interest in the subject some law schools and universities have established entrance exams for undergraduates in order to try and pick out and select the more able students.
Although it is not necessarily the only route, the general graduate entry route can start with a degree in law, or even another subject, followed by a common professional examination which would be a one year full-time course known as the Graduate Diploma in Law.
However, this can also be taken on as part time and once passed, will be valid for seven years. All graduates will also need to take the Legal Practice Course which teaches the practical application of Law.
Once graduated, to become a qualified trainee solicitor application for student membership is necessary, this would be to the Law Society, to obtain a certificate to prove that academic training has been complete.
Other related topics:
Relevant legal CV examples: