Solicitor

NAME: David Simpson AGE: 50 PERSONAL: David really enjoyed school and after getting good results in his GCSEs, and A-levels, decided to study history at university with the idea that he would eventually like to teach for a living. Although David enjoyed h

NAME: David Simpson

AGE: 50

PERSONAL: David really enjoyed school and after getting good results in his GCSEs, and A-levels, decided to study history at university with the idea that he would eventually like to teach for a living.

Although David enjoyed his course, by the end of his second year he had realised that he didn't really want to teach history after all and began to consider a career in law.

After finishing his degree, David studied for a Graduate Diploma in Law, before taking a Legal Practice Course. He then got a job in a small private practice, where he did a further two years training.

David is now fully qualified and is still with the firm where he completed his training, where he mainly deals with conveyancing.

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JOB DESCRIPTION

The main work of a solicitor involves giving legal advice to clients and, when necessary, acting on their behalf. They will interpret and explain the law to their clients, research similar cases, deal with the paperwork, write letters and sometimes represent their client in court.

Many solicitors work in private practices and depending on their employer and the area of the law they have chosen, they may mainly handle one particular type of case. The main types include:

Company and business law - advising and acting for companies and organisations on employment and health and safety laws, setting up a business, drawing up contracts and insurance.

Conveyancing - acting for people who are buying, selling or leasing property or land by checking the details of the sale, drafting contracts, carrying out local authority searches and liaising with estate agents and mortgage lenders.

Litigation - acting for people who are in dispute with another person or organisation. If negotiations fail, the solicitor may have to represent their client in court.

Probate - helping people to make wills and then ensuring their wishes are carried out. They might also explain the will to relatives, or act as an executor or trustee.

Solicitors who are employed by the Crown Prosecution Service examine evidence produced by the police and decide whether a case should be prosecuted. If so, they may prosecute it in court.

Solicitors are also employed by central and local government, where they act for civil servants, council staff and elected members, ministers and councillors, advising them on how the law affects the services provided.

Some also choose to work for industrial and commercial organisations or charities' in-house legal firms, or to work with Magistrates' Court Service, advising magistrates on a wide range of legal matters.

SKILLS & PERSONALITY

As solicitors have to advise clients, strong communication skills are essential, as is the ability to explain complicated legal matters clearly, both in speech and in writing.

Skills are essential, as is the ability to explain complicated legal matters clearly, both in speech and in writing.

They have to represent their clients in negotiations with other parties and sometimes in court, so it is important that they are confident and able to persuasively argue their case.

Taking legal action can be stressful for clients, so solicitors need to be tactful and discreet.

Solicitors need to be able to work carefully and accurately, even when under pressure and will need to absorb and analyse large amounts of information.

As the law is constantly evolving and changing, solicitors should also be prepared to keep up to date with the latest developments.

TRAINING & ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

For the majority of solicitors, a law degree is the first step towards qualifying. Most universities law courses require three A-level passes.

After graduation, candidates will then take the Legal Practice Course (LPC), which can be studied either full or part time. The course is designed to ensure that students have the skills they need to work in a solicitor's office.

Once the LPC is completed, candidates will need to undertake two-years of practice-based training.

Most will do this within a private practice, but competition for training contracts can be very tough.

Trainees will be able to apply the skills they have learned and their work will be supervised and regularly reviewed. During this period, they will also take a formal Professional Skills Course.

Once trainees have successfully completed the academic and practice-based components of their training, they can apply to the roll of solicitors in England and Wales, which entitles them to practise as solicitors.

Graduates with a degree in a subject other than law can also qualify through the same route, but they will be expected to take the Common Professional Examination or Graduate Diploma in Law before taking their LPC.

Non-graduates can also become solicitors through the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX) route. This usually takes longer than other routes, as it is designed to allow trainees to study while they work.

To qualify, candidates need the equivalent of four GCSE passes, including English language.

People who are already employed in the legal profession can take the ILEX Professional Diploma in Law Level 3 when they feel they are ready. People who don't work in the profession can become student members of ILEX and apply for employment after taking the exam.

The next stage will usually take at least five years. Candidates will have to work and train under a solicitor for two years after gaining membership and take the ILEX Higher Professional Diploma in Level 4 examinations.

At the end of the five-year period, members can apply to be an ILEX Fellow, before moving on to the LPC stage. In some cases, they may not need to complete the two-year training contract.

EARNINGS & PROSPECTS

Salaries vary greatly, but trainee solicitors can usually expect to earn a minimum of £14,500. Larger commercial firms can offer higher starting salaries - in City firms, it can reach £35,000.

Once solicitors are fully qualified, pay depends on a number of factors. However, experienced solicitors who have reached partner level usually earn in excess of £100,000.

Career progression will depend on the size and nature of the employer, but promotions usually depend on ability, rather than time served. Some solicitors will go on to specialise in a certain area of the law or set up their own practice.

Some will be promoted to partnership. Partners continue to use their legal skills, but are also expected to develop the business and management side of the firm.

MAIN MOAN

"People have some very strange, Perry Mason-style ideas about what solicitors do. Most of my work is office based - I hardly ever go into court."

MAIN SATISFACTION

"I do find the law fascinating, and, contrary to popular opinion, being a solicitor also gives you the opportunity to help people, which I enjoy."

MORE INFORMATION

The Law Society www.lawsociety.org.uk or telephone the information line on 01527 504433.

The Institute of Legal Executives, Kempston Manor, Kempston, Bedfordshire, MK42 7AB. www.ilex.org.uk

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