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How to become a solicitor in the UK

Maybe you're still only a law student looking at your future career options or you're already an apprentice/paralegal completing your qualifying work experience. Regardless of your current position, you are probably well aware that becoming a solicitor isn't going to be easy. It is a highly challenging, ambitious and rewarding career path that requires dedication, perseverance, and a strong educational foundation. It will most likely take away your leisure time with friends, parties, family moments (whether that is a good or a bad thing) for a while. For sure you will want to quit somewhere along the way. And that’s when this guide steps in to help you navigate the process effectively and remain committed to your goals.

Understand the Role of a Solicitor

Before embarking on this journey, it's crucial to have a clear understanding of what a solicitor does and if that is also something you want to do. Solicitors are legal professionals who provide expert advice and services to clients, helping them with various legal issues. They work in a wide range of areas, including family law, criminal law, commercial law, and more. Their daily schedules might include preparation of divorce papers, defending their client in court, advising a client in their financial matters, the possibilities are limitless.

Acquire the Right Qualifications

To be admitted as a solicitor in the UK, you must follow a specific educational path. You will need either a degree in any subject or an acceptable equivalent to it. “Acceptable equivalent” means a qualification/experience equivalent to a bachelor's or master's degree, such as a level 6 or 7 apprenticeship or a level 6 or 7 professional qualification.

Secure a Training Contract

A training contract is an essential part of becoming a solicitor. It is at least a two-year full time or equivalent period of supervised training (Qualifying Work Experience “QWE”) in no more than four law firms or legal departments, where you gain hands-on experience in various areas of law. It's highly competitive, so start applying early and be persistent.

Pass the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE)

The SQE is a two-assessment exam split into SQE1 consisting of two single best answer multiple-choice tests and SQE2 being an oral and written test of your practical legal skills. It is designed to assess whether you have the knowledge and skills required to practice as a solicitor in the UK. You can take the SQE at any time after you have completed your degree. However, it is recommended that you gain some legal experience before taking the SQE, as this will help you to pass the exam.

Studying for the SQE can drain one’s very life essence. Which is why it’s important to avoid piles on top of piles of unorganized studying material, second guessing the right answers and forgetting the most important discoveries by finding easily accessible tools that can bring you closer to the goal. The greatest tools include a comprehensive library with updated legislation, case law and official sample questions for the SQE, greatly motivating gamifications to keep you focused and engaged, text-to-speech functionality so you can listen to it all as well and many more functions to make sure you’re 100 % prepared. To list a few of such amazing tools, you should definitely give Audio Law Reader AI Assistant, WestLaw or B-Legal a try.

Meet the character and suitability requirements of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)

The SRA is the regulatory body for solicitors in the UK. It has a number of character and suitability requirements that you must meet in order to be admitted as a solicitor. These requirements include anything that would affect your ability to meet your obligations as a solicitor or to be subject to regulatory investigations or proceedings. This might include information about your criminal conduct, behaviour which has a bearing on your integrity and independence, education assessment offences, financial conduct and events or health conditions.

Apply for Admission to the Roll of Solicitors

Once you've successfully completed your training contract, SQE assessments and met the character and suitability requirements, you can apply to be admitted to the Roll of Solicitors, which is maintained by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. After becoming a solicitor, you can choose to specialize in a particular area of law based on your interests, the opportunities available, or market demand. Common specializations include corporate law, criminal law, family law, and more.

Transitional period

It is also important to keep in mind that the SQE route described above is still in a transitional stage and SRA’s transitional arrangements still provide other qualifications choices to candidates who were already on their way to becoming a solicitor. Those arrangements cover those who have completed, started or accepted an offer of a place to start either a qualifying law degree, the Common Professional Examination/Graduate Diploma in Law, the Legal Practice Course or a period of recognised training (also known as a training contract) before 1. September 2021 (or by 21. September for qualifying law degrees).

Final tips for students who want to become solicitors

Get involved in legal work experience while you are studying. This will give you a valuable insight into what it is like to work as a solicitor and help you to develop your legal skills. Network with solicitors and other legal professionals. This is a great way to learn more about the legal profession

We wish you all good luck!