Training to be a solicitor is normally a long process and requires candidates to put in a lot of time and effort. In order to qualify you will need to achieve certain qualifications. Once you have qualified, you will be eligible to practice law in England or Wales.
The majority of people who decide that they want to become a solicitor will need an undergraduate degree to do so. Those who know that they want to become a solicitor should choose to do a Law degree. If you wish to practice law in England or Wales, then you should make sure that you go to a university in this jurisdiction.
Universities in Scotland are focused Scottish law, which uses a different system to England and Wales. Depending on where you study, a law degree can take 3 or 4 years, and tuition fees can be up to £9,000 per year.
If you only decide later on in life that you would like to be a solicitor, then it is actually possible to do any undergraduate degree and then do a law conversion course afterwards. This enables people to return to train to be a solicitor after doing other things.
A conversion course (known as a CPE or a Graduate Diploma in Law) is only required if you did not study law as an undergraduate. This course is very intensive and covers most of the material which is covered during an undergraduate law degree. Most people complete this course within a year if they are studying on a full time basis, however the tuition fees can be up to £10,000.
Legal Practice Course
The Legal Practice Course (LPC) is designed to help to bridge the gap between the academic study of law and the practicalities of actually practicing law in a real law firm. This course helps to give students core skills and practical skills that they will need once they are practicing law without supervision. Skills include advocacy, drafting, writing, interviewing and advising, and administration skills. These courses normally last between 9 months and a year for full time students, and can cost up to £15,000.
Some bursaries are offered every year to help a limited number of people to complete this course. Other people receive funding support from law firms which have already offered them a training contract.
A training contract is normally a two year work contract which allows trainee solicitors to work in legal firms whilst under the supervision of qualified lawyers. Training contracts must pay national minimum wage, although many law firms offer training contracts with higher salaries.
A training contract is similar to an apprenticeship, insofar as that it allows trainees to get the practical experience that they will need once they are practicing on their own, however it does not give them full responsibility. The structure of the contract and the “learning material” which is provided to trainees will very much depend upon the firm that the trainee gets their training contract with.
Those who are training to become solicitors are advised to think very carefully about the firms that they take up their training contracts with, because they may not want to spend time learning about sections of the law which do not fit in with their future plans. A firm which suits your career path may be better than a firm which offers a higher value training contract.
Professional Skills Course
This is the final step for most people who are training to be a solicitor. This is a short course which only takes 72 hours (usually completed over 12 days). Some of the course may be completed by distance learning methods, although physical attendance is required for a minimum amount of time. The fees for these courses are often funded by the law firm with which the trainee has a training contract.
These are the qualifications that are required for people who take the standard route towards qualification. Those who already have experience of working in a law firm or a legal environment may be able to use slightly different qualifications to allow them to practice, however they must cover the same core components whichever route they choose.