As an apprentice solicitor, you will help provide expert legal advice and assistance on various personal and corporate issues.
Solicitors take instructions from clients and advise them on the best legal course of action. Clients include individuals, groups, public sector organisations, and private businesses.
After obtaining your qualification, you may work in private practice, in-house for commercial or industrial organisations, in local or central government, or the court system.
The actual work varies depending on the situation, your area of expertise, and the nature of the case.
You may give up some of your time to help folks who cannot afford legal representation. This is known as pro bono labour.
Throughout your apprenticeship, you may help:
- advise and represent clients in court
- instruct barristers or advocates to act for clients
- draft confidential letters, contracts and legal documents
- research legal records and case law
- attend meetings and negotiations
- manage finances and prepare papers for court
- use plain English to explain complex legal matters to clients
- keep up to date with changes in the law.
- Starting salaries for newly qualified solicitors in a regional firm or smaller commercial practice are around £27,000 to £60,000.
- Starting salaries in large City firms can range from around £60,000 to £90,000. You can expect salaries to rise year-on-year as you gain more experience. If you become the partner of a firm your salary could potentially reach in excess of £100,000.
Working long hours is usual. You will be expected to work 12-hour days during busy seasons, and weekend work may be required on occasion. Solicitors at the City’s leading firms often work unsocial, long hours.
You could work in an office, in a court, in a prison or at a police station.
Qualifications you can achieve as an apprentice solicitor include:
- Level 7 Solicitor – Entry requirements for this level include 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a higher or degree apprenticeship.
This route usually takes around 5 to 6 years and you’ll need your employer’s support to do it.
You’ll also need to take the SQE, demonstrate relevant work experience and meet character and suitability to practice requirements.
On a solicitor apprenticeship, you’ll learn:
- legal knowledge including court procedures and government regulations
- excellent verbal communication skills to work with different people
- active listening skills
- analytical thinking skills for working on complex cases
- knowledge of English language for explaining legal matters to non-experts
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- excellent written communication skills
- the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
- to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently.
Practices can range from sole practitioners to multinational firms with offices all over the world.
Other employers of solicitors include:
- commercial and industrial organisations
- local government
- Government Legal Profession (GLP)
- Crown Prosecution Service (CPS)
Once qualified, it’s vital to keep learning and growing throughout your career. Continuing professional development (CPD) activities include attending training seminars, conferences, and networking events offered by organisations such as The Law Society.
You may develop your skills by mentoring or research in law and writing. Large businesses may provide such courses in-house. Solicitors in private practice or working in-house for businesses or other organisations are often paid for their course fees.
The Law Society’s Young Attorneys Division (JLD) serves junior lawyers with up to five years of experience. Members of the JLD may network with other junior lawyers, discuss important issues, and have their opinions heard.
Postgraduate study and research, such as a diploma, MBA, or Masters, are additional options.
As a newly qualified solicitor, you may be referred to as an assistant at first, and you will often work on a fixed salary under the supervision of a partner or senior assistant solicitor.
You will gradually acquire greater responsibility while refining your technical legal skills. As you develop, you may often be asked to supervise younger employees.
Promotion in private practice depends on maintaining a high level of performance, namely meeting standards for the amount of work that may be billed to consumers. As a result, assistant solicitors often progress to senior solicitors who become associates.
Progression is likely to entail becoming the head of a business department, with responsibility for that department’s profit levels and employees.
It is possible to go from a salaried to an equity partner. This will be evaluated by combining your skills, profits, and desire to invest financially in the organisation. There has yet to be a timetable for transitioning from promotion to partnership. However, the earliest timeframe for consideration is usually six to eight years after qualifying.
Partners must help the business expand and engage in firm management while keeping their specialised skills.
Career advancement for in-house and local and central government lawyers often follows a set structure and may result in a move into general management.
You may have to switch occupations to progress depending on the organisation’s size. For example, solicitors with a strong reputation in private practice may be recruited to work in-house, sometimes as a result of a headhunt.