Solicitors Roles and Responsibilities
Asking the question, what is a solicitor can be confusing at times. This article will explain in detail 'what is a solicitor'. It should be noted that an individual or a person who has a legal practice certificate is known as a lawyer. A lawyer is a general term used to describe an individual who is qualified to give legal advice to a person, group of people, companies, or organisations.
However, what is a solicitor? A solicitor can be defined as a lawyer with a special qualification known as the LPC (Legal Practise Course). In the English Legal System, there are two types of lawyers, a barrister, and a solicitor. On the one hand, the basic form of a barrister is a legal representative who defends, advocates, and represents clients in a court or in a tribunal. On the other hand, a solicitor does not represent a client in court, instead, they provide legal advice to clients, carry out negotiations, draft and review legal documents and much more. Fundamentally, the central distinction between the two is that a barrister does the work inside of a court, and the solicitor does the work outside of court.
To understand this distinction, it is essential to understand the question of what is a solicitor. A solicitor mainly deals with clients directly whereas a barrister does not deal with the public directly, as a client goes to a solicitor first. Clients can consist of individuals, companies, or organizations. It is observed that a solicitor is well defined as a legal practitioner who usually deals with most of the legal matters in certain jurisdictions. An individual should have legally defined qualifications, which vary from one jurisdiction to another to be defined as a solicitor and permitted to practice in that jurisdiction. For instance, in England and Wales, a solicitor is admitted to practice under the provisions of the ‘Solicitors Act 1974.’
Duties as a solicitor:
To answer the question of what is a solicitor, it can be best defined as a type of lawyer who prepares a case before it goes to the courts. A solicitor’s day-to-day routine varies immensely. The daily activity of a solicitor consists of:
- meetings with clients
- legal drafting
- negotiating legal documents
- drafting contracts
- providing specialist legal advice on a variety of areas of law such as criminal law, civil law, commercial law, family law, employment law, etc.
- The duty of a solicitor includes interviewing as well as advising clients.
- A solicitor carries out research and interprets complex points of law.
- If a solicitor has acquired higher rights of audience qualification, they are then eligible to appear and speak on behalf of clients in courts. Such a solicitor requires this additional qualification to be eligible to practice the art of advocacy in courts and is known as a Solicitor Advocate.
Nevertheless, a solicitor mainly works in law firms or does in-house practice. There is no dress code for a solicitor, smart dress is acceptable. To become a solicitor aspiring solicitors would be considering work experience in a law firm in the form of vacation schemes, or insight days.
The salary of a solicitor varies depending on whether a person wants to work in a law firm, the type of law firm a person wants to practice in, or in-house. It also depends on how much experience an individual has and what area of law a person wants to carry out the practice in. Office size and location can have an impact on the salary a solicitor receives. For instance, posts in London tend to pay more compared to posts in Birmingham. To find out or compare the salary of a solicitor you can browse The Legists website. Go to the Salary Checker section of The Legists website.
It should be noted that the profession of a solicitor is regulated by ‘The Solicitors Regulation Authority. It is an organisation in the UK that regulates the work of solicitors, law firms, and non-legal professionals in law firms. ‘The Solicitors Regulation Authority’ sets a code of conduct with principles that solicitors have to obey regarding their clients and the interest of the public. If solicitors or firms are found to be in breach of any of these principles, the solicitor’s regulatory body can step in and take strict action.
It should be noted that the Career Progression of a Solicitor at a Law Firm is as follows:
- Trainee Solicitor
- Junior Solicitor
- Senior Solicitor
- Salaried Partner
- Junior Equity Partner
- Senior Equity Partner
It is achievable to train and succeed ‘in-house’ in a commercial organisation and work one’s way through and through the ranks of a junior solicitor right over to a partner.
Furthermore, with around five- and seven-years post qualification experience as a solicitor, it is possible to join the judiciary and become a:
- Tribunal Judge
- Deputy District Judge
- Recorder in court
To qualify as a solicitor a student must complete a qualifying law degree recognized by the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA). A minimum 2:2/2:1 degree is needed depending on the requirements of the employer. This does not necessarily have to be a law degree, but a law conversion course must be undertaken. Such as the PGDL that is Post Graduate Diploma in Law or a law conversion course. After finishing University, the next step is the LPC (Legal Practise Course).
Once the LPC is completed a person is required to complete a two-year training. This is what is commonly known as a training contract. Once you have completed all relevant training, you must apply to the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority (SRA) for admission to the roll which is the register of solicitors in England and Wales. When this has been approved, one is now certified as a solicitor. In general, this process will take a minimum of six years. It is vital to note that this is the current process and from 2021, a new scheme of qualification will be open. This new system is called the Solicitor Qualifying Examination or SQE. Solicitors must complete both stages (SQE1 and SQE2) of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), then complete two years full time of qualifying work experience to qualify as a solicitor.
There are certain vital distinctions between the LPC and SQE. It will not be essential to have a qualifying law degree to start the SQE. Anyone with an undergraduate degree or equivalent will be able to become a solicitor with no law conversion course needed. It should be kept in mind that the LPC will be replaced by two sets of compulsory assessments. Candidates taking the SQE will still have to do two years of qualifying work experience but the requirements for this are set to be freer with candidates being able to gain that experience from up to four different legal employers. This system will be available at the quickest in September 2021 but will run simultaneously with the current process for some time in the future. This means that future candidates will most likely get the choice of either method of qualification.
Solicitor roles can be found on our Legal Jobs page.
By Hafsa Arif