The job of a Solicitor
There are around 80,000 practising solicitors in England and Wales. Alongside barrister, it is one of the two legal professions. The Law Society is their professional body and to become a solicitor it is a requirement to take their Legal Practice Course.
Usually the candidate has a degree in law before taking the LPC but graduates in other subjects can do a yearlong conversion course and then take the LPC. After passing the Law Society’s qualification, the trainee solicitor undergoes a two-year ‘training contract’ at a firm, which is a kind of apprenticeship.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority regulates training and qualifications and the Legal Complaints Service acts independently to the Law Society.
The majority of those who qualify as a solicitor will go on to work in private practice in a solicitors’ company. They may work as a sole practitioner or in a partnership. In England and Wales there are over 8,700 solicitors’ firms, from small high street firms to large city firms with hundreds of partners.
The job of a solicitor in a high street firm will be varied. They will advise clients on many matters and as such run a more general law practice. The most popular topics are housing, business, family and consumer rights. Day to day activities involve meeting with clients, negotiating on their behalf and writing up and processing all the necessary paperwork. This includes letters on behalf of clients and drawing up contracts, leases and wills. Another aspect of their job is conveyancing i.e. the legal side of transferring houses, buildings and land.
In terms of standing up in court, a solicitor may act for his client in this way, which is known as advocacy. A solicitor may specialise in putting forward the case for their client and questioning witnesses.
Although it is common for high street firms to cover various aspects of the law, it is not unusual for either the firm or a solicitor to specialise in one area even in high street firms. A firm might concentrate on criminal law, family law or civil actions for instance.
A solicitor in a large city firm is more likely to specialise, as various aspects of law will have their own department and team. In addition, these firms tend to focus on commercial and business law.
Rights of Advocacy
A solicitor is permitted to act as an advocate in the Magistrates’ Courts and the County Courts and this has always been the case. However until 1986 they had no rights of advocacy in the High Court and until the 1990s they were limited in their rights in the Crown Court. Their rights were presenting cases on committal for sentence or appeal from Magistrates’ Court.
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- Multi-discipline partnerships