How to become a lawyer in the UK
Being a lawyer is no picnic at the park. It requires thorough preparation and utmost grit. Qualifying to become a solicitor does not only require passing the exams and finishing the considerable training period. You must also have a consistent pattern of excellent grades, impressive GCSE and A Levels results, and commendable undergraduate performance.
The job outlook for lawyers is positive. Many law firms are hiring and although Brexit is causing some uncertainty for the profession in the meanwhile, it is also causing an increase in demand for legal advice for companies that want to confidently navigate the changed landscape in the UK.
However, good marks academically are not enough to see you through a career in law; you need to demonstrate talents in the legal arena. Fear not, though, these skills are not God-given. They can be acquired through hard work and by persevering in completing all the stages required for you to become a qualified lawyer.
Law is such a wide field. You can choose to learn widely across the spectrum of specializations first before choosing a specialization that you really like and excel in.
Some of the areas in the field of law include company law, competition law and employment law. With the UK exiting the EU, EU and international law will be a popular field for many aspiring lawyers.
Here is the route one should cross to become a qualified solicitor:
You need to take law degree called Bachelor of Laws (LLB), and then take Legal Practice Course (LPC); however, if you are a non-law degree graduate, then you can take a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), and then proceed into taking Legal Practice Course (LPC). Then, it is followed by Legal Practice Course and a period of recognised training or apprenticeship.
University fees can be quite expensive so try to look for scholarships or financial aid to ease your financial burden. You can always repay back your loans with your high-paying job as a lawyer.
A law student can apply for a vacation scheme. Vacation schemes are short internships in a firm. Securing one can also a step forward in getting your training contract.
Even if you are still in your undergraduate law studies, you can already apply for your training contract from your second year onwards. Whereas, non-law students can apply for their final year. It is important to note that securing a training contract is also as competitive as securing a job.
When you apply to a firm where you want to complete your training contract, you need to fully express the reason why you want to be trained in that specific firm. Try to search online for the various application advice as well the different criteria and requirement needed by different recruiters.
The successful completion of the two-year training contract is the last step to becoming a solicitor.
What is a training contract?
The training contract is a two-year period of working at a firm as an apprentice. You need to undertake this period of recognised training to become a solicitor.
Registering at Solicitors Regulation Authority
After you have completed all your academic and vocational stages, you can now apply to be registered with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). You will then become part of the list of solicitors in England and Wales.
Once listed with the SRA, you can now apply for your practicing certificate. By this stage, you now become a member of Law Society of England and Wales. However, being a solicitor is a commitment to lifelong learning. All solicitors must always take part in various professional development requirements.
You can choose to stay with the firm that you trained with or you can move to other law firms depending on your circumstance and preferences.
Things that you will learn as a trainee in the law firm include how to treat clients and exhibit high professional standards. You will also learn about finance and business and how it connects to law. Finally, the art of communication and advocacy will also be emphasized.
Skills need in a solicitor
As a solicitor you need to be skilled at following areas for you to succeed in your chosen career:
Excellent communication skills
As you are the first point of contact for the client, your communication skills must be superbly above than the average. You need to listen to a client’s grievance. At the same time, you are also there to provide legal advice, and in some cases, you also represent your clients if the case escalates to court.
Your communication skills must be excellent both in oral and written. If you are assigned to a case, that assignment requires massive paperwork preparation.
Research and Analysis Skills
As a way to help your client, you will need to do some legal work. You need to research common and statutory laws to prepare a case brief.
Driven to Succeed
As a solicitor representing a client, you need to be deeply motivated to help your client in his case. Hence, you are even willing to do your work beyond the working hours to make sure that everything has been studied, scrutinized, and analysed.
Life- long learner
As a solicitor, you get to do a variety of jobs. This can include matters that might seem outside the field of law but has a legal angle to it. As such, you must be a life-long learner. Learning doesn’t stop once you become a solicitor. In fact, it’s just beginning as you must learn things like employment contract, business contracts or how to draw up a will.
Final thoughts on becoming a lawyer
Aspiring to be part of the legal field requires a thorough preparation on your part. You need not only be equipped with theories and impressive academic records. You also need to be financially capable since the journey is quite long. Finally, you also need to equip yourself with skills needed so you can do your job well and satisfactory both to the firm you represent and to your clients.
The road to becoming a lawyer is a long one but definitely rewarding as you have the opportunity to change lives.