Becoming a Solicitor

To become a solicitor you must complete:  

  1. A qualifying law degree or a graduate law conversion course (Graduate Diploma in Law)
  2. The Legal Practice Course (LPC)
  3. A training contract 

The Junior Lawyers division of the Law Society provides more details.    

Competition to become a solicitor

There are usually more aspiring trainee solicitors than training contracts, which makes entry into the profession extremely competitive. However the Law Society's annual statistics report, published in March 2014 about the year 2012 -2013 stated that:

  • In 2012 – 2013, 5198 students enrolled on the LPC course
  • By the end of July 2013, 5302 training contracts were registered

Read the report in full via the Law Society website.

Competition should not put you off pursuing your aim of becoming a solicitor; however you need to make sure that you give yourself the best chance for these jobs. Read the rest of this leaflet to find out how.

Improving your prospects

Due to the intellectual rigour of the profession, academic success is a pre-requisite. Studying law at university will give you a sound basis, but this won't make you stand out from the other hundreds of applicants. It is vital that you research the legal sector to gain a full appreciation of what employers want and proactively seek ways to develop yourself further.

Find out more about what legal employers want via lawcareers.net and the Law Society which provides a useful overview of the work of a solicitor and the skills needed. Also use the websites and directories listed on our useful sites and resources for law handout. Annual law career fairs and events run by professional organisations such as the Law Society are also a good way of meeting employers and finding out more.

Gaining work experience

Many law firms offer structured placements, usually during the summer vacation. You could volunteer for organisations such as Citizens' Advice or Victim Support. There may be opportunities within the wider criminal justice system; for example the courts or the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).

Our leaflet on improving your prospects in law can give you more ideas. There are also some useful suggestions on lawcareers.net.  

The Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL)

The GDL (sometimes also called the GDip or Common Professional Exam) is a law conversion course for those wishing to become a solicitor or barrister and who haven't completed a qualifying law degree. Here are a few key facts: 

  • It is comprised of seven foundation subjects: law contract, law of tort, criminal law, property law, public law, equity and the law of trusts, law of the European Union.
  • Search for and apply via Lawcabs for full time courses. There is no official closing date, but courses may fill well before the start date so ensure you apply early (eg by the start of December for courses starting the following September). The form is available at the beginning of October.
  • Apply directly to institutions for part time and distance learning courses.
  • The course lasts 1 year full time, or 2 years part- time.
  • At the time of writing, the cost can be anything from £7,000 to £12,000 for a full-time course and varies according to provider.  
  • Funding is limited - the Training Contract and Pupillages Handbook lists larger law firms which offer sponsorship. See the Junior Lawyers arm of the Law Society for other sources.

The Legal Practice Course

The LPC is the vocational postgraduate course necessary to become a solicitor. You need to have completed a LLB or GDL to be accepted onto the course. Here are a few key facts:

  • There are 2 stages which are separate and which you can complete at different institutions, although in practice, most people complete at one institution.  
  • Stage 1 comprises 3 compulsorary elements: business law, property law, litigation and advocay as well as core skills (writing, drafting, interviewing, advising, legal research, advocacy).   
  • Stage 2 is comprised of elective modules which differ according to provider.
  • Search for and apply via Lawcabs for full-time courses. There is no official closing date, but courses may fill well before the start date so ensure you apply early (eg by the start of December for courses starting the following September). The form is available at the beginning of October. 
  • Funding is limited - the Training Contract and Pupillages Handbook lists larger law firms which offer sponsorship. See the Junior Lawyers arm of the Law Society for other sources.
  • The cost is typically £9000 - £12,500 full time and varies according to provider. Currently fees at the University of Wolverhampton are £9800 full time for Home/EU students. Undergraduate UoW students are currently eligible for a 20% discount.

Training Contracts

To become a qualified solicitor you must work in a legal setting as a trainee solicitor, completing training in at least three different legal areas (called seats). You work on both contentious and non-contentious projects and complete a professional skills course covering: financial and business skills, advocacy and communication, client care, professional standards and elective modules.

Which organisations offer training contracts?

  • Law firms of all sizes
  • The Government Legal Service (GLS)
  • Local Government
  • The Crown Prosecution Service
  • Law Centres
  • In-house teams (often within commerce and industry)

The vast majority of training contracts are with private law firms.

Finding training contracts

  • For contracts in larger law firms, The GLS and CPS search via lawcareers.net and the Training Contracts and Pupillages Handbook (copies available in the Careers Centre). You will then need to apply directly to companies as there is no central application system.  
  • For contracts within in-house teams see the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) or the Commerce & Industry Group. Also check lawcareers.net and the Training Contracts and Pupillages Handbook.  
  • There is no national list of training contracts within Local Government. Check lawcareers.net, Law Society Gazette or Solicitors in Local Government.
  • High street firms don’t tend to advertise training contracts but it’s estimated that 2,000 exist. Often they recruit from their existing staff (eg those working as paralegals) or from those already know to the firm (eg those that have undertaken voluntary work experience). Access these opportunities through making speculative applications.
  • Law Centres take on a limited amount of trainees, however at the time of writing, funding has been cut so opportunities are limited See Justice.gov.

When to apply

The largest and most prestigious law firms recruit 2 years in advance, which means that you should start applying for contracts in your penultimate degree year (if you are an LLB student) or your final degree year (if you are a non-law student).

Some smaller, regional firms tend to recruit one month in advance, whereas high street firms often recruit as and when they have opening.  

There is a list of training contract deadlines on lawcareers.net.

Choosing who to apply to 

The type of work that you will undertake varies dramatically according to the organisation you work for. It is vital that you research organisations thoroughly so that you select those that suit your professional interests and personality, and so that you can compile carefully targeted applications. With so much competition, you need to investigate carefully what organisations look for and make sure your choices are realistic. Learn more about types of firm at:

Legal Executives

Increasingly the role and standing of legal executives and solicitors are becoming more and more similar and legal executive are now recognised as qualified lawyers. They specialise in a particular area of law, and will have been trained to the same standard as a solicitor in that area. They have their own clients, undertake representation in court and, due to recent legislation, can now become judges and partners in some types of law firms.

Becoming a Legal Executive

You must undertake CILEX (Chartered Institute of Legal Executives) qualifications and then undertake qualifying employment. Here are some details:

CILEX qualifications

  • These can be studied part time or via distance learning.
  • Those with a qualifying law degree are exempt from some qualifications and study the Fast Track Diploma which takes 9 months part-time.
  • The Fast Track Diploma costs around £2,000 - £3,000.

Qualifying employment

  • You need 3 years worth of qualifying employment (work in a legal setting).
  • You could do this before, during or after your studies.
  • You do not need to complete a pupillage or training contract.

Finding out more

There are sepcific times in which you need to be applying for courses, work experience, training contracts and membership of the Solicitors Regulation Authority. Timetables are at lawcareers.net and in the Training Contracts and Pupillages Handbook, available in the Careers Centre, MD.

There is a wealth of useful sites, employer directories and other resources about legal careers. Download our list for more details.