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Everything You Need To Know About Becoming a Qualified Lawyer

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Becoming a lawyer requires hard work, dedication and perseverance, but it can be a thoroughly rewarding and lucrative career. There are many ways to become a qualified solicitor or barrister. 

From the qualifications needed to how much you can earn, find out everything you need to know.

How to become a qualified lawyer in the UK

Becoming a lawyer can take up to six years. 

One way is to obtain a three-year law degree, a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) or a Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) and two years or more of qualifying legal work placements and training. 

Others choose to opt for the CILEX  (Chartered Legal Executive Lawyer Qualifications) route which can be done on the job. Once you’ve obtained your CILEX qualifications, you can go on to complete your LPC, and qualify as a solicitor or you can practice as a Legal Executive which is recognised by most firms as being an equal to that of a solicitor.  

If you choose the SQE route, you do not need a law degree or the equivalent (this means there’s no need to pull a Mike Ross from Suits). However, you’ll need extensive knowledge of the law in England and Wales. 

If you want to become a barrister, you’ll take the Bar Practice Course (BPC) and then do a pupillage at a Chambers.

How much can a newly qualified lawyer earn? 

  • In House - £38,000 - £45,000 per annum 

  • Private Practice - £45,000 - £65,000

  • Magic Circle  - £110,000 - £125,000

  • West End - £65,000 - £80,000

  • US Firm (Mid Atlantic) - £90,000 - £110,000 

  • US Firm (New York) - £140,000 - £160,000

  • London City - £90,000 - £100,000

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The difference between a solicitor and a barrister

Lawyer is an umbrella term that refers to anyone qualified to practice law and give legal advice. It covers job titles such as solicitors and barristers. 

Becoming a solicitor 

Solicitors offer legal advice, support and services to their clients. A solicitor can work in-house for corporations, at a private practice, for the government or in court service. 

The majority of solicitors choose to specialise in a specific area of law, such as family, employment or finance. 

A solicitor’s responsibilities include: 

  • Undertaking research surrounding cases and legislation

  • Working with legal professionals such as barristers and paralegals

  • Representing their clients at tribunals or in court 

  • Communicating with clients

  • Drafting legal documents, contracts and letters

Becoming a barrister 

Barristers represent a company or individual in court. They undertake research into the law and help clients with their cases. Barristers can work for the government or agencies including the CPS (Crown Protection Service) and Government Legal Services (GLS) or they can be self-employed. 

A barrister’s responsibilities include: 

  • Advising solicitors and clients

  • Having a thorough understanding of the law

  • Interpreting the law where relevant to the case they’re working on

  • Undertaking legal research

  • Drafting legal documents

  • Negotiating settlements outside of court 

  • Preparing case and representing clients 

  • Working on cross-examining witnesses and witness statements

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If you work in Legal or want to become a solicitor, search our Legal vacancies today.