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
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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