Becoming a solicitor in England & Wales
The new Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) is a system of qualifying as a solicitor in England and Wales. It was introduced in 2021 and has made entering the profession more accessible for both law and non-law graduates. If you are unsure whether this is the right career fit for you, see how you score in the quiz!
Frequently Asked Questions
A solicitor is a qualified legal practitioner who provides legal advice to clients, whether to individuals or businesses, in a specialised area of the law. There is a wide range of specialisations that you can undertake as solicitor, examples of which you can find here.
Broadly, these fall into two categories: contentious and non-contentious legal practice. Contentious legal work involves a dispute between two parties involving court proceedings, such as with arbitration. Non-contentious work which involves a dispute that does not involve the courts, such as in the case of a purchase of property.
An in-house solicitor is a solicitor that is employed by a non-legal organisation, for example, a commercial company with a legal department. The major difference between in-house work and private practice can be found here.
A solicitor's salary depends greatly on what practice area they are in, whether they are working in-house or within a law firm, their level of expertise, additional legal qualifications and whether they are working for a local, national or international law firm.
The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) regulates the profession in England and Wales. It is responsible for the professional conduct of all solicitors. The roll of solicitors is the register which lists all of the solicitors who are entitled to practise in England and Wales. Once you complete your qualification process, you need to apply to be admitted to the roll. To find out more about this process, please check the SRA website here.
A solicitor works with clients, interview and advising them on a course of legal action. This involves advocacy, drafting, research and case analysis. They also have rights of audience in court, but in order to obtain rights in higher courts, an additional qualification would need to be obtained.
Barristers are lawyers who specifically represent, advocate and defend clients in courts. Here are some of the differences between the two paths of the profession. They work in offices known as chambers and undergo a different form of qualification and training to solicitors. Find out more about how to become a barrister through the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) here.
A lawyer is a general term which describes various legal professionals in England and Wales, including both solicitors and barristers. There are several other types of legal professionals and you can check out some more examples of these here.
From 2021, anyone who wishes to become a solicitor would need to undergo the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE). This is a staged process of qualification that requires a degree in any subjects, passing two exams, undergoing a minimum of two years of Qualifying Work Experience (QWE) and meeting the SRA requirements of Character and Suitability.
If you would like to find out more about the SQE path and how to qualify, check out this page here.
It is possible for a lawyer, qualified overseas, to dual-qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales. After the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), all candidates, including overseas lawyers, would have to undergo the same process of qualification. The only differences are that foreign-qualified lawyers would be exempt from evidencing Qualifying Work Experience (QWE), but may require to evidence English language proficiency.
If you are a student or a graduate of another discipline, you would be able to qualify via the SQE in order to become a solicitor. As part of your qualification process, you would have to evidence having obtained a degree in any subject.
Under the old route of qualifying as a solicitor, you would undergo a conversion route, known as the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). This would give you the foundational legal knowledge to proceed with the traditional legal training.
However, with the introduction of the SQE, the legal profession is more open to those from non-law backgrounds. Therefore, you are able to take the SQE, provided you also take a preparation course which is sufficiently well-paced and comprehensive enough to give you the confidence to take the SQE exams.
The legal profession is a highly respected one and being a solicitor is amongst the highest valued careers both within and outside of England and Wales. It is a challenging, but rewarding pursuit, offering a variety of areas to specialise in within the profession. Some benefits include:
- Strong career prospects
- Financial stability
- Meaningful work
- Opportunity to work internationally
- Variety of skills engaged
- Opportunities to work independently and within a team
- Opportunities for further training
For more on career support, you can find out further resources here.