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What is a Solicitor?

A solicitor is a qualified legal practitioner. They are arguably the largest branch of qualified lawyers. Solicitors can practise in all areas of law but specialise typically in one or two areas in accordance with training undertaken. As a result, a solicitor does not need to obtain further qualifications to practise in a new area, just complete necessary training so as to have the level of skill required to undertake the work in accordance with the Solicitors Code of Conduct.

What services does a solicitor provide?

Solicitors obtain instructions directly from clients and act for that client in proceedings from start to finish. They are responsible for preparing legal documentation and representing the client’s legal interests.

The work undertaken by a solicitor can normally be categorised as either “contentious” or “non-contentious”. Contentious work, often known as litigation, involves resolving disputes between two or more parties, and will ordinarily involve a Court or Tribunal or the use of a method of alternative dispute resolution such as mediation. Examples of areas of practice involving contentious work include criminal, family and personal injury. Non-contentious work does not involve litigation and is simply the dealing of a client’s needs, whether those needs be business or personal. Examples of areas of practice involving non-contentious work include conveyancing and probate.

A solicitor on qualification has automatic rights of audience in the Magistrates Court, County Court and some Crown Court hearings as a solicitor is an “authorised person” within the definition of the Legal Services Act 2007 and so can exercise a right of audience as a reserved legal activity.

Solicitors are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). The SRA sets a code of conduct with principles that solicitors must abide by regarding their client’s and the public’s interest.


Where does a solicitor work?

Solicitors may work in private practice at a law firm with other solicitors and qualified and non-qualified professionals providing advice and assistance directly to clients of the firm. Most solicitors work in partnerships with other solicitors. However, there are increasing numbers working in Limited Liability Partnerships (LLPs) and companies. A solicitor may own/set up a legal practice with other lawyers (Barristers, Licensed Conveyancers etc.) and non-lawyers (accountants, estate agents etc.) as part of an alternative business structure.

A solicitor may also work as a sole practitioner within their own law firm.

Alternatively, they may work “in-house” at a large organisation in which the solicitor is employed to practise law on behalf of the organisation. This may be within the corporate sector, such as for construction, transport or media companies. Or within the public sector such as a Prosecutor for the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) or a legal adviser for His Majesty’s Court and Tribunal Service (HMCTS).

A solicitor may also practise as a freelance solicitor (or Consultant). A freelance solicitor practices without a law firm often on a self-employed basis. A freelance solicitor undertakes work for several firms and can choose which work they take on.


Career progression

Solicitors may also obtain a Higher Rights of Audience qualification in Criminal or Civil litigation to become a Solicitor Advocate or Higher Court Advocate (HCA). A Solicitor Advocate/HCA is able to appear before all Higher Courts (Crown Court, High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court) much in the same way a barrister can. A Solicitor Advocate may not, however, join a barrister’s chambers but will work in private practice, in house, alone or freelance.

A Solicitor Advocate may be appointed as King’s Counsel (KC). A Solicitor Advocate becomes eligible to become a KC after 10 years of practice in law and must be recommended by the Lord Chancellor. The title of KC is awarded to those who have demonstrated particular skill and expertise in the conduct of advocacy. Being appointed as a KC is often referred to as “talking silk”, with KCs being described to as “Silks” this is due to the right to wear a silk gown.

Solicitors are eligible to apply for all judicial appointments subject to the years of experience obtained.


Solicitors and the law firms in which they work are regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

How to qualify

To qualify as a solicitor through the SQE route you need to have obtained a degree in any subject or a Level 6 equivalent qualification (such as CILEx or CLC). To find more information about the SQE route by following the links below.

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