Solicitors are lawyers in the UK and Ireland who provide legal support and advice to their clients, whether they be businesses or individuals. They do not conduct proceedings in court, however, which is left up to barristers. Solicitors work in practices that vary greatly on the type of work they carry out. Some are known as "high street firms" and these are likely to offer a range of services, whereas others offer more specialised services.
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Whether you are working for a "high street firm" or one that specialises in a particular area of the law, you are still likely to be carrying out similar tasks. Solicitors talk to prospective clients to see if they can work for them and take instructions from the client, while advising them on the best legal course of action. Solicitors also look over police reports in criminal cases and examine case histories and legal documents. Other duties include talking to barristers, preparing cases for court and, of course, attending court.
The career path of a solicitor in a private practice is from trainee to assistant solicitor, through to senior solicitor and then associate and partner. However, promotion is likely to depend on the size of the law practice, with progression coming only as another employee leaves the firm. Successful practice solicitors can also pursue a move to be in-house solicitors at large corporations.
To become a solicitor you will need to have either a law degree or a degree in another discipline coupled with a one-year conversion course known as the graduate diploma in law (GDL). Both law and other graduates then have to complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC), which is a one-year program in the application of the law in practical terms. Following this, candidates apply to law firms for a two-year training contract.
Solicitors who work for private practices work an average of 45 to 50 hours a week, and it is not uncommon during times of heavy workload for solicitors to work 12-hour days without a lunch-break. Those who work for local government will work no more than 37 hours a week. Work is mostly office-based, interspersed with trips to court. Due to the long hours, work as a solicitor can be stressful and can cause disruption to family life.
According to Prospects, the average annual salary for trainee solicitors in private practices in 2006 was £18,500, although the website points out that the figures cover a wide range. Staring salaries in London for a firm of around 11 to 25 partners were in the rangea of £23,000. Prospects also claimed that the average salary for an associate solicitor in a private practice in the UK was £42,000, rising to £50,000 for a partner. Once again the website claimed there were huge variations on the expected salaries, which depend greatly on the location and size of the practice.
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