How do I become a solicitor? All your questions answered

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We sat down with Heather McKendrick, careers and outreach manager at the Law Society of Scotland, to find out how you go about pursuing a career in law…

How do you go about becoming a solicitor?
The first stage is the law degree, also known as the LLB. For students with a degree in a different subject, they can take the graduate entry LLB which takes two years full-time. On completion of the law degree, students wishing to qualify as a solicitor then undertake the one-year diploma in professional legal practice. That takes all the knowledge that you’ve obtained during the degree and applies it in a more practical setting. There are fees attached, which is currently averaging at about £6,500. Some government support is currently available in the form of loans. The final stage of the route to qualification is the traineeship. The majority of trainees work in a solicitor’s office, which is known as private practice. It’s also possible to undertake a traineeship working under the supervision of a solicitor in an organisation such as local government, a bank or building society, for example. Trainees receive a salary during the training contract.

What can you do after you’ve qualified?
The majority of solicitors continue to work in private practice, and a good  number work ‘in-house’ – the legal department of an organisation. Some qualified solicitors decide they want to become an advocate – the work of an advocate is expert presentation in court. That involves a year spent as a trainee advocate, known as ‘devilling’. Further into their career, some may also wish to think about becoming a judge.

Do all solicitors work in court?
It’s actually possible for many solicitors to go through their entire career and never go into court – it depends on the kind of work they are involved in. Solicitors specialising in litigation will go in court but in commercial law, intellectual property or property law, for instance, you might never have to.

What qualities are important in law students?
You have to have high attention to detail. You also have to be able to think on your feet a lot of the time. If you’re dealing with clients, you have to be able to understand their requirements and give advice in a clear and simple way.

What sort of experience would benefit potential applicants applying to study law?
It’s worth looking for work experience with a legal firm. A part-time job or volunteering is also really great, showing that you can hold a position of responsibility.

What should you think about before applying for law at university?
Around 50% of law students decide they want to go on and qualify as a solicitor, and 50% go on to pursue different careers. You don’t have to think that, in studying law, that’s what you have to do. Definitely go to the open days at university, think about going to court and watching a trial to get a sense of the legal process, and find out as much as you can about the different careers available. The universities will also have details of what careers LLB graduates have
gone into outwith the legal profession, to give you an idea of different career options.

For more information, head to Law Society of Scotland website at

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