Nov 08, 2021

Written By Robert Greene

Solicitor job description

Nov 08, 2021

Written By Robert Greene

In basic terms, solicitors take instructions from clients and advise them on the law. But the role of a solicitor can vary greatly depending on their practice area and where they work. Here, we will look at what a solicitor is, what a solicitor does, and how to become one.  

What is a solicitor?

A solicitor is a qualified legal professional that takes instructions from clients and provides them with expert legal advice. As of April 2021, there were 154,170 practicing solicitors in England and Wales, an increase of 20% compared to April 2012. 

The vast majority of PC holders work in private practice firms (64.7%), while about a third work in non-private practice. This includes the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), educational institutions, and health services. The largest category of non-private practice work is commerce and industry,  in-house positions, working on the internal needs of a company.  


What does a solicitor do?

Solicitors tend to qualify into a particular area of law. This means that they become specialists, though some solicitors may practice different practice areas throughout their career. 

Broadly speaking, solicitors qualify as commercial or non-commercial lawyers. 

Commercial practice areas include:


Capital markets


Corporate taxation



Intellectual property

Private equity

Real estate

Non-commercial practice areas include: 



Judicial review

Human rights

Personal injury 

Residential property and conveyancing



Wills and probate

Many law firms specialise in commercial law or non-commercial law, though some offer both. 

The practice area and type of firm you work in will influence the scope and nature of the work you do. However, general tasks all solicitors do include: 

Interviewing clients and taking instructions from them

Drafting and negotiating legal documents, including letters, contracts, and non-disclosure agreements (NDAs)

Carrying out administrative tasks, such as filing, completing timesheets, and bundling

Conducting legal research and keeping up to date with legal developments

Acting on behalf of clients involved in disputes and representing them in court, if necessary

Advising clients on points of law and legal procedures

Liaising with other legal professionals, such as the opposing party’s counsel and barristers

Conducting due diligence


Solicitor skills

Solicitors require a wide range of skills, including:

Written and oral communication skills

Research and analytical skills

Problem-solving skills

Teamwork skills

Interpersonal skills 

Time management skills

IT skills

Attention to detail

Some of the qualities of a successful solicitor are:

Passion for the law and client service






Honesty and integrity


Commercial awareness

Emotional intelligence

Organisation skills


Solicitor qualifications

The route to qualification as a solicitor in England and Wales is being overhauled with the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE), beginning in autumn 2021. However, there will be transitional arrangements in place until 2032, so there will be two main routes to qualification for the next 11 years. 

Under the current system, aspiring solicitors must complete a two-year training contract. Before starting this, they must study a qualifying Bachelor of Laws (LLB) and complete the Law Practice Course (LPC) , or study an undergraduate degree and complete a law conversion degree – such as the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) – before completing the Law Practice Course (LPC).

Most law firms require students to get at least a 2:1 in their undergraduate degree, though some firms accept applications from students who get a 2:2 or have mitigating circumstances. 

As part of the training contract, trainees must complete the Professional Skills Course (PSC). This involves studying three core modules – Advocacy and Communication Skills, Client Care and Professional Standards, and Financial and Business Skills – as well as four elective modules.

The new route to qualification, the SQE, will scrap the training contract. Instead, to qualify as a solicitor, you will need to: 

Study a degree-level qualification

Pass the SQE1 and SQE2 assessments

Complete the qualifying work experience (QWE) 

Satisfy the character and suitability requirements of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)

The QWE is two years of legal work experience, which can be done with up to four organisations. It does not have to be paid but the work must be supervised and signed off by a solicitor or compliance officer for legal practice (COLP). You could be doing a range of things, like working as a paralegal, volunteering at a charity or Citizens Advice, working in a law clinic and doing a training contract. 

There are some other routes to qualification, including via an apprenticeship. You can read more about law apprenticeships here. 



Solicitor salary 

In 2018, the average annual salary for a solicitor working full-time in private practice in England and Wales was £62,000, while the average salary in London was even higher at £88,000. 

However, these figures don’t necessarily give an accurate representation of the range of salaries solicitors might earn, which vary greatly depending on the firm, the level of seniority, and location. For example, a newly qualified (NQ) solicitor in a London-based US law firm can earn up to £135,000 per annum, compared to a NQ salary of £48,000 per annum in a firm in the Midlands. 

In addition, many law firms offer discretionary bonuses and other benefits like life assurance, subsidised gym membership, or a season ticket loan. 


Solicitor working hours

As with salaries, solicitors’ working hours vary greatly depending on the practice area and law firm they work in. The average leaving time at some US and Magic Circle firms is after 8pm, whilst solicitors pack up around 6pm at other firms. 

Solicitor progression 

Having qualified, solicitors can rise through the ranks, being promoted to associate, senior associate, counsel, or even a partner. They may also go on to pursue a career in an adjacent field, such as education, journalism, or consulting, using the skills and experience they gained from their training. 



What can I do with a Law Degree?