Alex, one of our newly qualified solicitors, talks about her journey to qualification
For those aspiring solicitors or law students, the road to qualification may seem never ending. By the time you’ve done your degree, Legal Practice Course, work experience and a Training Contract, the process may exceed 7 years. Some of you (like me) may have grown a passion for the law during your A-Levels, so add another 1-2 years onto that! One thing to keep in mind, however, is that no matter how long it takes you, it will be worth it in the end.
My journey started off at college. I had always wanted to be involved in the law somehow and my interest started with a desire to join the police. My tutor encouraged me to study law at university to further my interest and I agreed, initially hoping that a degree would help me progress within the police quicker. After many visits with my careers advisor, it became clear that I wanted to study somewhere rural (and pretty), which is how I ended up in Aberystwyth.
It was during my second year that I decided I wanted to become a solicitor. I had attended various careers events and talks hosted by local solicitors, as well as carrying out work experience in my holidays. I knew I wanted to help people and make a difference to their lives, which came hand in hand with Family Law.
Having graduated from Aberystwyth, I completed a one year Legal Practice Course and then moved to a medium sized firm in Cheshire where I was a paralegal for fifteen months and a trainee solicitor for two years. The way in which my training was structured was that I moved to a different department every three/six months to gain knowledge and experience in a variety of different legal areas.
After years of hard work, I finally qualified as a solicitor on 3 September 2018. As part of the qualification process, I was invited to attend the Admission Ceremony at the Law Society in London. My ceremony took place on 25 January 2019. The Vice President (Simon Davis) addressed all of the new solicitors and spoke about the importance of our roles moving forward and how we are responsible for acting in our client’s best interest (and keeping them out of trouble!). We were congratulated on our achievements, praised by our families and supplied with copious amounts of champagne. It was a truly wonderful event and I would encourage anyone who has qualified to attend.
If any of you are inspired by my story and wish to follow in the same path, please be aware that the qualification process is changing in 2021. According to the Solicitor’s Regulation Authority, from autumn 2021, aspiring solicitors must now pass a common assessment called the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). The road to qualifying will look something like this (not necessarily in this order):
- Obtain a degree or equivalent qualification (this can be in any subject, not just law)
- Pass stages 1 and 2 of the SQE (the first stage focuses on legal knowledge and the second on practical legal skills, such as a mock client interview)
- Have a substantial period of work experience (two years)
- Pass the character and suitability requirements (e.g. no criminal record)
You can find out more information here – https://www.sra.org.uk/home/hot-topics/solicitors-qualifying-examination.page.
Lastly, here’s a bit of advice from someone who has been through this journey: careers advisors are your best friends. I used one at college, university and during my Legal Practice Course. They helped me decide where I wanted to study, what type of law I wanted to practice in and they even helped me prepare for paralegal / training contract interviews, as well as the applications. They should also be able to advise you about the upcoming changes to the qualification process to help you get a head start. Always make sure to prepare for your meeting(s) with the career advisor to make sure you can ask all those burning questions and really get the most out your session.
It is also important to get as much work experience as you can and, above all else, keep going!