Solicitors are practicing lawyers who handle an array of legal matters with the exception of advocacy proceedings in court. Solicitors operate primarily in the United Kingdom and Ireland, where barristers represent clients in court proceedings and solicitors deal with legal matters outside of court. In the U.K., practitioners can only hold one title--barrister or solicitor. In the United States, the term solicitor is largely obsolete, but is sometimes used to refer to lawyers acting on behalf of government.
Solicitors provide an array of legal support services to individual clients and organizations. A solicitor will listen to a client's concerns and offer advice on legal proceedings that can be initiated. The type of work undertaken by a solicitor varies depending on the size and specificity of the law practice where they are employed. Some legal practices are known as "high street firms" as they handle matters reflecting the needs of the local community, according to the website Graduate Prospects, a U.K. provider of information, advice and opportunities to students and graduates. Other firms specialize in a particular area of law. Specialist areas include conveyancing law (covering residential property contracts), tenancy issues, family and marriage law and litigation claims for personal injury.
A solicitor analyzes information relevant to a case, such as the personal statements of parties involved, medical reports and relevant legal documents. He also studies police and local authority reports and may contact them to confirm the accuracy of details. A solicitor also writes letters to clients to update them on the progress of their case and contacts opposing solicitors and claimants to try to negotiate a settlement. Additionally, a solicitor meets with barristers to discuss strategies for advocacy proceedings in court.
A solicitor plays a key support role to clients on legal aid matters. Legal Aid is a government funded scheme in the U.K. that provides financial support to individuals who wish to bring a legal claim, but don't have the financial means to pay for it. Solicitors advise clients on their eligibility for legal aid claims and help them prepare documents to process them.
Solicitors also calculate damages and compensations claims and estimate maintenance payments in family matters (i.e., if a single mother is making a claim for child support payments from an absent father). A solicitor also delegates administrative tasks to trainee solicitors, legal secretaries and paralegal workers where required. A solicitor completes time sheets for work undertaken, estimates service costs and invoices clients to request payment.
To qualify as a solicitor, candidates must either complete a law degree through a U.K. university or complete a degree in any subject followed by a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), according to the Connexions Direct website. In place of the GDL, candidates can complete the Common Professional Examination (CPE) instead.
To gain full practice eligibility, candidates must then go on to complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC) and a minimum of two years training placement with a legal firm. During training, prospective solicitors are required to complete the Professional Skills Course (PSC), as stated on the College of Law website. As of 2009, the average salary for a newly qualified solicitor in the U.K. is 32,258 British pounds (approximately $48,000), according to the My Salary website.
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