Articles From the Team

Qualifying as a Solicitor in 2014

As we have moved into March, for many trainees now is the time you will be transferring into the final seat of your training contract. As the severity of the prospect of imminent qualification sets in, you will have many questions to ask about qualification, the market, which area you should move into and how best to position yourself for a secure and successful legal career.

The first step is to make sure you choose your final seat wisely if you still have time to do so – try and secure more experience in the area of law you are looking to qualify into, and be aware of market conditions. With areas like commercial property and corporate having recovered well in the last 12 months, final seats in these areas can put you in a good position to qualify. Double seats will also put you in a good position, as experience counts and more than 6 months in one discipline will set you apart from others at your level. This can be a stressful period, but differentiate yourself as best you can. With fellow trainees and friends at other firms in the same position you need to rise above the competition and put yourself in the best position possible to secure your chosen newly qualified role.

When approaching qualification, it is key that you make your decisions carefully. Ensure you are choosing your options based on the work you have done and skills you have, rather than personalities in the department you have completed a seat in. This is a big move for your future long term career – it’s crucial that you choose carefully and qualify into an area of law that interests you. Although there may be opportunity in the future to move into a related area of law, is very difficult to change discipline entirely after qualification because of the necessary re-training involved and competition in the market from candidates with more suitable recent experience. It is now that you need to consider what type of lawyer you want to be, the kind of firm or company you want to work for and what to you would be the perfect job. This is worth careful consideration at this stage, as the wrong decision can shape your career for the long term.

We are often asked about the timetable leading up to qualification, what happens when? The core time for movement in the market is generally when the new financial year is in place, as firms will have set new budgets and considered September qualifiers in that process. As the market is still reactive though, many firms won’t decide until as late as July, or even August, if they are going to take newly qualified solicitors. This is particularly the case at smaller firms where the process can be less structured, so if you wait and rely on your own firm retaining you this could mean you miss out on other options in the market. This is a key business decision and you need to think about whether other options can present better quality work, progression and a more suitable role for you. If your firm isn’t ready to commit, then explore your options elsewhere. In a busy legal market this is your opportunity for choice, and another firm may be able to offer better quality work, enhanced progression prospects or a better salary.

Take a step back and seek advice early to ensure you have considered all options and are moving into a newly qualified role that is right for you in the future. Some trainee solicitors prefer to move firms on qualification, attracted by a more attractive role or practice area better suited to them, higher salary, more convenient location, job progression or security. It could be the best long term career decision you make. At BCL Legal many consultants have been solicitors before and understand exactly the concerns you will have when approaching qualification. We know this time is critical. We are here to try and take the uncertainty and panic out of the process by giving you all your options, informing you about newly qualified jobs as they are released, and negotiating offers on your behalf to ensure you move into the best role you can on qualification.

If you would like additional information on qualifying as a solicitor, either now or in the coming months, please contact Louisa Hill, Private Practice Manager at BCL Legal on for a confidential discussion.

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