Cheryl Bolt’s Blog

7th August 2018

I have written a couple blogs about my journey so far as a trainee solicitor but I think it’s interesting to look at how I got to this role, so this blog focuses on how to become a solicitor.

What I think many people may not realise is that someone who is a “solicitor” is a professional person who has undertaken the various legal studies and training requirements and is appointed by the Solicitors Regulatory Authority as a qualified solicitor. Whereas the phrase “lawyer” does not necessarily mean that the person holding themselves out to be one has any legal qualifications or experience and it is important when choosing legal representation that people are aware of this key difference.

In order to become a solicitor you have to first undertake a degree. I undertook a qualifying law degree at UWE in Bristol which took 3 years full time to complete. However, you can still become a solicitor even if you have not completed a law degree. You simply need to undertake a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) to convert your current degree to a law degree. This course takes 1 year full time or 2 years part time.

Once you have completed your undergraduate studies you then need to complete the Legal Practice Course. This course can be done full time over 1 year or part time over 2 years. Usually people tend to undertake this course straight after completing their degrees. I completed mine part time over 2 years as I was also working full time at Gilbert Stephens during this time. I found that working in a law firm really helped reinforce the teachings of the Legal Practice Course. The course teaches subject areas that relate to being in legal practice, such as accounts and drafting. My firm was very accommodating with time off for studying and exams. I found that most of the people on my Legal Practice Course were also in the same situation, already working at law firms, and most of them had similar experiences with their firms being accommodating to the needs of the course.

Shortly after completing the Legal Practice Course I then began my role as a “trainee solicitor”. And whilst I had hoped that all my time spent studying was over I still had to complete the Professional Skills Course. This course attended by Trainee Solicitors is spread over 12 study days and includes 1 exam. The lecturers, who are qualified solicitors or barristers, teach a syllabus to reinforce the principles of client care, code of conduct and money laundering to name a few of the important principles of being a solicitor.  The course, which highlights included a very nice lunch at Reed Hall in Exeter, gave me the opportunity to socialise with fellow trainee solicitors who are mostly local to the area and share our experiences as a trainee so far, many of which were very different!

I have now completed the Professional Skills Course and whilst I am very glad to finally have completed the educational side of training, which has spread over the course of 5 years from starting University, I will still need to find a new challenge to keep my brain active as I still love learning and attempting new things.