Solicitors provide expert legal support and advice to clients. They take instructions from clients and advise on necessary courses of legal action. Clients can be individuals, groups, public sector organisations or private companies.
Depending on their area of expertise, solicitors can advise on a range of issues, including:
- personal issues: buying and selling residential property, landlord and tenant agreements, wills and probate, divorce and family matters, personal injury claims and criminal litigation;
- commercial work: helping new enterprises get established, advising on complex corporate transactions (including mergers and acquisitions) and business-related disputes;
- protecting the rights of individuals: making sure they receive compensation if unfairly treated by public or private bodies.
Solicitors may use some of their time to give free help to clients who are unable to pay for legal services themselves.
Typical work activities
Once qualified, solicitors can work in private practice, in-house for a commercial or industrial organisations, in local or central government or in the court service.
The actual work carried out varies depending on the setting, the solicitor's specialist area and the nature of the case. In general however, tasks can include:
- meeting and interviewing clients to establish the firm's suitability to provide the necessary advice and services, based on the firm's specialism and likely cost;
- taking a client's instructions;
- advising a client on the law and legal issues relating to their case;
- drafting documents, letters and contracts tailored to the client's individual needs;
- negotiating with clients and other professionals to secure agreed objectives;
- researching and analysing documents and case law to ensure the accuracy of advice and procedure;
- supervising the implementation of agreements;
- coordinating the work of all parties involved;
- corresponding with clients and opposing solicitors;
- attending meetings and negotiations with opposing parties;
- acting on behalf of clients in disputes and representing them in court, if necessary;
- instructing barristers or specialist advocates to appear in court for the client in complex disputes;
- preparing papers for court;
- working in a team, sometimes referring cases to the head of department;
- supervising and delegating work to trainee solicitors, paralegals and legal secretaries as appropriate;
- arranging and attending further client meetings where necessary to progress with the case and finalise documentation;
- checking all documentation prior to signing and implementing;
- calculating claims for damages, compensation, maintenance, etc;
- administrative duties, e.g. completing time sheets so that charges for work can be calculated and billing clients for work done on their behalf;
- taking referrals from other firms of solicitors when a conflict of interest arises or if they have no specialist practitioner available;
- keeping up to date with changes and developments in the law by reading journals and law reports.
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