Describe the work and organisation of solicitors

The work of solicitors can be varied. This is a feature of legal work carried out by solicitors.

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A solicitor may work in a range of settings and their duties will vary depending on the setting they work in. Hours worked will also vary and weekend or night work may be required particularly if you are needed to attend police stations to visit a client.

The Law Society has an accreditation scheme which means that members of the public can be assured that the knowledge of members in the scheme have been verified and have reached a standard of excellence in practice management in a given area of the law. Membership of the scheme is voluntary.

Solicitors may work with individuals to ensure they are treated fairly and they will work with the individuals to protect their rights. They are sometimes involved in working for clients who can not afford to pay for legal services when they will offer their services free. LawWorks is the operating name of the Solicitors Pro Bono Group.

The majority of solicitors, once qualified, will join a firm of solicitors in private practice. The practice will operate in the private sector. The profession as a whole is represented by the Law Society which in turn is regulated by the independent Solicitors Regulation Authority. There are some 120,000 solicitors in England and Wales.


Some solicitors practice as a sole practitioner in which case this will restrict the range of work that can be done, simply because it is a matter of resources as well as expertise. Sole practitioners also face some operational difficulties at times of sickness or other absence. Building Societies and other lending institutions do not favour them when it comes to mortgage work because of issues concerning the adequacy of supervision.


Firms of solicitors range from small ‘high street’ practices to medium and large practices. The largest firms will probably be located in the cities and are likely to operate on a regional basis with associated offices. These firms will operate as partnerships with Managing Partners and employing assistant solicitors.


The job of a solicitor is to provide clients with legal advice and support. They act on instructions they receive from their clients who may be individuals or groups of people. It will depend on their area of expertise as to the type of advice a solicitor is asked for.

A solicitor's work can be varied and will also depend upon the type of firm to which they belong. Such work might include the giving of legal advice and negotiating upon a range of matters, such as debt and consumer complaints, family problems and employment and business matters. It may be that the practice will have a number of departments specialising in a particular area of the law e.g. family, private client, probate etc. Family matters would include all aspects of family law for example, divorce and child custody, civil partnerships, family mediation and prenuptial agreements.


Probate work would include dealing with the estate of a deceased person. Other work might include negligence meaning, for example, dealing with personal injury claims.


One way of classifying the work of solicitors is that it can either be described as contentious work or non-contentious work. Contentious work includes civil litigation which will involve preparation work such as drafting a claim in a civil case, or criminal work which will involve representing a client in a criminal matter. Non-contentious work covers everything else apart from court work. e.g. probate (except disputed wills), conveyancing, drafting legal documents etc.


Solicitors deal directly with clients and a lot of their time will be spent interviewing clients in their office and taking detailed instructions. A solicitor may well negotiate on behalf of their client in a disputed matter either prior to the commencement of court proceedings or even after proceedings have begun in order to achieve an agreed objective. It will fall on the solicitor to coordinate the work of all parties involved, keeping in touch with both clients and solicitors for the opposing party. They will also be expected to supervise the execution of agreements when they are reached.


Solicitors deal with a large amount of paperwork. There are different types of work which generate paperwork. Examples would include, written communications on behalf of clients, communications with other law firms, drafting legal documents such as contracts, leases and wills and conveyancing work and the associated paperwork from contract to completion. This would include searches, enquiries of local authorities, drafting contracts and transfers and pre-completion searches.


When working as part of a team a solicitor can refer cases to a head of department and can also delegate work to trainee solicitors, paralegals and legal secretaries when appropriate but it is the solicitor who will have to check the paperwork before it is signed.


Solicitors will calculate claims for damages, compensation, maintenance etc. They will also have to carry out such mundane tasks as completing time sheets to record hours worked so that charges for work can be calculated and clients billed for work done on their behalf.


Some solicitors will undertake advocacy work. This involves presenting the client’s case in court, questioning witnesses and advancing legal arguments about points of law. Solicitors have for a long time enjoyed rights of audience in the lower courts. The lower courts are the Magistrates Courts and the County Courts. County Courts deal predominately with civil cases such as consumer matters and property claims.


Solicitors rights of audience have been extended to the higher courts upon the passing of the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 and subsequent Solicitors' Higher Rights of Audience Regulations 2010 which enables a solicitor in private practice to apply for a Certificate of Advocacy entitling them to appear in the higher courts. A solicitor will need to show that he or she has experience of advocacy in the Magistrates Court and the County Court and has taken a short training course and passed examinations on the rules of evidence.


In more complex disputes a solicitor will be expected to instruct a barrister or specialist advocate who will appear in court on behalf of the client. In this instance the solicitor will be expected to ensure that the barrister or specialist advocate is fully briefed and is provided with all the correct paperwork.


Not all firms will offer assistance and representation in criminal matters as they may lack the necessary expertise or may be reluctant to commit the necessary resources e.g. duty solicitor training programmes or entering into the government’s legal franchising contract.


Dependant upon the area of the practice the firm may undertake commercial work which will include a range of work such as company formations and registrations, negotiating mergers and transfers, conveyancing and the giving of tax advice.


Whilst a large proportion of solicitors will work in private practice, some will work in the public sector such as those employed by local authorities where they will develop specialist knowledge in such areas as housing, planning and administrative law.


Others may join the Crown Prosecution Service and prosecute criminal cases in the Magistrates Court or sit with counsel or other senior crown prosecutors in the Crown Court. There are also a number of solicitors who form part of in-house legal teams with larger commercial companies and organisations.


Solicitors are expected to keep up to date with the law and any changes that are implemented and will need to research and examine documents and case law to make sure that the advice they give and the procedures they follow are correct. All solicitors and registered European lawyers in legal practice or employment in England and Wales must comply with the requirements of the SRA's continuing professional development scheme.


The Legal Services Act 2007 further regulates legal services and the work of solicitors by introducing competition and provides for Alternative Business Structures and provision for a Legal Services Ombudsman for dealing with complaints.


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Solicitor Job Information - National Careers Service - Gov.UK






This essay describes the work of solicitors and covers the following relevant matters:

  • sole practitioners as well as medium to large firms;
  • the wide variety of work undertaken;
  • the giving of legal advice on a range of matters;
  • contentious work as well as non-contentious work;
  • interviewing clients, taking instructions and negotiating on their behalf;
  • paperwork;
  • advocacy and rights of audience;
  • areas of work other than private practice.

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