5 The legal profession
In 2008 there were about 75,000 solicitors working for firms providing legal advice to individuals and companies on a wide range of legal matters including buying and selling houses, family matters, contracts, tax and crime. As laws become more complicated and detailed, there is a growing trend for solicitors to specialise in a particular area of law, for example, crime or family or company. In addition, there were around 20,000 solicitors who did not practise. Solicitors are governed by the Law Society, which is responsible for setting training requirements, regulations and issuing certificates, which give individuals the right to practise as a solicitor.
The traditional and most common route towards becoming a solicitor in England and Wales requires a degree in law; however, other paths do exist and other methods of qualification have been developed in recent years. After obtaining a law degree, would-be solicitors must take the Legal Practice Course (LPC). This is designed to equip them with the knowledge required to practise as a solicitor. After passing the LPC, the next stage is finding a training contract in a law firm, which lasts two years. Upon completion, they are admitted to the profession as a solicitor.