What lawyers do Lawyers perform an important role, as law covers every aspect of society – from the age you can take your driving test to the speed you can drive when you qualify; from the minimum wage you can earn in a job to the cleanness of the water you drink.
and representation. Most solicitors are employed by law firms, while others work in central or local government, in companies’ legal departments or in alternative business structures (ABS) – a type of business which provides the same services as a law firm, but is controlled by non-lawyers (eg, the Co-operative Group). Solicitors’ jobs are very different depending on what area of law they work in (eg, crime or family) and whether their work is advisory (eg, helping one company buy another) or involves legal disputes (eg, one company suing another). All solicitors’ jobs involve some or all of the following: • meeting clients, finding out their needs and establishing how to help; • researching relevant areas of law and advising clients of their options; • drafting letters, contracts and other legal documents; and • acting on behalf of clients in negotiations and representing them at tribunals or in court. Being a solicitor is a tough but rewarding job. Many solicitors in law firms work their way up from trainee to associate to partner. (NB chartered legal executives often have very similar jobs to solicitors.)
The first thing to know is that traditionally, the legal profession is divided into two main branches – solicitors and barristers. However, these are not the only types of lawyer and there are chartered legal executives, paralegals, apprentices and more – find out more in “Apprenticeships and paralegals” on p6 and in the companion to this booklet, The Law Apprenticeships Guide 2021 , which is available free at schools and online at www.lawcareers. net. For now, here is an introduction to what solicitors and barristers do. Solicitors Solicitors provide advice and guide clients through legal issues. They are the first point of contact for people and organisations (eg, companies and charities) seeking legal advice
Practice area snapshot Below is just a small selection of the vast array of work areas out there:
Corporate/ commercial Commercial and corporate solicitors advise on complex transactions and act for businesses of all sizes, from international corporations to small start- ups. General company law might involve advising on company directors’ rights and responsibilities, board meetings and shareholders’ rights. Corporate work often concerns mergers and acquisitions, demergers, joint ventures and share issues.
Criminal lawyers advise and represent their clients in court on criminal charges that can range from minor motoring offences to more serious crimes, including murder. Barristers may be called on to act for either the defence or the prosecution.
As a solicitor, you’ll be working on disputes that end up in employment tribunals or in the High Court, helping to draft contracts of employment or advising on working hours. Your client could be the employer or employee. As a barrister, you will be appearing on behalf of your client in either a tribunal or court, often in different parts of the country.
Family lawyers deal with all legal matters relating to marriage, separation, divorce, cohabitation and legal issues relating to children. Family law also encompasses financial negotiations, inheritance issues and prenuptial contracts.
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