Becoming a solicitor

Aim of this page

This page aims to set out the route to becoming a solicitor and the likely obstacles you may face if you have a criminal record.

It’s part of our information on specific occupations and professions.

Why is this important?

Law firms may not be averse to employing people with convictions and may only carry out basic criminal record checks. Initially however, individuals would need to meet the requirements of the Solicitors Regulation Authority to become qualified. Its important to know whether your criminal record will prove problematic before you embark on a course of study.

Introduction

Training to become a solicitor demands considerable commitment over a number of years. Legal jobs are hotly contested and you will need to be determined and highly motivated to succeed.

Qualifying as a solicitor

The route to qualification as a solicitor in England and Wales requires individuals to meet the requirements set out under the Solicitors Act 1974 to ensure they are of satisfactory character and suitability. You will therefore be required to complete a screening process before you are admitted to the roll.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is responsible for setting and maintaining standards for all solicitors practising in England and Wales. They have a duty to consider the character and suitability of anyone who wishes to enter the profession, and they must ensure that any individual admitted as a solicitor has, and maintains, the level of honesty, integrity and professionalism expected by the public and other professionals, and does not pose a risk to the public or profession.

The screening process

The screening process involves validating an individual’s name, address and other personal information supplied during the application process against appropriate third party databases. Screening will also consist of completion of a Standard Disclosure and Barring Service check.

The Suitability Test

The SRA assess the character and suitability of all individuals before they start a period of recognised training (previously referred to as a training contract) against criteria set out in the Suitability Test.

If you are aware that there may be issues around your character and suitability, it is important that you disclose this as early as possible, and at least six months before you would anticipate commencing a period of recognised training. This will allow for your application to be assessed. The SRA will ask for written confirmation of the relevant issues and individuals may be asked to appear before a Solicitors Regulation Authority adjudicator to explain their situation. If you fail to disclose any cautions or convictions this could result in your being refused admission as a solicitor in England and Wales.

You can apply for an early assessment by completing an application for Eligibility to commence a period of recognised training.  If this is submitted prior to commencing the LPC, the fee is £100.

Overseas criminal record checks

If you have lived in a country outside of the UK for a period of 6 continuous months during the last five years, you must provide a criminal record check from the relevant country or countries.

The certificate must be the original document, less than three months old and, if not in English, must be translated into English by an accepted translation body.

Personal experiences

The personal story below has been posted on theRecord, our online magazine.

‘Seeing the legal system from both sides – and becoming a solicitor’ – Thomas’ story of training to become a solicitor after receiving a seven year prison sentence

Discuss this with others

Read and share your experiences on our online forum

Key sections include:

Below you will find links to useful websites relating to this page. More specific details (including the addresses and telephone numbers) of some of the organisations listed below can be found here.

  • Solicitors Regulation Authority for general information and advice on qualifying as a solicitor
  • The Law Society supports, promotes and represents all solicitors in England and Wales
  • Law Careers is a comprehensive, one-stop online resource created for future lawyers and those who recruit them
  • All About Law  provides information on different law career options and how to enter the legal progression in the UK.

More information

  1. For practical information – More information on criminal record checks for employment and universities, colleges and education
  2. To read personal stories – You can read stories about this posted on theRecord, our online magazine, under the tag common occupations and professions
  3. To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experience on our online forum
  4. Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline

Get involved

Help us to add value to this information. You can:

  1. Comment on this information below
  2. Send your feedback directly to us
  3. Discuss your views and experiences with others on our online peer forum
  4. Share your personal story by contributing to our online magazine, theRecord
Print Friendly, PDF & Email
  • Andrea Garvey

    i have been granted permission to continue and do a course of recognised training.

  • H

    Yes please let us know.I am trying to study as a solicitor also. Not too sure about !y PNC though it’s additional info I’m afraid of .don’t know what to do? Any advice please?

  • Former Solicitor

    I qualified as a solicitor in 2011 and was struck off this June after committing an internet-based offence unrelated to my work. My understanding (though this is related to remaining, rather than becoming, a solicitor once one has committed an offence) is that the Law Society takes certain offences very seriously indeed, in order (rightly) to protect the standing of the profession, and whether or not the offence was connected to the work done (or, indeed, affected the quality of work that a solicitor does or could do) is not relevant.

    What’s obvious is that one cannot become – or remain – a solicitor while hiding a conviction. Having a conviction is not necessarily a bar; I understand that there is a solicitor in practice who has a murder conviction.