Working as a Solicitor
THE IRISH TIMES and THE INSTITUTE OF GUIDANCE COUNSELLORS
HIGHER OPTIONS CONFERENCE
WORKING AS A SOLICITOR
SPEAKER: Louise Rouse
DEFINITION OF CAREER AREA: Solicitor working in the Banking Law Department of Arthur Cox.
WHAT IS INVOLVED IN A TYPICAL DAY?: Typically, my day begins at 9 am. The first half hour usually involves listening to voicemails, checking email and responding to any messages. As a banking lawyer, my day usually involves some of the following: telephone consultations with clients or solicitors, meetings, drafting legal documents such as loan and security documents, preparing for and attending at a completion meeting and doing legal research. An average working day would end at 7.00 p.m. but, occasionally, I may work later, particularly if a transaction is completing.
SKILLS USED IN THE JOB: I am a transaction lawyer. My clients are usually financial institutions who wish to finance a certain project e.g. the construction of a hotel. It is essential for a transaction lawyer to appreciate what their client is trying to achieve and to help them achieve it by identifying any potential problems and preventing them. Skills required include: good drafting skills, negotiation skills, attentiveness to detail and organization abilities. Solicitors generally require good communication skills, integrity, and a sense of humour.
REWARDS AND SATISIFACTION: I enjoy transaction work as it is varied, challenging and provides opportunities to work on important projects that are often covered in the media. I enjoyed the study of law and I enjoy applying those principles in practice. A legal career provides opportunities to meet new people. While you are unlikely to become rich working as a solicitor it is a well-paid career.
ROUTES OF ENTRY: There are several entry routes to a career in law. It is not necessary to study law at university to become a solicitor. If you hold a degree in any discipline you may apply to sit the Entrance Exams (known as FE-1) for the Law School at Blackhall Place where the professional training of solicitors takes place. You must sit these exams even if you hold a law degree.
Certain of my colleagues in Arthur Cox studied arts, commerce or psychology prior to becoming solicitors. I did a Bachelor of Corporate Law in NUI, Galway. The advantage of studying law in university is that it gives you an opportunity to study the various subjects in more detail rather than just studying all courses over one year for the entrance exams. It also teaches you to think in a certain way and you will find that you will approach all problems in an analytical and logical way. If you wish to practice in certain jurisdictions abroad e.g. New York it is necessary to have an undergraduate law degree.
CAREER PATH AND TIME SCALE: Having successfully completed the Entrance Exams a graduate must obtain a traineeship in a solicitor’s office and apply for admission to Blackhall Place as a Trainee Solicitor. The traineeship is 32 months in duration and involves periods of in-office training and two periods of study at the Law School during which the trainee sits exams and completes various assignments. These periods at the Law School are referred to as the Professional Practice Course – One (PPC1) and the Professional Practice Course – Two (PPC2). The exams which trainees sit during this period are called the FE2 and FE3 respectively. I qualified as a solicitor at 25 but with more students having to sit the Entrance Exams and others opting for traveling the average age of a newly qualified solicitor is 26.
DIFFERENT JOBS IN CAREER AREA: I work in the Banking Law Department of a large commercial law firm in Dublin. This area is highly specialized and I do not advise on other areas of law. The firm is divided into various departments i.e. litigation, tax, property and commercial.
Most solicitors work in general practice in smaller firms. Many solicitors choose to work as in-house counsel for a particular company where they act as that company’s legal advisor.
POSSIBLE TRANSFER OPTIONS: The skills, which a solicitor develops are highly transferable and many solicitors move into business, the media, politics or work with non-governmental organizations.
LIMITS AND OPPORTUNITES: If you choose to continue in the legal profession opportunities are available for promotion to partner. Alternatively, you may choose to establish your own practice.
SALARY SCALES: The recommended salary scales for trainee solicitors are as follows:
Before PPC1: the Law Society’s recommended rate of pay is €311.40 per week.
PPC1: After PPC1 the trainee is paid a minimum of €396.60 per week
Post PPC2: Trainee is paid a minimum of €472.50 per week
Many offices will pay considerably more than the recommended Law Society rates.
Post qualification rates of pay, vary hugely, and really depend on the precise nature of your work, your level of experience and ability.
ADVICE IN CHOOSING THIS AREA: Qualifying as a solicitor provides you with a good base from which to move into other fields and provides you with a qualification with which you can travel the world. You should consider a career as a solicitor if you are:
1. interested in a challenging career;
2. interested in learning as you will continue to learn throughout your career;
3. disciplined and committed;
5. organizsd; and
6. looking for a degree or qualification that will give you options.
If you are interested in a career as a corporate lawyer you should realise that it represents a lifestyle choice as much as a career choice as it can be stressful and demanding.