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.
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.
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.
Discuss this with others
Read and share your experiences on our online forum
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.
- How to become a criminal solicitor – A guide produced by Lawtons Solicitors
- For practical information – More information on criminal record checks for employment and universities, colleges and education
- To discuss this issue with others – Read and share your experience on our online forum
- Questions – If you have any questions about this, you can contact our helpline
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