How will the role of solicitors change over the next few years?
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As most aspiring solicitors will know, one of the most useful ways to get an insight into the profession that they hope to pursue is to talk to current trainees and solicitors. However, the experiences of people currently in these positions could end up being quite different from those who haven’t yet entered the profession. New developments and advancements globally will have a major influence on several different aspects of the profession. How solicitors qualify, what they do as trainees or who their clients might be could all be aspects of the job that undergo major changes over the next few years.
In 2017 the Solicitors Regulatory Authority announced a new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE), which will be a standardised exam replacing the current Legal Practice Course (LPC). The aim of the new qualification is to provide a process that is consistent, as the current LPC programmes differ between providers. It is also hoped that the SQE will ensure that those who qualify have skills that can be adapted to new developments in the sector the world over. The SQE will be a slightly different experience to that of solicitors who took the traditional LPC route, but the modern examination should help aspiring solicitors to approach the problems and challenges of the role with more up-to-date knowledge.
The uncertainties of Brexit have been playing on the minds of many City firms, and those uncertainties are equally present for those aspiring to go into the profession. Currently, many London-based firms serve a large base of international clients – because London is a legal hub, and the legal system is well-respected globally. However, the client base of these UK firms might change if said clients experience barriers in accessing UK legal advice in the coming years. The legal landscape for these firms might change greatly, and it could mean that solicitors qualifying in the coming years will have access to different clients or sectors.
The rising use of technology is changing how the trainee role in particular functions in law firms. Just a few decades ago, legal research and due diligence were much more laborious processes. Now, with the influence of technology, many law firms have introduced smart technology to scan for useful information and research – although research still constitutes a major part of the role. The changing face of the world’s companies – with a bigger reliance on cyber-secure networks and social media – also means that the actual work solicitors are faced with is changing. Many companies now need advice on their increasingly technology-dependent endeavours, and solicitors need to be one step ahead in knowing how to advise accordingly.