General practice, legal aid and advice centres
Law on the high streets is undergoing a revolution as a result of the Legal Services Act 2007. Some predict that thousands of tiny partnerships and sole practitioners will give way to large franchises (eg, Quality Solicitors) and alternative business structures. The revolution may lead to greater consistency in training and supervision, but it will also bring new challenges – technology will be utilised more often and lawyers may need to work weekend shifts. Some firms now market their services at kiosks or pop-up stands in shopping centres. Your clients will be ordinary people with a house to buy, a spouse to divorce, an ex-employer to sue, a will to write or an injury to be compensated for. Some will be entrepreneurs in need of a steer through an exceptional phase of their business plan. You will need good time management and people skills, and must be a confident decision maker.
It's been a torrid decade for lawyers assisting publicly funded clients and opportunities for new trainees are fewer than ever. Legal aid has become unprofitable – so much so, that practitioners who remain in the field must bolster their income from privately paying clients, while the government is considering plans to cut legal aid even further.Even within law centres and other advice bureaux, priorities and clients must be selected carefully. This kind of work is only for those truly committed to universal access to justice. You will encounter abusive neighbours, rogue landlords, recidivist teens, individuals struggling to cope with disability or debt, and endless need in your local community.
In 2014 the minimum trainee salary was abolished and firms are now entitled to pay trainees the national minimum wage. While many – particularly in the commercial sector – will continue to pay their trainees well above that, it is likely that some increasingly squeezed high street and criminal firms will make use of the rule change.
If a general practice or legal aid firm is where you want to pursue your legal career, use LCN's Training contract search function to identify which firms to apply to.