Legal Profession in England and Wales

In England and Wales we all know more or less when and why we need lawyers. What non-lawyers usually do not know is the different kinds of lawyers in England and Wales and their organisation, regulation, rolls, responsibilities and powers, and this article aims at explaining this to a non-lawyer in a simple language.

The students at colleges and universities are also usually unaware of the variety of options that are available for becoming a lawyer in England and Wales. The article therefore also explains the general entry requirements and route for each kind of lawyers and thus is equally helpful for students and prospective lawyers.

Lawyers are allowed to undertake reserved legal activity that a non-lawyer is not legally allowed to do on behalf of a client. The reserved legal activity is the provision of legal advice, assistance or representation in connection with the application of the law or any form of resolution of legal disputes.

The reserved legal activity in England and Wales includes; the exercise of Rights of Audience (i.e. appearing as an advocate before a court), the conduct of litigation (i.e. issuing proceedings before a court and commencing, prosecuting or defending those proceedings), reserved instrument activities (i.e. dealing with the transfer of land or property under specific legal provisions), probate activities, notarial activities and the administration of oaths (i.e. taking oaths, swearing affidavits etc.).

Legal Services Board is an independent oversight body made up of mostly non-lawyers responsible for approving regulators in the legal profession in England and Wales.

There are eight approved regulators in England and Wales namely; the Law Society, the Bar Council, the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives, the Association of Costs Draftsmen, the Council of Licensed Conveyancers, the Institute of Trademark Attorneys, Intellectual Property Regulation Board and Master of Faculties which are authorised to regulate individuals who carry out the aforementioned reserved legal activities. An individual may be a member of one or more than one of the above approved regulator at one time. Each of the approved regulators above is required by the Legal Services Act 2007 to separate their representative functions from their regulatory functions. The following provides further information about the each category.



Who regulates Barristers?

The Bar Council of England and Wales is the Representative body and The Bar Standards Board is the Independent regulatory arm of the Bar Council.

What do Barristers do?

Barristers are lawyers in England and Wales who provide specialist legal advice and represent their clients in court as advocates and through written legal advice. They offer advice on legal issues and are on the front line, representing clients in court. They usually receive their information and instructions through a client’s solicitor. They have rights of audience in any Court in England and Wales and can also accept direct instructions from clients now. They are usually self-employed (about 80%) and work in set of Chambers (as tenants).

How Many Barristers are currently practising?

15,204 Barristers in 2012

What is the general route to becoming a Barrister?

Academic stage

Qualifying Law Degree (Normally 3 years full-time, two years intensive course at some places)

Any Degree followed by a Conversion Course

Vocational Training Stage

One year full-time or two years part-time Bar Professional Training Course

Work Experience Stage

One year’s Pupillage in chambers

Transfer from other Jurisdictions/Approved Regulators

Qualified foreign lawyers, European Lawyers and Legal academics can transfer to the Bar and become a Barrister. Solicitors in England and Wales can transfer to the Bar and become a Barrister

Specialist Barristers

There are 24 Specialist Bar Associations dedicated to the interests of groups of Barristers within specific practice areas and geographical regions. There are also specialist sets of Chambers which are experts in particular areas of law.



Who regulates Solicitors?

The Law Society of England and Wales is the Professional representative body for Solicitors and Solicitors Regulation Authority is the Independent regulatory arm of the Law society

What do Solicitors do?

A Solicitor is a lawyer who can deal with any legal matter including conducting proceedings in the court accepting direct instructions from any client. They also have rights of audience in lower courts, however, in order to attain the same rights of audience in the higher courts as a Barrister they need to do further training course and can thereby become Solicitor Advocates. They are the first point of contact for people and bodies seeking skilled legal advice and representation. Most solicitors work together in private practice, while others work in central and local government, or in-house in a commercial or industrial organisation.

How Many Solicitors are currently practising?

120,202 Solicitors in 2012

What is the general route to becoming a Solicitor?

Academic stage

Qualifying law degree (Normally 3 years full-time, two years intensive course at some places)

Common Professional Examination/Graduate Diploma in Law

Vocational Training Stage

One year full-time or two years part-time Legal Practice Course

Work Experience Stage

Two years’ training contract

Transfer from other Jurisdictions/Approved Regulators

Qualified foreign lawyers and England and Wales Barristers can transfer through Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme in order to become a Solicitor in England and Wales. Chartered Legal Executives can become Solicitors by completing LPC and not required to complete a training contract.

Specialist Solicitors

Law Society has many different Accreditation Schemes where Solicitors can specialize in a particular area(s) of law.


Chartered Legal Executives

Who regulates Chartered Legal Executives?

Chartered Institute of Legal Executives is the professional representative body and CILEX Professional Standard Board is the Independent regulatory arm of the CILEX.

What do Chartered Legal Executives do?

Legal Executives are specialist lawyers usually practising in one or more areas of law and employed by law firms. They are usually fee earners and can act as Commissioners for Oaths. They also have limited rights of audience when trained as Legal Executive Advocates.

How Many Chartered Legal Executives are currently practising?

7,907 CILEX practising members in 2012

What is the general route to becoming a Chartered Legal Executive?

Vocational Training Stage

Level 3 and Level 6 Diplomas of CILEX

Work Experience Stage

5 years qualifying Employment, minimum 2 years after completion of level 6 diploma

Transfer from other Approved Regulators

Solicitors and Barristers can transfer to become a Fellow of CILEX.

Specialist Legal Executives

Chartered Legal Executives are almost always Specialist Lawyers in one or more areas of law.


Licensed Conveyancers

Who regulates Licensed Conveyancers?

Council for Licensed Conveyancers is the regulatory body for Licensed Conveyancers in England and Wales.

What do Licensed Conveyancers do?

Conveyancing is the process of legally transferring title or ownership of property from one person to another. A licensed conveyancer is a specialist property lawyer qualified in all aspects of property law in England and Wales. A licensed conveyancer is also a Commissioner of Oaths and an increasing number offer additional services such as probate.

 How Many Licensed Conveyancers are currently practising?

1,071 Licensed Conveyancers in 2012

What is the general route to becoming a Licensed Conveyancer?

The basic entry requirement is four GCSE Grade A-C passes (or equivalent) in English Language and three other approved subjects. If you do not meet the entry criteria, but are currently working in the office of a licensed conveyancer or solicitor and are over 18 years of age, you may still apply. There is also an option to apply as a mature student (aged 25 and over). Once you become a licensed conveyancer you will also have the opportunity to qualify as a probate practitioner.

Transfer from other Approved Regulators

Solicitors and Chartered Legal Executives can apply for the Conveyancing License


Costs Lawyers

Who regulates Costs Lawyers?

Association of Costs Lawyers is the Professional representative body and Costs Lawyer Standard Board is the independent regulatory arm of the Association of Costs Lawyers

What do Costs Lawyers do?

Three of the main areas in which Costs Lawyers may become involved are: Costs payable “between the parties”; Solicitor and “own client” costs and; Publicly-funded (legal aid) costs. Costs Lawyers are often involved at all stages of the process known as “detailed assessment” during litigation. In addition, Costs Lawyers are often engaged by solicitors during the litigation to advise on costs budgeting or to assist with interim applications for costs. Where a solicitor is representing a publicly-funded client, a detailed bill is usually required to be assessed either by the court or the Legal Services Commission before payment can be made out of public funds to the solicitor. Costs Lawyers are often engaged to prepare such bills.

 How Many Costs Lawyers are currently practising?

565 Authorised Law Costs Draftsmen in 2012

What is the general route to becoming a Costs Lawyer?

You need to complete The Modular Training Course of ACL. The course consists of 3 modules: The first module covers general legal principles, general legal procedures and general principles of costs law and practice. The second module covers civil costs law and practice including between-the- parties costs, litigation funding, detailed assessment procedures and advocacy. It will include practical skills training. The third module covers public funding (legal aid) and non-contentious costs. Criminal costs will be included as will Court of Protection/PGO costs together with solicitor and own client costs. The module will include training in the completion of LSC claim forms and bill drafting.


Trade Mark Attorneys

Who Regulates Trade Mark Attorneys?

Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys is the professional representative body and Intellectual Property Regulation Board is the independent regulatory arm of this body.

What do Trade Mark Attorneys do?

A Trade Mark Attorney Provides advice on the suitability of a word or logo, for example, as a trade mark and undertakes searches, nationally and internationally, to see if others are already using the same sign. He/she advises on in which countries the trade mark might be protected and the most cost effective way of achieving this and help secure License agreements so that others might use the trade mark to the mutual advantage of the parties. He/she gives advice on the action needed to safeguard a protected trade mark and on how to deal with any infringements by another party and offers strategic advice on what to file, when to file and when to take action to ensure suitable protection, whilst helping to develop brand enlargement. Some Trade Mark Attorneys are also qualified litigators and have litigators’ rights in the Patent Court and the High Court.

 How Many Trade Mark Attorneys are currently practising?

639 Registered Trade Mark Attorneys in 2012

What is the general route to becoming a Trade Mark Attorney?

If you have passed both the foundation and advanced level trade mark exams and are listed on the Register of Trade Mark Agents.

Transfer from other Approved Regulators

If you are a UK barrister or solicitor who is engaged in practice as a Trade Mark Attorney or Agent, have at least two years’ full-time practice in the field of IP and have the support of two Corporate Members of ITMA.


Registered Patent Attorneys

Who Regulates Registered Patent Attorneys?

Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys is the professional representative body and Intellectual Property Regulation Board is the independent regulatory arm of this body.

What do Registered Patent Attorneys do?

A patent attorney is a member of a small profession qualified by examination in the intellectual property law of the United Kingdom and abroad. Patent attorneys are specially trained and experienced in the art of drafting patents and in knowledge of intellectual property law.

How Many Registered Patent Attorneys are currently practising?

1687 UK Registered Patent Attorneys in 2012

What is the general route to becoming a Registered Patent Attorney?

Both patent attorneys and registered trade mark attorneys qualify by taking appropriate examinations in accordance with the Regulations of IPReg. The examinations for entry on the Regsiter of Patent Attorneys are set by the Joint Examination Board, a body set up and controlled by CIPA and ITMA.

Transfer from other Approved Regulators

Solicitors and Barristers can carry out the activities carried out by the Registered Patent Attorneys.



Who regulates notaries?

Master of Faculties is the regulatory body.

What do Notaries do?

A Notary Public is a legal officer who prepares and executes documents for use abroad, attests the authenticity of deeds and writings and protests bills of exchange.

How many Notaries are currently practising?

There are 858 Notaries on the Roll in England and Wales according to 2012 statistics.

What is the general route to becoming a Registered Patent Attorney?

The qualification and appointment of notaries in England and Wales is regulated by the Notaries (Qualification) Rules 1998

















4 thoughts on “Legal Profession in England and Wales

  1. A thoroughly enlightening and educative blog. Significantly detailed and highly relevant and useful to the non legal audience.

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