Editorial Note: In the interests of transparency and fairness, we are unashamedly proud of our achievements and the years of dedication our knowledeable team have put in to finessing their skillset and hence one may infer, justifiably, that this content may be considered ‘pro solicitor’. This content has been provided to address a frequently asked prospective client question and is not intended to be accustory or offensive to any party including any bonafide and well intentioned regulated advisor. UK Immigration Solicitors are pro equality and transparency and are commited to promoting freedom of choice and high professional standards for all in the legal industry.
At times when dealing with clients we find there are difficulties understanding the difference between a solicitor and an advisor. So here’s the answer:
Solicitor: Committing several years to university to become learned in the law, typically at least 3 years. This is also the starting point for the barristers who actually make the arguments in court. Those who are degree qualified in another academic area can become solicitors but they must complete a one year GDL conversion course in order to begin their legal studies.
On top of their academic studies, trainee solicitors and barristers must also complete an additional training course on top of their degree. This usually involves taking a 12 month postgraduate study called the Legal Practice Course (LPC) which introduces the trainee to the day to day basics of actually practicing law, including using research skills to find solutions to legal problems and challenges, advocacy skills, court procedures and processes as well as client care.
Once this extra study is complete, the trainee undertakes a two-year training contact within an established solicitors firm where they work under the close supervision of an experienced solicitor to build up their own practical experience. Once this two years is satisfactorily completed, they qualify as a solicitor.
Upon qualification the trainee solicitor petitions the Law Society in order to become a solicitor and in doing so agrees to be bound by the strict Code of Ethics and Conduct which governs UK law practitioners. They must also undergo a CRB check and ensure that they renew their licence to practice law each year. All of which means that the path to becoming a fully qualified, practicing solicitor involves all of the below:
And given that immigration is a highly specialist area of UK law, most qualified immigration law professionals will also have undertaken additional training and maybe also a Masters Degree. All practicing solicitors are continually monitored and regulated and are required to attend personal development training on a regular basis in order to be able to renew their licence each year.
All solicitors must work under a firm that is regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), be covered by an indemnity insurance policy and also have a clear policy and procedure for resolving complaints. All of which means if there are any issues there are clear guidelines to follow to get a resolution.
So, now we’ve gone through the specifics of what a solicitor is, how do advisers compare?
Immigration Advisor registered with the OISC
Whilst there are many diligent, knowledgeable and able immigration advisor’s out there, it is also true that any one, including you, regardless of your education background could be an immigration advisor in a few weeks. Anyone at all, with no prior knowledge of or training in the law can become a registered OISC Immigration Advisor very quickly. As with most professions, there is a wide disparity between just becoming authorised and being knowledgeable via on the job experience and it is fair to note that commited advisor’s may elect to complete additional competance tests and achieve a level 3 status which is highly respectable. Nonetheless however, to obtain basic level 1 OISC accreditation, the requirements at present are confined to sucessfully completing an online multiple choice test that can be completed within an hour.
Immigration advisors are regulated by the OISC and the path to becoming one is a straightforward one. All you are required to do is register an account on the OISC website and take an online, unsupervised test that covers the basics, apply for and pass a DBS check and finally complete an application to become an advisor. That’s it.
While on one hand it takes several years of hard study and supervised training to become a solicitor, you can become an accredited Immigration Advisor within roughly one month and three weeks of that is waiting for the DBS check in the post. Once you get it back, you’re free to set up shop as an Immigration Advisor and begin offering advice to clients that will affect their future.
Does it really matter?
Well, don’t misunderstand us, this post isn’t us saying ‘all Immigration Advisors are terrible’ because we know that’s not the case. However, there is simply no substitute for the knowledge and experience that a seasoned law professional has picked up in their journey to becoming licenced to practice law. A 1 hour test and a DBS check are no comparison with the ardious and laborius commitments demonstratable to become an expereienced immigration solicitor.
Immigration matters can be expensive and there is no 100% guarantee of success, so why wouldn’t you give your case the best chance by engaging an experienced, professional firm?
That’s not to say of course that there aren’t less than honest solicitors firms out there – there are – but thanks to Solicitor Regulations Authority regulation you do have a clear course of action to follow to resolve any disputes. The SRA set exceptionally high standards of conduct which must be adhered to by all practisicing solicitors and also ensure there is appropriate recourse for clients where such standards are not upheld.
UK Immigration Solicitors
At UK Immigration Solicitors we are fully SRA regulated and we work on what’s called a ‘Fixed Fee’ basis. What this means is that once we have understood your needs and established what work needs to be done, we inform you of a fixed cost for those services which means no additional sums later, so no nasty surprises. We also keep you updated on the progress of your case throughout the process.
A good way to understand the difference between solicitors and advisors is this: You have a handyman who you call in when you need plumbing issues fixed, decorating done etc but say you now want to build yourself a new house from scratch. The handyman can fix most things around the house but are you going to call him in to build your new house from scratch or approach a civil engineer to design it and a construction company to build it?