Branches of the legal profession
One of the key questions to address when considering a legal career is what type of lawyer you want to be. For many, that will mean deciding between becoming a solicitor or a barrister. For some, the option to ‘earn while you learn’ as a chartered legal executive will appeal.
Simply put, a barrister appears in court, while a solicitor or chartered legal executive works in a law firm. The term ‘lawyer’ applies to all three. However, the differences are much more complex. Some say that it comes down to whether you are an individualist (barrister) or a team player (solicitor/legal executive). While it is true that a barrister is almost always self-employed and connected to other barristers only by convenience, and a solicitor/legal executive may be just one worker in a law firm of thousands of people, in reality the situation is less black and white. Barristers are often involved in teamwork and some solicitors/legal executives spend many hours on their own in a room drafting documents.
The decision as to which strand would suit you best rests on a number of factors concerning your abilities, temperament and - dare we say it - financial circumstances. Over the page is a brief guide with some key facts, which may help you to decide.
|Solicitors||Barristers||Chartered legal executives|
|As of June 2013, there were 167,267 individuals on the solicitors’ roll.||As of July 2012, 81.3% of barristers (ie, 12,674) were self-employed barristers (not including those in dual practice, registered European lawyers or second six pupils).||As of June 2013, there were around 20,000 trainee and practising chartered legal executives.|
|Women make up around 47% of the profession. However, fewer women than men are currently at partner level - 17% compared to 40% of male solicitors in private practice.||Women make up around 41% of those taking pupillage and around 49.1% of those called to the Bar (according to the Bar Barometer November 2012 report and based on information from 2011).||Women make up around 74% of CILEx members|
|Mostly employed in private law firms, so receive regular monthly salary.||Mostly self-employed, so receive irregular (but often substantial) fees.||Mostly employed in private law firms or in-house, so receive regular monthly salary.|
|Work mainly with individuals, companies and barristers.||Work mainly with solicitors and other barristers.||Work mainly with solicitors and individuals.|
|Office-based, although have some rights of audience.||Chambers and court-based.||Office-based, although they have some of the same rights of audience|