Solicitors v barristers
One of the key questions you must address when considering a career in the law is whether to become a solicitor or a barrister. Simply put, a barrister appears in court, while a solicitor works in a law firm. The term ‘lawyer’ applies to both.
However, the differences are much more complex. Some say it comes down to whether you are an individualist (barrister) or a team player (solicitor). While it is true that a barrister is almost always selfemployed and connected to other barristers only by convenience, and a solicitor 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 spend many hours on their own in a room drafting documents.
The decision as to which strand suits 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 decide.
It is also possible to practise law as a legal executive (CILEx) lawyer - a qualified lawyer who is trained to specialise as an expert in a particular area of law. For more info on the route to CILEx qualification, go to www.cilex.org.uk.
|As of December 2011, there were around 160,000 on the solicitors’ roll.||As of July 2012, there were 12,364 selfemployed barristers (not including those in dual practice, registered European lawyers or second six pupils).|
|Women make up around 46% of the profession. However, fewer women than men are currently at partner level - 18% compared to 45% of male solicitors in private practice.||Women make up around 48.5% of those taking pupillage and around 53% of those called to the Bar (according to the Bar Barometer December 2011 and based on information as at December 2010).|
|Mostly employed in private law firms, so receive regular monthly salary.||Mostly self-employed, so receive irregular (but often substantial) fees.|
|Work mainly with individuals, companies and barristers.||Work mainly with solicitors and other barristers.|
|Office-based.||Chambers and court-based.|
|Engage more in ongoing advisory and one-to-one client work.||Engage more in one-off advocacy (ie, court cases).|
|Aspire to become partner (ie, part ownership of firm and entitlement to a percentage of its profits).||Aspire to Queen's Counsel (QC) - ie, a top barrister, normally instructed in very serious and complex cases.|
|The Solicitors Regulation Authority has just abolished its minimum annual trainee salary, which means that as of 2014 trainees can be paid the national minimum salary. However, many firms will continue to pay considerably more; a first-year trainee at a large City firm could earn around £37,000, rising to £65,000 on qualification.||The Bar Standards Board requires that all pupils be paid no less than £12,000 per annum. Many earn much more - upwards of £60,000 in some cases.|