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The Oracle

Can I switch from solicitor to barrister?

updated on 27 August 2019

Dear Oracle

I've always wanted to be a barrister, but now I think it seems more financially secure to train at a City firm and more likely that I would be able to secure a training contract, compared to a pupillage at a top commercial set. Would it hurt my career prospects of practising at the Bar to train as a solicitor before re-qualifying or transferring?

The Oracle replies

It is entirely possible to make the switch from solicitor to barrister - the Bar Standards Board publishes the following information. However, while it is possible, you need to think clearly about what you're trying to achieve with this move. Your position is not one of someone who has been a solicitor for many years and has sensibly decided that becoming a barrister would be an excellent career change.

Rather, if you've always yearned to be at the Bar, but you're prepared to 'settle' for a training contract, you are misguided. While there are many more training contracts around than pupillages, it is no easy road to travel. And if your motivation is not a burning desire to work in the City, but you are instead gripped by a 'second-choice' mentality, or you're thinking of it as a stop gap before eventually finding your way back to the Bar, then you won’t be as likely to succeed.

You have to weigh up what you think will suit you best and then really go for it. If the answer to that is life as a solicitor, then research the firms you think will suit you, adjust your gaze and really focus on that. If you think that the Bar is the only thing that will satisfy you professionally, then re-engage with what that will require and persevere. We're not saying there's no room for change - but it is important to be honest about your motivations!

For more on life as each, read these solicitor and barrister pages.