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The Oracle

Can I transfer from solicitor to barrister?

updated on 15 August 2023

Dear Oracle

I want to be a barrister, but it seems more financially secure to train at a City law firm and more likely that I’d be able to secure a training contract, compared to pupillage. Can I train as a solicitor and re-qualify as a barrister in the future?

The Oracle replies

Reading time: two minutes

It’s entirely possible to transfer from solicitor to barrister – the Bar Standards Board (BSB) publishes the following information on how to do this. You’ll be required to submit an application to the BSB which will decide whether you should be exempt from some or all of the requirements for training for the Bar. You may be required to complete assessments via the Bar Transfer Test.

However, at this early stage you must think strategically about what you're trying to achieve with this move before you’ve even embarked on your legal career. Solicitors who later qualify as barristers have often been practising for many years and sensibly decided that becoming a barrister is an excellent career change. So, it may be pre-emptive to think about switching before you’ve had a chance to fully experience either career path.

If you've always yearned to be at the Bar but are prepared to 'settle' for a training contract, you’re misguided. While there are many more training contracts on offer than pupillages, it’s no easy road to travel. And if your motivation isn’t a burning desire to work in the City, but you’re 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 your heart’s not in it and you won’t be as likely to succeed.

You should weigh up what you think aligns with your passion and personality. Our handy ‘Solicitor versus barrister’ page addresses the key differences between the two job roles to help you understand what each does, and the skills you should be developing to enter either side of the profession.

If you do decide that life as a solicitor is for you, then research the firms you think will suit you and use our training contract search tool to stay up to date with firm deadlines. However, if you think that becoming a barrister is the career that’ll satisfy you professionally, then re-engage with what that’ll require and persevere.

Ultimately, you should be looking to enter the legal profession with an understanding of the different types of lawyer and an awareness of what you’d like to become – and why. Although you might decide to change your mind later down the line, at this moment in time focus on doing the research and getting work experience in order to fully commit to whatever you decide.

Don’t forget, if you’re having trouble trying to figure out which direction to take your career, have a look at our Solicitor and Barrister hubs. And, whichever you choose, sign up for a free MyLCN account to keep track of deadlines, bookmark pages and make notes.