The term ‘lawyer’ is often used as a general term to describe anyone giving professional legal advice (who is qualified) or for anyone who deals with legal matters including conducting proceedings in court. However, within this term there are two main roles which are recognised – Barrister and Solicitor.
These are traditionally the two main roles within the legal profession and each has different responsibilities and job specifications and requires different qualifications and training.
Training & qualifications
For any legal role there is a large amount of discipline required, as the study is long and demanding. As a Barrister you are required to achieve a degree that is at least Upper Second class Honour’s. This does not have to be a Law degree, but if it is not a student is required to sit a separate Postgraduate course or Common Professional Examination (CPE) to progress down this career route.
Solicitors are similarly required to get the same level of degree in law and then they would be expected to enrol in the Law Society and begin studying legal practice. As with Barristers, if the degree is on an alternative subject, you need to complete a secondary course, such as the CPE, before enrolling in a legal practice.
The further training from there depends on what area of law you want to go into. For new Barristers there is a one-year Bar Professional Training Course, which must then be followed with a 12-month pupillage in chambers. Budding Solicitors need to take a one-year Legal Practice Course and then follow this with a two-year training contract, usually working within a firm of solicitors.
Day-to-day work & responsibilities
Once you are qualified as a Barrister your main role is to offer advice on legal issues and represent your client in the courtroom. You are also responsible for drafting legal pleadings and giving expert legal opinions. However, Barristers do also spend a lot of time out of court, and during these times they have to work on their cases and research their professional arguments in Chambers. Barristers are also rarely hired by clients directly and are normally instructed by Solicitors to work on a case for a client.
Solicitors generally have a more direct route to clients. Their day to day work also consists of more paperwork and dealing with legalities. Solicitors are usually the first point of contact for a person seeking legal advice. As a general rule, Solicitors tend to work within a team or practice as opposed to Barristers who have a more individual role.
There are many similarities between the roles of Barrister and Solicitor. The academic requirements as well as training length are of a very similar nature. It is the day-to-day duties where the roles differ the most, and it is this that a Law graduate would need to consider when looking for a suitable role in the legal profession.
This article has been provided by BCL Legal – Law Recruitment Specialists.