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    Basically, I have aspirations to become a commercial barrister. However due to financial reasons, I've accepted a training contract with a City firm.

    I was just wondering how meritocratic is the role of a solicitor? When you look at Chambers websites and barrister profiles there's clearly a massive focus on academics and ability. In comparison, there doesn't seem to be as much of a focus on this with solicitor firms.

    To be a successful barrister you clearly have to have an excellent knowledge of the Law, but I'm worried that the role of a solicitor is a lot more procedural.

    I'd appreciate any help on this.
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    (Original post by TriggerT2)
    Basically, I have aspirations to become a commercial barrister. However due to financial reasons, I've accepted a training contract with a City firm.

    I was just wondering how meritocratic is the role of a solicitor? When you look at Chambers websites and barrister profiles there's clearly a massive focus on academics and ability. In comparison, there doesn't seem to be as much of a focus on this with solicitor firms.

    To be a successful barrister you clearly have to have an excellent knowledge of the Law, but I'm worried that the role of a solicitor is a lot more procedural.

    I'd appreciate any help on this.
    I'm not sure I understand what you're asking?

    If your question is: do law firms assess their solicitors by reference to their ability to do the job they're employed to do (i.e. are law firms meritocracies), then the answer is yes. If you're not quite sure what commercial solicitors do then I'd suggest you do some research quickly before you start your TC. What do you mean when you say the work is "a lot more procedural"?

    If your question is: does a commercial solicitor regularly deal with "black letter" law, then the answer is "not nearly as much as a barrister". It varies from practice area to practice area but a solicitor's role is far broader than simply advising on the law. Accordingly, a great lawyer is not necessarily one who is academically strong and you shouldn't equate academic excellence with ability when it comes to practice.
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    (Original post by chalks)
    If your question is: does a commercial solicitor regularly deal with "black letter" law, then the answer is "not nearly as much as a barrister". It varies from practice area to practice area but a solicitor's role is far broader than simply advising on the law. Accordingly, a great lawyer is not necessarily one who is academically strong and you shouldn't equate academic excellence with ability when it comes to practice.
    Apologies, I was actually about to edit the question to make it a little clearer (I was trying to ask the second question.)

    I understand that academic excellence doesn't necessarily equate with ability however I get the impression that to be a great barrister you have to fundamentally be able to deal with the black letter law (and well.) When you look at profiles of leading barristers, it's clear that stellar academics have played a big part. In comparison, what makes great solicitors great?

    I suppose, my main question is how important is knowledge of the law in relation to commercial awareness etc. for a solicitor? If it helps, I'm hoping to mainly do seats in litigation.


    Thank you for the reply.
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    (Original post by TriggerT2)
    Apologies, I was actually about to edit the question to make it a little clearer (I was trying to ask the second question.)

    I understand that academic excellence doesn't necessarily equate with ability however I get the impression that to be a great barrister you have to fundamentally be able to deal with the black letter law (and well.) When you look at profiles of leading barristers, it's clear that stellar academics have played a big part. In comparison, what makes great solicitors great?

    I suppose, my main question is how important is knowledge of the law in relation to commercial awareness etc. for a solicitor? If it helps, I'm hoping to mainly do seats in litigation.


    Thank you for the reply.
    Most law firms generally won't take grads out of uni without at least a 2.2, going beyond high street/ smaller firms, usually at least a 2.1 is required. Generally, this tends to be from a law degree, so I think the question is rather silly. A 2.1 is the stated minimum by pretty much every chambers for pupillage, so on paper, both routes require more than bare minimum academic competence.

    In practice, the Bar does more of the high-brow legal stuff, because let's face it, the law is made on the Bench, with the assistance of the Bar, so you'll find barristers often have more to write academically as a result. Solicitors on the other hand have to be more "commercial awareness" oriented, i.e. "what will help my client's livelihood/ company to succeed in it's business goals", whereas a barrister will be thinking along the lines of "what will win this case for the client?".

    However, to say a solicitor doesn't need to know the law, (or that a barrister doesn't need to be commercially aware) is fool-hardy. The solicitor is usually the first point of contact with the client, and acts as an intermediary between the client and barrister. If s/he doesn't have a clue what's going on, how can they advise the client?
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    Yes I agree with previous points made. As a solicitor you must also have a good knowledge of the law. People generally choose to be either a barrister or a solicitor for different reasons other than the different knowledge required. If you love litigation and court work they I'd say you've taken the right route. Although with choosing the barrister route it's more difficult to get established and you are pretty much self-employed until your reputation can get you more work.

    Best of luck.

    Beth (solicitor)
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    (Original post by TriggerT2)
    Apologies, I was actually about to edit the question to make it a little clearer (I was trying to ask the second question.)

    I understand that academic excellence doesn't necessarily equate with ability however I get the impression that to be a great barrister you have to fundamentally be able to deal with the black letter law (and well.) When you look at profiles of leading barristers, it's clear that stellar academics have played a big part. In comparison, what makes great solicitors great?

    I suppose, my main question is how important is knowledge of the law in relation to commercial awareness etc. for a solicitor? If it helps, I'm hoping to mainly do seats in litigation.


    Thank you for the reply.
    A solicitor's role is to advise the client on legal issues, and act on their behalf. It is a broad remit which goes beyond advising on the black letter law. Accordingly, a solicitor's skill set needs to be equally as broad. A level of academic ability is a given, but absolutely stellar academics are (thankfully) not necessary. Likewise, a level of legal knowledge is clearly required but it does not need to be encyclopedic.

    A barrister, on the other hand, is operating at the pointy end of matters and does need to have the deep level of legal knowledge and ability to apply that legal knowledge to the issues at hand in a particular environment (i.e. the court). That necessitates high intellectual abilities hence the profiles you see on chambers' websites. Barristers do not, however, necessarily need to have some of the other skill sets that solicitors have.

    What makes a great solicitor? An ability to see the issue from the client's point of view and understand that this isn't a legal "matter" but a business problem which happens to have a legal element. That means working with the client to solve that business problem through the delivery of sensible commercial advice. The best lawyers are able to see the issue from a number of different angles and profer alternative solutions i.e. the old "thinking outside the box". So, a client comes to you with a new widget and says "I'd like to advertise my widget and say 'XYZ' - can i do that?". The poor solicitor says "no". The average solicitor says "It's risky to say XYZ, but its for you to make that commercial decision understanding the risks". The good solicitor says "Saying XYZ is a bit risky. If I were you, I'd amend the advertising to say 'ABC', which is still risky but better than XYZ".

    In the litigation space, there is often a temptation for lawyers to delve straight into the law and start advising the client on the legal merits of their dispute. The first question a solicitor should ask is "what do you, the client, want to achieve out of this dispute?". That will guide the way in which you advise. The client doesn't want a thesis on, say, offer and acceptance. He wants your advice on how the company can best get past this dispute, achieving its objectives, and get back to earning money. So, your advice might be to settle immediately. Or to commence proceedings, ramp up the pressure, with a view to holding a mediation.

    Sorry, bit of a ramble. Does that help?
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    Comparing commercial solicitors and barristers:

    Basically you have to remember that the vast majority of legal dealings are never contentious. Complicated mergers have hundreds upon hundreds of legal issues to resolve, all sorted by solicitors in various fields who have a deep understanding of how to facilitate the transaction, and, of course, advise their clients on the best way to do it. In short, they are deal experts. Barristers probably wouldnt, at first glance, understand the half of the transaction. Its seriously complicated with lots of abstract concepts such as vehicles.

    Barristers get involved when something goes wrong, or at the least when something unexpected turns up. Even barristers who do a lot of non contentious stuff, like tax barristers, only get involved when the issue is new. Barristers see the law in a different way; as a way to argue rather than as a tool. When a barrister takes on a case he might know very little about the specifics of the client's issues. E.g. the barristers in Henderson v Merrett Syndicates would have relied on the solicitors a LOT to tell them what was going on.

    I am talking in v broad brush terms here obviously.
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    (Original post by andymt)
    Its seriously complicated with lots of abstract concepts such as vehicles.
    Usually the outgoing MD's car which he will wish to retain above all else.

    Then there is the problem of the outgoing MD wanting to keep the car but the purchaser wanting to retain the corporate personalised plate.

    Then there is the sales-ex who causes a serious crash the week of completion and the company's insurers aren't happy to accept the car was on the policy!

    Then there is the vehicle fleet that has no relation to the asset register.

    Vehicles aren't such abstract concepts in corporate deals!
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    A lot of what's written above is correct. But the suggestion is that you can be a good barrister without having regard to the client's objective. That's wrong. The first question you ask yourself (if it's not already clear from your instructions) is "what does the client want to achieve?" To the extent that that's properly to be characterised as a "commercial" rather than a legal question, then the distinction of solicitors as primarily business advisors and secondarily lawyers, and barristers as the other way around is inaccurate.

    For what it's worth, I suspect the answer to your original question is "very". If you work tirelessly on every aspect of your professional existence you stand a reasonable chance of success as a solicitor. The same is generally true of barristers.
 
 
 
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