Criminal Barrister vs Criminal Solicitor/Solicitor-Advocate Watch

HarmanFan
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Which role would you say is the best? What are the pros and cons of each?
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lionboy
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well if you can go for advocate its insanely competitive...what route are you going i.e a levels...dgree ???
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lionboy
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well this is silly ...if you go advoate you should really go for a first in your degree...if not then solicitor...have fun
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resipsaloq
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Some people say that there is no future in the criminal Bar. This has been said before. It's probably easier to get a job as a criminal solicitor. Whether you will be able to end up standing up in court is uncertain, however.

I'd say, if you're got the grades and motivation, try and become a criminal barrister. If you're a bit more risk-averse, become a sol.
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Crazy Jamie
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The obvious benefit of the criminal bar is more potential in terms of career progression. Remember that being a criminal solicitor doesn't necessarily mean that you will be doing advocacy, and even then there will be a lot more to your job in terms of the case handling (and, indeed, client handling) side of things. Then again a position as a criminal solicitor will probably offer more in way of certainty and stability, especially considering the issues facing the criminal bar at the moment.

It is perhaps also worth remembering that it is possible to secure an employed pupillage with the CPS, which offers a different slant on things.

Overall I would agree with resipsaloq; a career as a criminal barrister is something that you have to be motivated for, and is something that will likely appeal to you or not. If you have grades and the attitude to have a realistic shot at securing pupillage, I would go down that route.
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nulli tertius
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(Original post by Crazy Jamie)
Remember that being a criminal solicitor doesn't necessarily mean that you will be doing advocacy
In over 20 years in the profession I haven't met one who doesn't!

I think even those who are now basically managing teams of criminal lawyers like to keep their hand in as advocates.
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Crazy Jamie
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(Original post by nulli tertius)
In over 20 years in the profession I haven't met one who doesn't!

I think even those who are now basically managing teams of criminal lawyers like to keep their hand in as advocates.
Fair enough; perhaps it would be better to rephrase in that being a criminal solicitor may not meet a person's expectations as regards advocacy (in terms of quantity and/or quality) if that person also has their eye on the criminal bar as a career path.
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nulli tertius
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(Original post by Crazy Jamie)
Fair enough; perhaps it would be better to rephrase in that being a criminal solicitor may not meet a person's expectations as regards advocacy (in terms of quantity and/or quality) if that person also has their eye on the criminal bar as a career path.
I think that is a much better way of putting it particularly in terms of quality.

The economics of the two professions means that it is rarely sensible for a solicitor advocate to do jury trials. Indeed it isn't that surprising to find higher court solicitor advocates with greater experience of appellate or court martial work than jury trials.
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jjarvis
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(Original post by nulli tertius)
I think that is a much better way of putting it particularly in terms of quality.

The economics of the two professions means that it is rarely sensible for a solicitor advocate to do jury trials. Indeed it isn't that surprising to find higher court solicitor advocates with greater experience of appellate or court martial work than jury trials.
Out of curiosity (I don't think I want to go to the criminal bar--though the "on your feet" aspects of criminal practice appeal, little else about the area does), do more criminal solicitors cross over to the Bar than solicitors practicing in other areas?
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nulli tertius
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(Original post by jjarvis)
Out of curiosity (I don't think I want to go to the criminal bar--though the "on your feet" aspects of criminal practice appeal, little else about the area does), do more criminal solicitors cross over to the Bar than solicitors practicing in other areas?
If you go back more than 25 years or so, the vast majority of solicitors were general practitioners. Therefore the question really only has meaning for the last 25 years or so.

In the last 25 years I would say not. I think it has generally been the common law civil litigators who have gone over. If you are a civil litigator who is keen on advocacy, it is hard to tip the balance away from paperwork and into the courtroom. Of course until relatively recently High Court trial advocacy was closed to you. Much more work was in the High Court and London solicitors avoided the County Courts other than the Mayor's and City of London Court like the plague.

When higher courts rights were first created, the experience standard was set at a very high level for civil rights (it has since been reduced) and very few solicitors (even those doing substantial amounts of advocacy) could meet them. It was still easier to become a barrister (bearing in mind pupillages then could be unfunded).

Even for the committed criminal advocate, there are a lot of advantages to being a solicitor over a barrister. The major ones are little travelling, few overnight stays, not having to work up cases at the last minute and a more certain income.

For the family lawyer, once proper divorce cases ceased (which were a good income source for very junior barristers) it was virtually all in chambers anyway, so solicitors had rights of audience.
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jjarvis
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(Original post by nulli tertius)
If you go back more than 25 years or so, the vast majority of solicitors were general practitioners. Therefore the question really only has meaning for the last 25 years or so.

In the last 25 years I would say not. I think it has generally been the common law civil litigators who have gone over. If you are a civil litigator who is keen on advocacy, it is hard to tip the balance away from paperwork and into the courtroom. Of course until relatively recently High Court trial advocacy was closed to you. Much more work was in the High Court and London solicitors avoided the County Courts other than the Mayor's and City of London Court like the plague.

When higher courts rights were first created, the experience standard was set at a very high level for civil rights (it has since been reduced) and very few solicitors (even those doing substantial amounts of advocacy) could meet them. It was still easier to become a barrister (bearing in mind pupillages then could be unfunded).

Even for the committed criminal advocate, there are a lot of advantages to being a solicitor over a barrister. The major ones are little travelling, few overnight stays, not having to work up cases at the last minute and a more certain income.

For the family lawyer, once proper divorce cases ceased (which were a good income source for very junior barristers) it was virtually all in chambers anyway, so solicitors had rights of audience.
Hmm, interesting. Thanks for this. That makes a lot of sense.
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Crazy Jamie
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(Original post by jjarvis)
Out of curiosity (I don't think I want to go to the criminal bar--though the "on your feet" aspects of criminal practice appeal, little else about the area does), do more criminal solicitors cross over to the Bar than solicitors practicing in other areas?
Just to add to the already comprehensive answer that has been given, but the key point is the motivation to move between the two professions. One would perhaps think at first glance that a criminal solicitor might want to switch to a career as a barrister to expand upon the advocacy that they already do, but actually I would imagine that the ability to do some advocacy whilst also having the stability of being salaried (along with other benefits mentioned in the above post) acts as a deterrent when considering a move to an inherently more risky profession.

On the other hand, solicitors specialising in areas of common law have far fewer opportunities to develop their advocacy, as has already been mentioned. Taking the example of a defendant personal injury solicitor, there is always scope for those working that area to do some advocacy, such as CMCs (especially over the phone as they don't require time out of the office for travel), but at the end of the day they also have significant demands on them in terms of case management, with high volume case loads and clients that will expect a consistently high level of service. As such getting involved in advocacy is very difficult due to the demands of working in that area, and the same applies to a lot of common law areas.

As a result when you look at barristers that have joined Chambers from backgrounds as solicitors, it seems that overwhelmingly they come from practice areas other than criminal law. I cannot claim to have experience going back as far as 25 years, but certainly off the top of my head I am struggling to think of barristers that have crossed over from being a criminal solicitor, whereas I can think of a reasonable number who used to be solicitors in other areas such as personal injury and general common law.
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