Questions about becoming a criminal lawyer?

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JoshNolan
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#1
Report Thread starter 7 years ago
#1
Hello, I have some questions for any experienced or knowledgeable people out there about Law and how to become a lawyer, specifically in criminal law. First off here are some background facts about me:

  • I am about to start my second year in an LLB Law with Criminology degree at a mid-to-high level university (the rankings put in the top 30 for Law). I wanted to go to Oxbridge when I started sixth form but I seriously screwed up my A levels and I have a lot of regret about that. In the end I resat and got AAA but I definitely could have had that first time around if I worked hard enough.
  • In my first year I achieved a 2:1 overall and that was without a significant amount of effort - I hope I can achieve a 1st overall if I put my mind to it.
  • When I started my degree I actually wanted to go into the police, mostly because I assumed my university wasn't "good enough" for me to become a lawyer, but I've since changed my mind.
  • I want to become the type of lawyer who represents the defence in criminal trials. I'm not sure whether this is a solicitor or barrister since I'm not very knowledgeable in this area.


Ok and here are my questions:
  1. Ok seriously, is my university (ranked in the top 30 but by no means a "top" university) well respected enough for me to realistically achieve my goals? This is the big one for me. When I was 17 used to use a forum similar to this and everyone was basically saying that if you don't go to Oxbridge and get at least a 2:1 you are screwed, so I basically gave up before I started.
  2. I heard to become a lawyer you need to secure a "training contract". How does one go about doing this and what are my chances?
  3. What sort of experience could I get to increase my chances of becoming a lawyer? I'm currently volunteering with my local Police (this could be useful?) and I have a job working in a garden centre part-time. I heard you can shadow lawyers to get experience?
  4. What actually is the difference between a solicitor and barrister? I heard a solicitor doesn't appear in court and instead just does all the background paperwork? Is this right?
  5. What does the job actually entail? I mean as a defence lawyer would I work for myself or for a specific company? It can't be the same job in criminal trials and civil trials right? The whole thing confuses me to be honest.
  6. Finally, having read my info and stuff, do you honestly think I have a chance at achieving my goals?


Thanks a lot for any answers.
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Birkenhead
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#2
Report 7 years ago
#2
(Original post by JoshNolan)
Hello, I have some questions for any experienced or knowledgeable people out there about Law and how to become a lawyer, specifically in criminal law. First off here are some background facts about me:

  • I am about to start my second year in an LLB Law with Criminology degree at a mid-to-high level university (the rankings put in the top 30 for Law). I wanted to go to Oxbridge when I started sixth form but I seriously screwed up my A levels and I have a lot of regret about that. In the end I resat and got AAA but I definitely could have had that first time around if I worked hard enough.
  • In my first year I achieved a 2:1 overall and that was without a significant amount of effort - I hope I can achieve a 1st overall if I put my mind to it.
  • When I started my degree I actually wanted to go into the police, mostly because I assumed my university wasn't "good enough" for me to become a lawyer, but I've since changed my mind.
  • I want to become the type of lawyer who represents the defence in criminal trials. I'm not sure whether this is a solicitor or barrister since I'm not very knowledgeable in this area.


Ok and here are my questions:
  1. Ok seriously, is my university (ranked in the top 30 but by no means a "top" university) well respected enough for me to realistically achieve my goals? This is the big one for me. When I was 17 used to use a forum similar to this and everyone was basically saying that if you don't go to Oxbridge and get at least a 2:1 you are screwed, so I basically gave up before I started.
  2. I heard to become a lawyer you need to secure a "training contract". How does one go about doing this and what are my chances?
  3. What sort of experience could I get to increase my chances of becoming a lawyer? I'm currently volunteering with my local Police (this could be useful?) and I have a job working in a garden centre part-time. I heard you can shadow lawyers to get experience?
  4. Finally, having read my info and stuff, do you honestly think I have a chance at achieving my goals?


Thanks a lot for any answers.
Barristers and solicitor advocates appear in court. Becoming a barrister would require a pupillage, not a training contract, which are for solicitor hopefuls. You can apply for pupillage either through the pupillage gateway and/or directly with the small number of chambers that do not use it. You can do this after having completed your law degree/ other degree + GDL and you BPTC, although I believe many people also apply before or while doing the BPTC similar to applying to university before A2.

I don't think it will be too hard to become a criminal barrister per se but your chances will be slim in strong London chambers. The people at your school were either misinformed or exaggerating a more realistic situation with top London chambers. University does have a great deal of influence in law; if you are in the top 30 you will automatically be rejected from the cream of the crop and entry into the next tier will be more challenging than someone from a top 20/10, but a top 30 uni is certainly good enough to become a criminal lawyer...it just won't be like suits.

Working in a garden centre will be of no interest to pupillage committees, though meaningful and skilled volunteering e.g. teaching English is noteworthy. Mini-pupillages are a given for every serious applicant; shadowing Judges is more valued. Working as a paralegal is good too. Mooting at uni, debates, and possibly a 'hook' extra curricular that distinguishes you. A young female barrister at one chambers I know of did kick boxing to the delight of the pupillage committee.

However, the criminal bar is truly benighted financially and the barristers I've shadowed have all urged me to not touch it with a barge pole. Blogs of fresh faced criminal barristers tell horror stories about how appalling the earnings are and they do not go up anywhere near quickly or steeply enough to justify the demands of the job and the expense requires to get into it. Have you thought about becoming a civil law/commercial law solicitor instead?
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LukeyJB
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#3
Report 7 years ago
#3
With the recent cuts to legal aid (no thanks to the first justice secretary in history from a non-legal background) I would recommend staying far, far away from the criminal bar. Seriously. There's a Facebook page called "Save UK Justice" with a mixture of people on it from law students to Queen's Counsel, I would recommend looking at it; they would all tell you the same. The criminal bar is far over-inflated, underpaid and is at serious risk with the way the CJS is going at the moment, not to mention how utterly useless the CPS are too.

As for your university being good enough... it's not a question with a definitive answer. The big city firms et al won't really look anywhere past Oxbridge/RG, I remember looking at a chambers' website once and everybody there had some form of Oxbridge education, yet there are firms who don't care where your degree is from. I have spoken to a fair few barristers about this and the majority say it's more about how you do (i.e. degree class, practical experience, work placements, mooting, debating etc...) as opposed to where you go. I actually had a QC DM me on Twitter once about this:

Image

It's very subjective; it depends on the chambers/person. Do your best and dedicate yourself to law and you will get to where you want to be.
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JoshNolan
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#4
Report Thread starter 7 years ago
#4
Thanks for the reply man, it is most helpful. Just a few questions about terminology you use, remember I'm new to this. What do you mean by "GDL," "BPTC," "London chambers (I've never even been to London. Why would I go to London?)," "paralegal" etc. You mention meaningful and skilled volunteering. Is my volunteering with the Police totally useless then, same as my current work experience? I would have thought that would at least be a tad useful/relevant in the criminal law field. I certainly don't see how kick-boxing is relevant to anything to do with Law, but I agree it would be nice to have a gimmick like that as a "selling point". I've played a lot of football all my life at a reasonably high level, although I take it football isn't quite quirky enough for the pupillage committees?

I'm not really interested in working in anything other than criminal law because the other areas such as commercial law and civil law bore me beyond belief. My main motivation behind wanting to be a criminal lawyer is to help people accused of crimes because I believe everyone deserves a defence and that's the real passion/driving force behind me wanting to be a lawyer. I'm not really in this for the money. Could the fact that criminal law is famously underpaid mean competition might be reduced?
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Birkenhead
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#5
Report 7 years ago
#5
(Original post by JoshNolan)
Thanks for the reply man, it is most helpful. Just a few questions about terminology you use, remember I'm new to this. What do you mean by "GDL," "BPTC," "London chambers (I've never even been to London. Why would I go to London?)," "paralegal" etc. You mention meaningful and skilled volunteering. Is my volunteering with the Police totally useless then, same as my current work experience? I would have thought that would at least be a tad useful/relevant in the criminal law field. I certainly don't see how kick-boxing is relevant to anything to do with Law, but I agree it would be nice to have a gimmick like that as a "selling point". I've played a lot of football all my life at a reasonably high level, although I take it football isn't quite quirky enough for the pupillage committees?

I'm not really interested in working in anything other than criminal law because the other areas such as commercial law and civil law bore me beyond belief. My main motivation behind wanting to be a criminal lawyer is to help people accused of crimes because I believe everyone deserves a defence and that's the real passion/driving force behind me wanting to be a lawyer. I'm not really in this for the money. Could the fact that criminal law is famously underpaid mean competition might be reduced?
GDL - graduate diploma in law. A one year conversion course for those intending on practising law but who studied a non-law undergraduate degree.

BPTC - Bar professional training course. One year course required to qualify as a barrister and to apply for pupillage.

Paralegals are essentially junior lawyers, performing clerical and administrative work for firms. Many barrister hopefuls work as a paralegal for a time, often for a year or more after failing to attain pupillage and reapplying. It is valued experience for pupillage.

Many barristers eye up London because it offers the most opportunity for work, pay, career advancement. You don't so ignore that part.

I'm fairly sure your work with the police would be valued on your CV, but it is worth finding a criminal barrister on the website of an online chambers, preferably one who sits on a pupillage selection committee, and asking for their qualified opinion via email or social media. The football is more than enough I'm sure.

I don't know what competition is like in criminal law, but you sound earnest and sincere and if you cram your CV with relevant work experience and do well in your degree I doubt it will be hard for you to find work as a criminal barrister if you don't need it to be in London and if you aren't too fussed about the money. Just make sure you've made yourself aware of the expense that you will incur in getting to that stage and if it will be worth it with the current salary trends in this area.

May I ask which uni you're at? For now I would definitely focus on a first class degree because that will likely firmly open many doors for what you're aspiring to.
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Birkenhead
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#6
Report 7 years ago
#6
(Original post by LukeyJB)
With the recent cuts to legal aid (no thanks to the first justice secretary in history from a non-legal background) I would recommend staying far, far away from the criminal bar. Seriously. There's a Facebook page called "Save UK Justice" with a mixture of people on it from law students to Queen's Counsel, I would recommend looking at it; they would all tell you the same. The criminal bar is far over-inflated, underpaid and is at serious risk with the way the CJS is going at the moment, not to mention how utterly useless the CPS are too.

As for your university being good enough... it's not a question with a definitive answer. The big city firms et al won't really look anywhere past Oxbridge/RG, I remember looking at a chambers' website once and everybody there had some form of Oxbridge education, yet there are firms who don't care where your degree is from. I have spoken to a fair few barristers about this and the majority say it's more about how you do (i.e. degree class, practical experience, work placements, mooting, debating etc...) as opposed to where you go. I actually had a QC DM me on Twitter once about this:

Image

It's very subjective; it depends on the chambers/person. Do your best and dedicate yourself to law and you will get to where you want to be.
It's worth taking this with a pinch of salt. Looking at that man's chambers and the recent recruits are all Oxbridge...the ones who aren't from a few years ago have outstanding credentials with firsts, LLMs from prestigious international faculties, Outstanding in the BPTC etc.
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ragandbone
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#7
Report 7 years ago
#7
You have more chance on the sol front than the barrister front because of the University thing - best thing to do is go check out the profiles of pupil barristers at any chambers you fancy. Where did they go to Uni?

Perhaps don't be as driven towards criminal defence - face it, it's only because you have seen it on the telly! Huge cuts in legal aid = not much work on the criminal front and a bleak future. Why not the CPS? Before you ask what that is, it is the Crown Prosecution Service. Why not go and work for the victims of crime instead of the perps?? Plus your police work will be more useful.

Why not check out the legal situation at your police force? Could you work in house as a legal bod for example?

If you want to get there, you probably will, but really research the barrister option before you plunge down that route - the odds are about a million in one that you will make it and it is a costly journey to find out that it wasn't you - better odds as a sol
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LukeyJB
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#8
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#8
It may also be worth considering doing the LPC, practising as a solicitor for a while and then 'transferring' to the Bar, many a barrister do this. It's so much easier to do once you've been a solicitor for a year or two and have built up a number of barrister contacts, as it's simply just a case of asking them to take you on as a pupil. Obviously you'd have to be a good solicitor! This is what I would do, it's so much cheaper and easier to becoming a barrister via this route, sure it'll take more time but it would be worth it in the end. You don't have to do the BPTC either (iirc?).
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50FtQueenie
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#9
Report 7 years ago
#9
This can be useful: http://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/acc...editation.page
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