(Original post by Kurdt Morello)
a fair point - but then i take the view that since it is looking more and more likely that the two disciplines will eventually merge one is at an advantage coming from a solicitors background because in the end the benefits of automatic advocacy will be enjoyed by all + the already apparent pecuniary advantage of being a solicitor as compared with a junior barrister or worse yet a pupil at an Inns of Court
Firstly, I think most practising solicitors and barristers would dispell this common 'myth'. There is no realistic prospect of the bar merging with solicitors in the near future. If you go into the High Court, the chance of you seeing a solicitor advocating in any case (except quite trivial applications) is really quite low. Solicitors just do not build up the specialism (particularly in advocacy) that barristers do. Most often they don't get their rights of audience until very late; a pupil is on court from near day 1. If you want to be on your feet in court, become a barrister. The reality is that the bar has so much knowlege and experience, it will continue to train the best advocates and legal specialists, and it will not be threatened by solicitors firms. In fact, most firms are probably rather happy to have a competitive specialist bar available to them with experts in every area of law, rather than having to bring such expertise in-house. Similarly, as long as the bar continues to attract those with particularly strong intellects and advocacy skills, it will continue to thrive. The biggest threat to the self-employed bar is from another part of the bar: the employed bar!
Secondly, in terms of finances, if you compare like-for-like (ie: magic circle solicitor vs. pupil/junior at a leading commercial set), you'll find that the barrister does better. I'm going to be a barrister - my pupillage award is £37,500 (mostly tax-free). My friends are off to the magic circle - trainee wage is £28,000 (taxable) rising to £32,000 in their second year. I'll be qualified by my second year, and would expect to be earning *well* in excess of £32,000. Solicitors also hit a 'glass ceiling' very quickly - since they are waged, their earnings only increase gradually until partnership. On the other hand, barristers are self-employed and earn what they make. So, whilst the solicitor is working every hour god sends for their employer (and to ensure they get a shot at partnership), the barrister is earning money for themselves (and more work=more money). About the same time a solicitor makes partner, a barrister can take silk - commercial silk fees are very similar to a magic circle partner's 'pay'. So, in the end, the barrister does better. Of course, there are far fewer top commercial barristers than there are magic circle solicitors, but there are far fewer barristers overall. In other words, the prospects for an able candidate are far better as a barrister.
Thirdly, access-wise, about 950 graduates from the BVC are looking for pupillage (rather than returning to home jurisdictions, etc). Each year, over 700 people enter pupillage. A small minority fail to secure tenancy somewhere. Therefore the chance of failure is actually rather small. Of course, not all of those 700 are going into top commercial sets, but then most solicitors aren't going into magic circle firms! Of course, you need to be very clever to become a barrister; you need a talent for advocacy. If you have those qualities, you aren't really at all likely to have a problem finding somewhere, and - although it might be harder at the start - you are likely to do rather well. And, if you truly want to do court-work, you'll be much happier.
In other words, don't let statistics and myths put you off chosing the career that suits you best.