A barrister working at an elite commercial set vs a solicitor at a US law firm?

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username2446583
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Both in London
I know that solicitors do different things to barristers etc. but if one had the option of choosing the above two routes, how do they compare

In terms of:
- Pay
- Opportunities to go abroad
- Working environment (teamwork vs loneliness?)
- Access to people of high social status

The reason i'm using US Law firm in my question is because
1. questions about MC have been done to death
2. in my view US firms are better than MC as you get earlier access to clients, career progression is more straightforward to those who are talented and the pay is ultimately higher. in essence im trying to compare the pinnacle of the bar and the pinnacle of being a solicitor

thank you!
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999tigger
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(Original post by predatorx512)
Both in London
I know that solicitors do different things to barristers etc. but if one had the option of choosing the above two routes, how do they compare

In terms of:
- Pay
- Opportunities to go abroad
- Working environment (teamwork vs loneliness?)
- Access to people of high social status

The reason i'm using US Law firm in my question is because
1. questions about MC have been done to death
2. in my view US firms are better than MC as you get earlier access to clients, career progression is more straightforward to those who are talented and the pay is ultimately higher. in essence im trying to compare the pinnacle of the bar and the pinnacle of being a solicitor

thank you!
Have you been given the option or is it realistic?
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username2446583
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(Original post by 999tigger)
Have you been given the option or is it realistic?
Well i haven't been given the option in virtue of the fact that i'm still a first year but i hope and aim to be in that position - i'm sure that is a dilemma that many excellent law graduates face - top barrister or top solicitor. so it is a realistic option.
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Varis
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(Original post by predatorx512)
The reason i'm using US Law firm in my question is because
1. questions about MC have been done to death
2. in my view US firms are better than MC as you get earlier access to clients, career progression is more straightforward to those who are talented and the pay is ultimately higher. in essence im trying to compare the pinnacle of the bar and the pinnacle of being a solicitor
Big yikes.

As the other poster has said - aim realistic (lower).
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TheMandalorian
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(Original post by predatorx512)
Both in London
I know that solicitors do different things to barristers etc. but if one had the option of choosing the above two routes, how do they compare

In terms of:
- Pay
- Opportunities to go abroad
- Working environment (teamwork vs loneliness?)
- Access to people of high social status

The reason i'm using US Law firm in my question is because
1. questions about MC have been done to death
2. in my view US firms are better than MC as you get earlier access to clients, career progression is more straightforward to those who are talented and the pay is ultimately higher. in essence im trying to compare the pinnacle of the bar and the pinnacle of being a solicitor

thank you!
All of your questions seemed valid except for the last part of having ‘access to people of high social status.’ Why this should even matter to you I don’t understand. You should be thinking about if you’ll have access to experienced partners, legal professionals who can support you. Not whether you can meet some top hat who attended Eton and plays polo on the weekend.

In terms of pay this varies from firm to firm and what area of law you are practising. It is widely known that commercial law has the highest pay and is the most lucrative. Generally, in the first year of training solicitors will earn between £40,000-50,000 for commercial law and barristers will earn between £45,000-70,000 in a pupillage if doing commercial law. In other areas of law solicitors will earn more than barristers such as family law and criminal law.

Generally, solicitors have more opportunities to work abroad compared to barristers. The big magic circle firms have lots of international offices. If you apply for a training contract in a US firm it is very much encouraged that you do a secondment in their US offices. With barristers it is different. You would probably be restricted to practising in commonwealth countries that follow English law. You wouldn’t be able to practise as a barrister in countries like the US without doing some sort of legal conversion course because their legal system is so different from ours.

You would have to work as a team if you go into law. This is crucial but you also have to be independent as well. You have to be able to take charge and be comfortable with doing something by yourself. Especially since partners rarely have a lot of time to guide you through everything.
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Crazy Jamie
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(Original post by predatorx512)
Both in London
I know that solicitors do different things to barristers etc. but if one had the option of choosing the above two routes, how do they compare

In terms of:
- Pay
- Opportunities to go abroad
- Working environment (teamwork vs loneliness?)
- Access to people of high social status

The reason i'm using US Law firm in my question is because
1. questions about MC have been done to death
2. in my view US firms are better than MC as you get earlier access to clients, career progression is more straightforward to those who are talented and the pay is ultimately higher. in essence im trying to compare the pinnacle of the bar and the pinnacle of being a solicitor

thank you!
Just to indulge the question for a moment, assuming we're comparing top London commercial sets with US firms, the answers are reasonably straightforward. In terms of pay, as a general rule a barrister should earn more than a solicitor of the same level of experience and in the same area of practice, at least in the early to mid stages of their careers, and that is true even taking into account things like (as a barrister) being responsible for your own tax/VAT, paying your own expenses and not automatically having access to a pension. Things can of course become more variable later on depending on career progression.

In terms of opportunities to go abroad, you'll want to get more detail on the solicitor side of things from those who have more experience with it, but my impression is that the opportunities are more readily accessible as a solicitor. They do exist as a barrister at the very top end, but are more limited.

Working environment is a difficult one to judge, and it very much depends on the ethos of where you work and who you are working with. In theory being a barrister should be more lonely, and there are times when that is very much true, but at the same time you can be surrounded by people in an office all day and not feel like you're part of a team. Personally I have a fantastic camaraderie with the barristers in my set and it's a really strong and supportive social group, but not all sets are like that by a long way. And things will vary on that side of things from firm to firm and from team to team. I think it would be fair to say that given the self employed nature of the Bar, you are more likely to tick the teamwork box as a solicitor, but it is a very hard thing to generalise about in the main.

I genuinely don't know what you mean by access to people of higher social status. As clients? In social environments? I've had clients of high social status, the highest probably being a billionaire that owned several sports teams. I've also been at conferences and similar events with people of high social status, both in the sports world and otherwise, but I can't say I've benefited from the mere fact that I've had access to those people. If you secure them as clients it can certainly help your career, but I don't think that's what you're getting at. You'll have to clarify what it is you feel the benefit is here in order to get a more definitive answer.

All of that said, we need a caveat here because this comparison, as much as I've indulged it, just flat out ignores the fact that these two career paths are so incredibly different in terms of their day to day jobs. There will be some people out there who genuinely could enjoy both, but most won't. Even taking the Bar in isolation, the day to day life as a pupil and new tenant and one of those elite sets is very different to other excellent sets, and it's a working life that could genuinely not appeal to you even if you otherwise have ambitions to reach the very top of the profession. Despite the fact that I've answered the question, I would suggest that the route to choosing a career path is to research and gain experience of both and go with the one that you would most enjoy, not least because they are both incredibly difficult jobs to cope with if you're in them for the benefits rather than because they genuinely appeal to you. If you just want the money and the prestige, a legal career is not the way to go.
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username2446583
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(Original post by Crazy Jamie)
Just to indulge the question for a moment, assuming we're comparing top London commercial sets with US firms, the answers are reasonably straightforward. In terms of pay, as a general rule a barrister should earn more than a solicitor of the same level of experience and in the same area of practice, at least in the early to mid stages of their careers, and that is true even taking into account things like (as a barrister) being responsible for your own tax/VAT, paying your own expenses and not automatically having access to a pension. Things can of course become more variable later on depending on career progression.

In terms of opportunities to go abroad, you'll want to get more detail on the solicitor side of things from those who have more experience with it, but my impression is that the opportunities are more readily accessible as a solicitor. They do exist as a barrister at the very top end, but are more limited.

Working environment is a difficult one to judge, and it very much depends on the ethos of where you work and who you are working with. In theory being a barrister should be more lonely, and there are times when that is very much true, but at the same time you can be surrounded by people in an office all day and not feel like you're part of a team. Personally I have a fantastic camaraderie with the barristers in my set and it's a really strong and supportive social group, but not all sets are like that by a long way. And things will vary on that side of things from firm to firm and from team to team. I think it would be fair to say that given the self employed nature of the Bar, you are more likely to tick the teamwork box as a solicitor, but it is a very hard thing to generalise about in the main.

I genuinely don't know what you mean by access to people of higher social status. As clients? In social environments? I've had clients of high social status, the highest probably being a billionaire that owned several sports teams. I've also been at conferences and similar events with people of high social status, both in the sports world and otherwise, but I can't say I've benefited from the mere fact that I've had access to those people. If you secure them as clients it can certainly help your career, but I don't think that's what you're getting at. You'll have to clarify what it is you feel the benefit is here in order to get a more definitive answer.

All of that said, we need a caveat here because this comparison, as much as I've indulged it, just flat out ignores the fact that these two career paths are so incredibly different in terms of their day to day jobs. There will be some people out there who genuinely could enjoy both, but most won't. Even taking the Bar in isolation, the day to day life as a pupil and new tenant and one of those elite sets is very different to other excellent sets, and it's a working life that could genuinely not appeal to you even if you otherwise have ambitions to reach the very top of the profession. Despite the fact that I've answered the question, I would suggest that the route to choosing a career path is to research and gain experience of both and go with the one that you would most enjoy, not least because they are both incredibly difficult jobs to cope with if you're in them for the benefits rather than because they genuinely appeal to you. If you just want the money and the prestige, a legal career is not the way to go.
Thanks for the extensive answer.
The international aspect of being a solicitor does appeal to me - i heard that there are opportunities to train in a different country and a possible move to another office as your career progresses. This i would expect to be an issue for barristers - where one would be restricted to e&w law.
What do you mean by ‘top end’ for barristers - when one has taken silk?

The loneliness of a barrister is something that I have been told and something i am somewhat worried about - i feel i would enjoy working in a large group in a firm more etc.

In terms of meeting important people - i only asked because one of the appealing elements of being a solicitor at top us firms (in fact at any top firm) is that one would be able to deal with top clients and network etc. On the contrary, i thought that barristers’ clients were law firms and that barristers dont tend to directly deal with clients. But i guess youve cleared that one up for me.

How easy would it be to switch from the bar to being a solicitor and vice versa?
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Crazy Jamie
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(Original post by username2446583)
Thanks for the extensive answer.
The international aspect of being a solicitor does appeal to me - i heard that there are opportunities to train in a different country and a possible move to another office as your career progresses. This i would expect to be an issue for barristers - where one would be restricted to e&w law.
I think broadly that's right. Even if you do get an opportunity to work in another country as a barrister, it's generally effectively on secondment. I'm sure there are examples of barristers moving permanently to other jurisdictions but those opportunities would be extremely rare I suspect.
What do you mean by ‘top end’ for barristers - when one has taken silk?
No, I'm talking about the general hierarchy of Chambers. Sets differ significantly in terms of their size, location, areas of law, and how they are run. The type of set that you end up at has massive potential to shape how you work and how much you earn. When I talk about the 'top end' I'm talking about the elite commercial sets in London, which is the very tip of the iceberg as regards the profession, but are sets that are referred to more often by prospective applicants than they should be given how few barristers practise at that level. Your practice as a pupil and junior tenant at those sets will also differ significantly even to other excellent sets in similar areas of practice. You will be exposed to incredibly high value and complex litigation from the start supporting more senior practitioners, and will essentially be prepared for running that sort of litigation. It's a very different way of working to most barristers, and plenty wouldn't be suited to it. They are, however, the sets that will give you the best opportunity for working abroad.
The loneliness of a barrister is something that I have been told and something i am somewhat worried about - i feel i would enjoy working in a large group in a firm more etc.
That's a personal preference. As I say, it is very much possible to end up in a set where you have a supportive environment and good social life with other barristers, but that feeling of being isolated is definitely more of a risk at the Bar than as a solicitor.
In terms of meeting important people - i only asked because one of the appealing elements of being a solicitor at top us firms (in fact at any top firm) is that one would be able to deal with top clients and network etc. On the contrary, i thought that barristers’ clients were law firms and that barristers dont tend to directly deal with clients. But i guess youve cleared that one up for me.
It is true to say that solicitors have more client contact, and that the majority of work as a barrister will come through solicitors. Equally, when I'm networking it is usually with solicitors for that reason. But you do have contact with clients as well, including those of high social status, both in cases and whilst networking.

How easy would it be to switch from the bar to being a solicitor and vice versa?[/quote]
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Crazy Jamie
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How easy would it be to switch from the bar to being a solicitor and vice versa?
Accidentally submitted before answering this and the edit button doesn't seem to like me. The short answer is that it is possible to do both, but solicitors becoming barristers is far more common than barristers becoming solicitors. I can only think of very isolated examples of the latter happening, whilst the former happens far more regularly. How easy it is to become a barrister as a solicitor depends on a number of variables, including the extent to which you've developed skills that you would use at the Bar (primarily advocacy), how relevant your experience is, and what other benefits you might bring such as your ability to bring work with you. But broadly it's more likely that you would have realistically chance of converting from a solicitor to a barrister than from a barrister to a solicitor. In practice if you decided that the self employed Bar wasn't for you anymore, I expect you would be more likely to go into a self employed or in house role rather convert to being a solicitor.
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