The Student Room Group

becoming a criminal barrister?

I'm currently doing my GCSE's about to apply for sixth forms with the thought about becoming a criminal barrister? However, I'm worried if that's the wrong career as I want to become rich but also need stability which is hard as I've found out that most barristers are self - employed? And becoming a employed barrister for a good firm is hard and competitive. Can I get advice please!?
If money is your motivating factor then in general I think criminal law tends towards the lower end of earnings potential among specialisms at the Bar. Might just be something to take note of.

@Crazy Jamie noted the other day that being self employed at the bar isn't like being self employed elsewhere - you are still working out of a set with other barristers and the clerks of that set will bring you work regularly, but I believe you still report your own income as a self employed worker would (or possibly hire an accountant to do it for you), and developing business relationships with solicitors will lead to you getting more work coming in outside of what the clerks give you.
(edited 1 year ago)
Reply 2
Original post by artful_lounger
If money is your motivating factor then in general I think criminal law tends towards the lower end of earnings potential among specialisms at the Bar. Might just be something to take note of.

@Crazy Jamie noted the other day that being self employed at the bar isn't like being self employed elsewhere - you are still working out of a set with other barristers and the clerks of that set will bring you work regularly, but I believe you still report your own income as a self employed worker would (or possibly hire an accountant to do it for you), and developing business relationships with solicitors will lead to you getting more work coming in outside of what the clerks give you.


money is a really motivating factor personally but i also want to be heavily career based in crime and the legal system and court, are there any other options i have? what is a solicitor advocate?
Original post by user040707
money is a really motivating factor personally but i also want to be heavily career based in crime and the legal system and court, are there any other options i have? what is a solicitor advocate?


Well all barristers go into court as far as I'm aware (some less than others I think but, going into court is one of the defining features of being a barrister vs being a solicitor). They just have civil law cases rather than criminal law cases, presumably.

Granted a criminal barrister is probably not going to be "poor", but you also aren't likely (statistically at least) to be obscenely wealthy. You may then need to think about what is more important to you - and bear in mind the threshold for achieving financial stability and living comfortably in most areas in the UK outside of London is a lot lower than you may think.
Original post by user040707
money is a really motivating factor personally but i also want to be heavily career based in crime and the legal system and court, are there any other options i have? what is a solicitor advocate?

This really does depend on what your definition of 'rich' is. At the age of 15/16 you are unlikely to have much of a grasp of the value of money, that is to say how much things actually cost and how much money you need to live the sort of life that you want to live. That's not a criticism. The point is that your definition of 'rich' now may change over time, or may in fact change in terms of the amount of money you want to earn. So what would your definition of 'rich' be? Enough money to buy things like a decent car, a nice house and be generally able to get through life debt free (save perhaps for a mortgage)? Do you want to earn enough so that you generally don't have to worry about money, albeit you can't necessarily buy absolutely everything that you want? Or do you mean that you want to three holiday homes and a garage full of luxury cars?

The difficulty with wanting a career based in crime is that the criminal justice system, and those who work within it, are almost all funded by public money. And, as a general rule, you don't earn as much in the public sector as you do in the private sector. Criminal barristers generally earn the least compared to other barristers, and roles such as a criminal solicitor or a solicitor advocate will generally pay even less, as will in house roles (which generally pay less than equivalent self employed roles when it comes to barristers). At the same time, whilst the initial years of practising as a criminal barrister can be a bit lean from an earnings perspective (especially somewhere like London, where it can be very difficult financially early on), eventually it is possible to make a decent living as a criminal barrister, by which I mean a gross income over £100,000. Average earnings in crime I believe are just under £100,000, though that of course involves junior as well as more senior practitioners, which shows that as you gain more experience it should be a realistic target. But as you're self employed, your earnings will vary depending on a range of factors, albeit as had already been said you won't realistically be in danger of not making any money because of how barristers and chambers work.

Generally speaking, if money is your motivating factor, practising as a criminal lawyer is not your best option. Arguably practising as a lawyer generally isn't, but just about every other practice area pays more than crime. Then again, it does depend on what your actual target is. If you want to be rich but you define that as a lifestyle where you can be financially comfortable, that is still eventually possible in criminal practice. If you want your own superyacht, it's not for you.
Hi, I was wondering whether a barrister or solicitor has the greater earning capacity. I know with solicitor's there is the potential to be on a 100k+ by the age of 25 (NQ solicitors), but I am unsure how much a barrister can really earn as it seems ambiguous how they are paid. =(I would love to be a criminal barrister, but Im not sure if the trade-off is worth it in terms of pay)

Also, out of a barrister or solicitor, which one would have greater chances for international opportunities.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. For context, I am a first-year law student at Cambridge.
Original post by ellis23456
Hi, I was wondering whether a barrister or solicitor has the greater earning capacity. I know with solicitor's there is the potential to be on a 100k+ by the age of 25 (NQ solicitors), but I am unsure how much a barrister can really earn as it seems ambiguous how they are paid. =(I would love to be a criminal barrister, but Im not sure if the trade-off is worth it in terms of pay)

Also, out of a barrister or solicitor, which one would have greater chances for international opportunities.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. For context, I am a first-year law student at Cambridge.

I doubt a criminal solicitor would earn 100k+ by the age of 25. Those figures are pretty much regarding solicitors at major commercial law firms (e.g. magic circle firms etc) I imagine.
Original post by artful_lounger
I doubt a criminal solicitor would earn 100k+ by the age of 25. Those figures are pretty much regarding solicitors at major commercial law firms (e.g. magic circle firms etc) I imagine.


Thats what i meant, can barristers earn this salary tho?
Original post by ellis23456
Thats what i meant, can barristers earn this salary tho?


Outside of criminal law, certainly. Within criminal law, there is a barrister that answered this literally in the post before yours explaining what the average was...
Original post by ellis23456
Hi, I was wondering whether a barrister or solicitor has the greater earning capacity. I know with solicitor's there is the potential to be on a 100k+ by the age of 25 (NQ solicitors), but I am unsure how much a barrister can really earn as it seems ambiguous how they are paid. =(I would love to be a criminal barrister, but Im not sure if the trade-off is worth it in terms of pay)

Also, out of a barrister or solicitor, which one would have greater chances for international opportunities.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. For context, I am a first-year law student at Cambridge.

As has been said, you will not be on £100,000 as a criminal barrister by the age of 25. You would only hit that sort of figure by the age of 30 if you were in a particularly good situation. But then, as has also been said, a criminal solicitor wouldn't earn that amount in their 20s either. When comparing solicitors and barristers you have to compare like for like. As I've said many times on here, barristers will almost always earn more than solicitors in an equivalent situation. So whilst you're right that a solicitor can earn £100,000 in top tier firms, new tenants in the equivalent top tier barristers' chambers will earn in excess of that. At the top end of the respective professions you obviously have equity partners who can earn significant sums of money at certain firms, but then you have top tier KCs who earn millions themselves. If your focus is on money then technically it should be the Bar that you're looking at, but really that is a poor way to decide between the two roles in my view, simply because they are so different. The day to day work is entirely different, with solicitors usually working in a more settled routine based primarily (for the most part) in their office, and receiving a regular salary along with associated benefits. By contrast, barristers have no set routine, and quite literally every week will be different. There'll be a mix of advocacy and paperwork, the broad balance between the two being dictated in large part by which area you practise in, but you can be in court anywhere on any given day. You will earn more, but it won't be regular income, and you have to be organised enough to have an accountant and manage your own finances in a more disciplined way, including setting up your own benefits like a pension scheme and insurance (both professional indemnity and critical illness etc). It really is unlikely that you'd be attracted to both of those roles equally and need to use earnings as a tiebreaker. My advice would be to continue to look into and gain experience in both and decide which way to go based on how you feel once you've gained a little bit more insight.

To the answer the one additional specific question that you did have, opportunities to practise abroad as a barrister are very limited, and are generally restricted to top level commercial firms, though there are some other limited exceptions such as doing military hearings as a criminal barrister, though those are isolated hearings rather than working in a different jurisdiction for any length of time. It's by no means the case that every solicitor will get an opportunity to work abroad. You still need to be in the right firm. But numbers wise there are more of those opportunities as a solicitor if that's what you want to aim for.

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