Will you be a Barrister or a Solicitor?
Deciding that you want to work as a lawyer is all well enough. It's a highly respectable career, with good development prospects if you're particularly talented and excellent earning potential. But, do you know the differences between the two types of lawyer: Barrister and Solicitor? And which one will you choose? Training routes for each is different and the cost and length of time it will take to qualify will vary. It's best to make sure you're full on the facts before you make your decision.
Barristers are the kinds of lawyers that appear in court, and are often known also as 'advocates'. Addressing judges and juries, they use the facts of the cases they are involved in to try to convict wrongdoers (if they are the prosecution lawyer) or to prove the innocence of their client (if they are the defence lawyer). They usually have very little direct involvement with their clients, instead receiving instructions from solicitors or other legal professionals working on the case. Their advocacy skills can be put to the test outside of the courtroom in litigation and alternative dispute resolution, where their ability to argue cogently on paper is put to the test. They can also be involved in providing advice to professional and commercial clients on understanding points of law.
Usually a barrister will specialise in one area of law, such as criminal law, family law or financial law. Their expert knowledge in these areas is ultimately what leads to their employment on relevant cases.
Most barristers work on a self-employed basis, from barristers offices known usually as 'chambers'. Barristers must first become members of 'The Bar', which is the collective term for barristers with the right to practice in the courtroom. Increasingly though, barristers are being hired by corporations and other provate companies to deal with any legal issues that may arise in their area of work. The ratio of self-employed to employed barristers currently stands at about 4:1.
To find out how to become a Barrister, Click Here
Brief Outline of a Barrister's Role
Here are the main tasks that you could expect to have thrust upon you if you were to become a barrister:
- Management of legal cases, and preparing them for court
- In court advocacy - for the defence or the prosecution
- Examining and Cross-Examining witnesses
- Understanding and interpreting the law
- Researching relevant points of law
- Advising professional clients and solicitors on points of law
- Drafting legal documents
- Negotiating settlements
- Members of the bar may be involved in the running and organisation of their chambers
- Employed barristers may be involved in the development of legal policies for their client
A solicitor can work in a commercial or non-commercial context. To find out how to become a Solicitor, Click Here
Commercial solicitors offer legal advice and guidance to all kinds of companies and businesses. This can include offering advice to help new businesses get started, or working with large corporations dealing with complex legal issues, for example, those arising from mergers and acquisitions. Commercial solicitors will be specialists in a particular area of law and represent their clients in business related disputes.
Commercial Solicitors would usually specialise in one of the following:
- Intellectual property
- Competition law
Brief Outline of a Commercial Solicitor's Role
Work loads and specifics will depend upon the size of the firm and the specialism, but will generally include:
- Conducting client interviews to assess the firm's suitability to provide assistance, and the potential cost
- Advising clients on points of law
- Drafting documents and contracts, including any amendments and finalisation stages
- Negotiating with clients and other professionals
- Researching points of law to ensure correct advice is given
- Supervising the implementation of agreements
- Coordinating the work to be undertaken
- Acting on behalf of clients should disputes arise
- Supervising junior team members
- Arranging further consultation where necessary
- Instructing barristers prior to legal proceedings in court
- Keeping up to date with relevant changes to law
Non-commercial solicitors give legal advice and guidance to individual or business clients in affairs not necessarily business related, such as how to proceed with legal cases and how to pursue legal action, where necessary. In cases of individuals, a non-commercial solicitor can expect to be involved in finding out the particulars of a case and preparing it for the necessary legal process. When this involves going to court, the solicitor will aid the barrister in preparing arguments and understanding the client's needs.
Non-commercial solicitors usually work for firms that cover a wide range of legal issues - for example, small partnerships may focus on issues most relevant to the community they are in. Larger firms may be more likely to specialise in one particular aspect of the law.
Brief Outline of a Non-Commercial Solicitor's Role
Regardless of the type of firm and the specialism, a non-commercial solicitor can expect to be involved in:
- Meeting and interviewing clients to ascertain whether the company can offer suitable advice
- Advising clients on legal issues
- Taking down the instructions of the clients
- Researching and analysing all information and documents relevant to a case
- Corresponding with clients and opposing solicitors
- Meeting with barristers and provding instructions and information
- Attending meetings with opposing parties
- Preparing papers for court
- Calculating claims for damages, compensation, etc
- Attending court hearings
- Delegation to trainee solicitors, paralegals etc
- Working as part of a team within the firm
- Liaising with outside agencies
- Taking referrals from NGOs, public bodies and in some instances, other firms.