Article by Meagan Leightley
A Solicitor is a qualified legal professional who provides legal advice and support to clients working in a firm. They work closely with clients and do the paperwork and communication and in complex disputes, they will instruct a barrister to represent the client in court.
How to become one?
In order to become a solicitor, you will need to complete a qualifying law degree as well as the Legal Practice Course (LPC) which will be soon be replaced by the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE). If you are coming from a non-law degree you would need to complete Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) conversion course (now referred to as PGDL) and then complete the LPC. Alternatively, if you do not have a degree you can become a solicitor through the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx) whilst working in the legal profession. Finally, you will then have to complete a training contract which is two-year placement at a firm where you will have experience in different departments which must include a contentious and transactional seat. During the training contract, you will have to(now referred to as PGDL) take a Professional Skills Course (PSC) which will allow you to become a fully qualified solicitor. As an alternative route to qualify as a solicitor you can undertake a Solicitor Apprenticeship which is a six-year paid programme which you complete after A Levels. It enables you to carry out paid employment within a law firm whilst undertaking a part-time law degree which at the end of the 6 years you will be a fully qualified solicitor.
A barrister provides specialist legal advice and represents clients in court. Barrister tends to specialise in a particular area of law and advocate on behalf of their client. They normally work independently within their chambers.
How to become one?
In order to become a Barrister, you must also have a qualifying law degree or equivalent at a 2:2 class or above. You must join an Inn of Court before you start the vocational training. You will then have to complete the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) in order to be allowed on to the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). The BPTC covers the vocational competency and you will complete 12 Qualifying Session of training provided by your Inn. Once you have competently passed all the exams on the BPTC you will be called to the Bar by your Inn of Court. Next, you will complete the work-based competency training which is known as a Pupillage. The Pupillage will be separated up into a non-practicing period for six months and a practicing period for another six months. After all this training you will qualify as a Barrister under the Bar Standards Board.
What is right for you?
Try not to make a quick decision instead think it through and get some work experience both legal and non-legal. There is no better way to get an understanding of what is right for you by experiencing it first-hand. Try and obtain a mini-pupillage or some experience in a solicitor’s firm this way you will get a real understanding of what is right for you. If you are struggling to get work experience in a firm or chambers you could also gain some volunteer experience at Citizens Advice Bureau or within your Students Union. As well as this, you could also go to your local court and attend a court hearing or undertake online courses and commercial awareness competitions. Lastly, try mooting and see if advocacy is something that excites you. Remember if you change your mind later down the line a career change is possible!