Barrister or Solicitor? That is the question.

Updated: Nov 16, 2020

Have you ever thought “I want to be a lawyer?” but what does that really mean?

We know that lawyers are licensed to give legal advice, but do you want to do that as a barrister or solicitor? And are these the only legal practitioner routes?

Depending on what kind of television shows you are familiar with, a barrister may be the most popular kind of lawyer you are familiar with.

I remember when I first qualified and the jokes of “objection your honour” started flying around. But what does a barrister do and how do you become one? Let’s find out how!

In England and Wales, barristers give specialist legal advice, representing clients in a court or tribunal and through written advice. Technically barristers are self-employed, but they work within sets of other barristers in chambers. There are also an increasing number of in-house barrister positions in organizations and agencies available. To qualify as a barrister, you need to complete the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and a one-year pupillage.

Movies and TV shows aside, a solicitor will most likely be the first point of contact for members of the public. Solicitors provide legal services to private and commercial clients. Solicitors can work in private practice (i.e. a law firm) as well as in-house. To become a solicitor, you must complete the Legal Practice Course (LPC) followed by a two-year training contract.

There are other jobs in the legal profession other that barristers and solicitors. An alternative, although less popular legal profession are the chartered legal executives who are qualified lawyers that specialise in a field. a Chartered Legal Executive lawyer can undertake all work that may be undertaken by a solicitor under the supervision of a solicitor or principal. To become a Chartered Institute of Legal Executives' (CILEx) you go through the CILEx training programmes and qualifying employment and upon completion become a fellow.

Finally, you have paralegals. A paralegal/legal assistant works with a solicitor or barrister on their cases. Paralegals are legal professionals and work in private practice, chambers as well as in-house. To become a paralegal or legal assistant you are not required to have any specific professional qualifications although some knowledge of the law is required.

Fun fact: Megan Markle is somehow the most famous paralegal, even though she only did so on a TV show. When you type paralegal into the internet 99% of the time her face comes up.