Whilst there are many different legal roles in the industry, two of the most prominent are solicitors and barristers. Many a law student has found themselves at a tricky crossroads between the two career paths. Now it’s your turn – to vote for your winner and find out once and for all which is the better prospect…
“80% of barristers are self-employed and so have no access to employment benefits such as sickness pay, holiday pay or maternity leave” – Hannah Capstick
A career as a solicitor offers you a unique opportunity to be involved in diverse and intellectually stimulating work as part of a team while also participating in a business and working to promote the growth of your firm.
As a solicitor, you work closely with your colleagues on specific cases and throughout your wider department in order to ensure that you meet the needs of your clients and maximise your department’s profits. Working within a team means that you always have a support network in place. Senior members of the firm will support you throughout your career, equipping you with the skills that you need to succeed and providing mentor-ship as you career advances. You will also have the benefit of administrative and research support from paralegals, secretaries and other administrative staff.
Solicitors are employees of their firms. This means that they are guaranteed a monthly salary, annual leave and a range of employment benefits which can vary depending on their firm. This provides solicitors with financial security and stability. By contrast, 80% of barristers are self-employed and so have no access to employment benefits such as sickness pay, holiday pay or maternity leave. It also means that they do not have the guarantee of a monthly salary, with their income varying massively from one month to the next depending on their caseload and when clients pay their fees.
Solicitors are responsible for day-to-day contact with their clients, answering queries and keeping them up-to-date with developments in their cases. The client-orientated nature of a solicitor’s work means that they are able to have extensive client contact and build close relationships with their clients.
Finally, while the GDL and LPC can be prohibitively expensive, many of the larger law firms will pay for your further education and provide an award to pay for your living costs while you are studying.
“Barristers’ work is rewarded more lucratively, and so you will also enjoy a higher salary for each case you work on in comparison with solicitors” – Amy Cheng
If you are aiming to become a lawyer, your career should reflect your professional ambitions. If you want a career that involves debating with opponents, public speaking, leading and directing a case and making the decisions of how the case should be managed, becoming a barrister is the better path. Barristers have more freedom in their work, as they are self-employed, but they are part of a chambers, meaning they also work in small teams of other barristers.
Barristers typically handle the more specific and complex points of a case. Barristers’ work is rewarded more lucratively, and so you will also enjoy a higher salary for each case you work on in comparison with solicitors. The competition is higher and the places are more exclusive for a reason. Being a self-employed barrister has work life benefits too – you will be able to choose your working hours, decide where you work from, and you can take holidays or days off when needed. You choose your work life depending on how you will get the work done most effectively.
If you are pursuing a career in law, it is likely you want to experience the excitement of a trial. This is an advantage of being a barrister. A barrister’s role in the legal process is that they are leading advocate in a case at trial. As a barrister, you will be part of the team that puts forward the case on behalf of their client; barristers are the representatives responsible for arguing and winning a legal dispute. One could argue that the act of speaking before a judge or jury in court is the most exhilarating part of being a lawyer. Whilst solicitors, of course, play an important role in meeting with the client and researching documents to put together the physical bundles for the case, barristers have the responsibility of projecting these arguments before the court.
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