The career possibilities open to law students are so varied and wide, but many students have difficulty deciding between the most common routes: solicitor or barrister. Both can be esteemed roles in their own rights, despite their subtle differences.  Ultimately, when deciding whether to become a solicitor or barrister, the question one has to ask themselves is ‘Which would I be best suited to?’

What You Can Consider:

Personal Career Aspirations

Your personal ambitions and aspirations are undeniably important to consider. For example, some people are driven by the monetary aspect of working. It is obvious that City solicitors and commercial barristers earn a lot, but salaries vary for both barristers and solicitors, depending on the amount of experience they have and where that person works.

Generally, those higher paid lawyers will live and breathe their work, whereas a high-street solicitor (for example) will have a less demanding job with a modest income, yet have more personal time. Thus, it is definitely important to look at work-life balance, and what kind of balance you would like. You can read more about the different salaries on our Lawyer Salary: Barrister Salary vs Solicitor Salary page.

This ties in with the fact that barristers, unlike solicitors, are normally self-employed as they are concerned with chambers alongside other self-employed barristers. This means that they can manage their work more easily and there is a level of uncertainty as to their everyday business. Although, of course with in-house barristers this is not the case.

Solicitors are clearly, employed by law firms or a commercial organisation, therefore their pay will be consistent and there is more likely to be certainty in the hours they work.


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Personality Traits and Key Skills

Barristers need to have strong advocacy skills and have a keen interest in talking and mooting in front of a crowd. It is often compared to a performance, and so barristers must be comfortable with speaking openly to a crowd, arguing their case in a confident manner.

Moreover, it is important to be able to think on your feet and respond to and rebut any contrasting statements. As mentioned, barristers are normally self-employed and so there also has to be a high level of self-motivation in order to succeed. Self-motivation works in tandem with a strong work ethic which should be, nevertheless, inherent in all lawyers.

These are just some of the distinct personality qualities that a barrister would need to possess, on top of all the other qualities required for anyone working in a legal job.

Solicitors, like barristers, need good communication skills in order to converse with clients and provide suitable legal advice, but there is also an intense focus on strong research and analytical skills. These skills require solicitors to have a good attention to detail in order to cater to the client’s needs and find the best solution.

Teamwork skills are also necessary since, unlike barristers, solicitors are employed by a firm. Solicitors do a lot of work with the help of fellow solicitors and paralegals; this also means that solicitors do not have to be as independent as a barrister may need to.

What You Can Do:

Work Experience

Inevitably, it is important to research both options to aid you in reaching a decision. However, you’ll only get a limited amount of information from searching on the internet.

The most effective way to learn about the roles, and to understand which one you would be more suited to, is to get some legal work experience. By securing work experience, you will be able to observe and understand the distinct nature of both jobs.

For an aspiring barrister, mini-pupillages would be ideal, and for budding solicitors, any experience in a firm or a vacation scheme would be the most valuable. It is undoubtedly the best way to get to understand whether you could see yourself working as either a solicitor or barrister.

Furthermore, it is a great opportunity to ask questions to real life solicitors and barristers. Even just talking to them means you can get a sense of their strengths and personalities. It is through these that you might notice the personality traits that you see in yourself as well.

Speak to Qualified Lawyers

However, work experience is not always possible in the legal world as it is in high demand and thus it would be a good idea to get in touch with solicitors and barristers so that you can ask them about their job. Networking is key as an aspiring lawyer – the more people you know the better.

If you are a student, it is likely that your institution will hold a legal careers fair at some point giving students the chance to talk to legal employers (barristers and solicitors), legal executives, in-house solicitors and more. This is a great opportunity to meet some of these respectable people and ask as many questions as possible.

Networking events are also valuable. Even if you know a family relative or friend who is a solicitor or barrister, it would be worth getting in touch.

Solicitor v Barrister Quiz

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