The UK has perhaps the most highly respected legal system in the world and as such, those involved in the industry must have exemplary skills and an unassailable understanding of the law, and how to apply it. Near the top of the legal profession are the lawyers who fall under two categories: solicitors and barristers, each with distinct skill sets and responsibilities that they must execute for the benefit of their clients. For those seeking to find a new job as a lawyer in the UK, here is an outline of the responsibilities, job descriptions and qualifications.
Overview of a Barrister
The UK law system has become famous perhaps because of the authoritative figures seen wearing the white wigs and black robes while in court making impassioned appeals on behalf of clients. These sometime melodramatic gentlepersons are called barristers. Barristers operate primarily in the courtroom and it is their job to present the case for a client in a compelling and persuasive way to the court.
Barristers excel at logical thinking, methodical approaches to a situation, sweating the details, storytelling and of course theatre. And to win cases they must be prepared to utilize all of these qualities when appropriate.
Barristers are typically brought into a case by a solicitor who has a need to take a case to court. The barrister will work with the solicitor and the client to craft the case and then advocate on the client’s behalf. The range of clients for barristers include individuals, corporations and other organizations, and the government. In some cases, the barrister may work directly with a client without the involvement of a solicitor, but these cases are not common.
Barristers will usually specialize in a specific area of law, and pride themselves on having a deep understanding of their focus area and how to use this knowledge to great positive effect for their client.
Although most barristers are self-employed and often share chambers with other barristers, there is a growing trend for them to be hired in-house by banks, corporations, charities, solicitors firms, and the government.
These professionals must either complete an undergraduate course in law, or another degree of study as a foundation. This must be followed with a one-year Common Professional Exam or Post-Graduate Diploma in Law. Barristers must also take a one-year Bar Professional Training Course, and then spend one year shadowing a senior barrister and undertaking some court work. Following this list of steps, they can join a set of chambers as a fully qualified barrister.
Overview of a Solicitor
Solicitors are the most common types of lawyers in the UK and handle the vast bulk of legal work delegated to lawyers. Solicitors are usually contacted by clients when there is a need for a lawyer or work within a corporation, non-profit, club or organization or the government. They review potential legal cases and if appropriate, take on these cases. At that point, they provide expert legal support and advise on the best course of legal action.
Generally, solicitors focus on one type of the most popular law areas which are: family, crime, professional negligence, employment, finance wills and probates, or property and seek to leverage their knowledge in their focus area to achieve a great outcome for clients. Their primary responsibilities include: providing legal guidance, overseeing negotiations and drafting any required legal documents. The job entails long hours and lots of research, so focus and attention to details are required skills. In the event of a case going to court, a solicitor will usually utilize a barrister and the two will work together closely with the client on crafting the court case.
These professionals must either successfully complete an undergraduate course in law, or another course of study. They must then follow it with the one-year Common Professional Exam or Post-Graduate Diploma in Law. When this is completed, candidates must do a one-year Legal Practice Course followed by a two-year training contract.
For lawyers coming from other countries and seeking to be certified as a lawyer in the UK, the person must take and pass the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test.