Following my last post on making the most of your University experience, you have managed to settle down and in no time you will be getting bombarded with information about several law firms. Day after day, there’s a law firm on campus holding a campus skills session or a networking event. If you’re like me, an eager fresher, you may find yourself looking forward to these sessions. In fact, this is very good because you are making the most of the opportunities available to you. The question is what if somehow, deep down, the thought of a career as a solicitor does not appeal to you? The answer is to read on and find out.
If you are considering a career as a barrister, my first advice is that you should hold on to this aspiration and at the same time expose yourself to not just a job of a barrister, but also that of a solicitor. In other words, do not limit yourself to one career path when you have not yet tested the waters. In relation to the aspiration, hold on to it because in the first weeks there will be countless firms visiting your campus for the same reason (to attract you to their firms) which might make you begin to wonder if you have made the right decision to become a barrister. It is unfortunate that there will always be more representatives of law firms visiting your campus compared to barristers. This is because barristers are self-employed and they will most probably be in court or will be working on their case with no one to send off. Therefore, it is best to get involved with your university’s Bar society.
Look for the Bar club or society and attend whatever events they may be holding. Most times a few barristers would be invited to the university to provide advice and have a chat with students. Make sure you’re one of those students. Basically, immerse yourself in many activities that the society offers. It is important to remember that while there are many opportunities available to students interested in becoming solicitors, the same cannot be said for those passionate about a career in the Bar. This means that you should jump on whichever opportunity comes your way.
Having mentioned this, there are other things you could do by yourself to help you reaffirm your decision. Firstly, you should visit a court as it is the easiest and most beneficial way to experience a career as a barrister. Sometimes, your Bar society may organise trips to courts, too. Otherwise, find out where the court is, write an email to confirm that you can attend, then make your way to the court. This would give you a first-hand impression of what you would be doing almost daily as a barrister.
Secondly, make sure to participate in relevant competitions like mooting, debating, mock trials and negotiations. Such competitions can help you develop the necessary skills and will also give you a taste of the profession. With regards to applications, there are some activities that you can apply for, such as marshalling and mini-pupillages. These are not readily available to first years, but it is not uncommon for freshers to have done them. Start with internal contacts that could connect you with the barristers and then try to make strong applications to chambers and courts. However, do not beat yourself up if you’re unsuccessful. As aforementioned, places are limited and are more available to students in their second and third year.
As for the other part of my advice about not forgetting to expose yourself to the work of a solicitor, even if you think you are certain about becoming a barrister, it is still highly advisable that you gain experiences within the law firm’s environment. Besides, for the ‘why do you want to be a barrister’ question for mini-pupillages and pupillages, you can comment on how you have gained work experience at a law firm and decided that it was not something you saw yourself doing. Such responses are much more reasonable. Allow yourself to make an educated choice about which path to follow, experience both areas and then decide which one you see yourself doing every day. Speaking from my personal experience, I was going through practice areas within law firms and discovered Dispute Resolution and Litigation. It is not exactly the same as a career as a barrister but there is a substantial amount of advocacy involved. Also, if you want to be a solicitor, but are more of a practical and active problem solver, you may want to consider this. Overall, do not limit yourself without having a taste of what you might end up loving.
Regarding the academic aspect of the job, simply put, aim to achieve at least a strong 2.1. If you want to practise as a commercial barrister, then achieving a first is almost inevitably necessary. Barristers are self-employed and they work extremely hard. You will also need to work hard to achieve a very good grade, because the academic requirements for barristers are higher compared to aspiring solicitors.
Finally, the financial part of the decision. You might already know this but if you don’t, there is no doubt that solicitors earn relatively more than barristers, and realistically, there is more job security for the former. However, this should not put you off. The barristers I have met love their job because as they are self-employed, they get to dictate their life. Does that appeal to you? Do you fancy an independent profession where you are your own boss? If yes, then go for it. This job also appeals to people who consider themselves to be a people’s person, therefore it is self-rewarding on its own. If you are one of those individuals who are more interested in helping people than getting substantially rewarded, this could be the job for you.
Hopefully, after gaining experiences within both fields you will be able to make up your mind on which career path to follow. For more information, you may want to visit Chambers Student. It details everything you need to know about a career as a barrister and provides a useful background for this article. Remember, hold on to your aspiration and good luck!