For those looking to find a new legal job in London, you need to use a top agency to locate and position you properly for the right opportunities. If you are coming from outside the UK law profession, you also need to understand how their specific laws work and how your legal training may fit into their legal system.
One area specific to the UK, is their definitions and responsibilities for lawyers. Lawyers fall under the category of solicitors and barristers with each having a particular specialty. Here are the differences between the two:
When people talk about going to see their lawyer in the UK, they are usually referring to a solicitor. Solicitors take instructions from clients and provide expert legal support and advise on necessary courses of legal action.
Solicitors typically specialize in one type of law which may be: family, crime, professional negligence, employment, finance wills and probates, or property and will work for individuals, companies, commercial and non-commercial organizations, and the government. Most of the time solicitors advise clients, undertake negotiations and draft legal documents. It is primarily a desk job, but also may involve traveling to see clients and representing them in some courts. In the past, a solicitor’s advocacy work was restricted to the less serious cases tried in magistrates’ and county courts. However, there are more and more solicitors beginning to work in the higher courts.
Becoming a Solicitor
Solicitors must either complete an undergraduate course in law, or graduate with another degree and follow it with the one-year Common Professional Exam or Post-Graduate Diploma in Law. Then they must do a one-year Legal Practice Course followed by a two-year training contract.
When you think of UK lawyers, you most often think of the men in court wearing white wigs and black robes pleading to the judge on behalf of their clients. These are Barristers. The basic difference between barristers and solicitors being that a barrister mainly defends people in court and a solicitor mainly performs legal work outside court.
The hallmark of a good barrister is a methodical mind, a logical method, a high level of devotion to detail and often a flair for the dramatic. Barristers are specialists in advocacy and represent individuals or organisations in all level of court cases. Generally, they are hired by solicitors to represent the solicitor and his client in court, and as independent sources of legal advice because they have specialist knowledge of the law. However, an individual or company can also go directly to a barrister without a solicitor being involved. When hired, they are given details of a case by a solicitor or client, and then have a certain amount of time to review the evidence, and to prepare what they are going to say in court. Most barristers specialize in a particular area of law. This specialization allows them to focus on specific areas and charge more for their services. The most popular specializations are:
- Administrative & public law
- Banking & finance
- Civil law
- Civil liberties & human rights
- Commercial dispute resolution
- Company law
- Intellectual property
- Revenue law
- Sports & entertainment
- Technology, media and telecommunications
Most barristers are self-employed and work in chambers with other barristers where they share costs of accommodation and administrators. However some are employed in-house as advisors by banks, corporations, charities, solicitors firms, and the government in various departments and agencies.
Becoming a Barrister
A barrister must also either complete an undergraduate course in law, or another degree and follow it with the one-year Common Professional Exam or Post-Graduate Diploma in Law. However, barristers must take a one-year Bar Professional Training Course in place of the Legal Practice Course, and then they are ‘called to bar’ at one of the four Inns where they do a year’s pupillage shadowing a senior barrister and undertaking some court work. They can then join a set of chambers as a fully-fledged self-employed barrister.