I recently received this email from a prospective law student…
Read my response below.
There’s not much difference between the way your average barristers’ chambers or law firm would perceive a law degree from Warwick or Leeds. Both are good, but not as good as LSE, so you’ve got your choices right.
More important, in terms of planning your career, is not thinking in an overly fixed way about the Bar – which you mention your keenness to join. A lot of commercial barristers these days train first as solicitors (taking advantage of corporate law firms’ law school sponsorship deals), then switch over to the Bar after a few years. It’s a route that chambers like because they’re getting people with expertise and broader experience of how the law operates. And as the university fee rises come in, it’s a route that’s surely going to get more popular.
If you’re more interested in the publicly-funded side of things, I’d keep a similarly open mind given that the impending legal aid cuts are likely to have all sorts of consequences for the way lawyers specialising in this area operate.
My hunch is that the Bar, with its low overheads and Inns of Court scholarship-based education track, may weather the storm better than legal aid solicitors firms, which could find themselves struggling to attract graduates. But it’s possible it could go the other way with more advocacy being done in-house by solicitor-advocates coming up through the non-graduate chartered legal executive route.
Either way, rather than think in terms of barrister or solicitor, I’d think instead about what practice area interests you most, then plot your course from there. Have a read of this article on LegalFutures about a new venture called Riverview Law, which combines solicitors and barristers, to get an idea of where the market is going.
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