Last week Eddie Stobart Lorries’ newly-formed legal arm caused controversy by claiming that solicitors are like GPs and barristers like consultants. While there’s some truth in this medical analogy, it can also be misleading – with misguided notions of status often leading wannabe lawyers to do the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) when they should do the Legal Practice Course (LPC). So how do you decide?
First, understand that legal aid-funded areas will lend themselves better to practising in a law firm than as a self-employed individual over the next few years – for junior lawyers, anyway. So if you want to do criminal law, where funding cuts are seeing law firms do lower and mid-end advocacy in-house, right now it’s best to start out as a solicitor. Down the line as you build a reputation, you can always change.
The exception to this rule is if you land a large Inns of Court scholarship that will pay your way through law school – an expense law firms specialising in publicly-funded work don’t cover. In that case, do the BPTC. If you then find yourself struggling at the Bar, you can always go and work for a law firm as an in-house advocate.
For those interested in working in practice areas that are largely privately-funded, there are two important questions to consider. ‘Am I very clever?’ and ‘Am I very good at advocacy?’
If the answer to both of those is yes, become a barrister.
If the answer to either (or both) is no, become a solicitor.
If you’re not sure, apply for scholarships, pupillages and training contracts – and go with the best deal you get offered. Again, you can always switch at a later stage, with both branches of the profession welcoming converts from the other side, whose experience they value – no matter what Stobart Barristers may suggest.