The Definitive Way To Decide Whether You Should Become A Barrister Or A Solicitor

By on

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.



To become a barrister, the best questions you can ask yourself are whether you are a working class white male and/or from an ethnic minority. Everyone knows where the hegemonic old boy network chuck the scholarship money for the most effective easing of upper-middle class consciences.


Craig Lowe

It is my experience that unless you are driven and committed to zealous levels, a career at the Bar will prove difficult, if not impossible. You must have total commitment otherwise you stand an exceptionally high chance of not succeeding. This should, and usually is pointed out to you by your Inn of Court. Pupillage is the Holy Grail and tenancy, that is Shangri La. I hope this helps.


Foxy Bingo

I would never advise anyone to come to the Criminal Bar. I did my pupillage 7 years ago at a decent set in Grays Inn. The income and variety of work was dire, and this was no reflection on myself. The diary for all barrister was put on the wall in Chambers everyday and I saw barristers a few years into tenancy doing Mags work back to back. I decided to change Chambers to a set in Lincolns Inn which, unfortunately for me, were top end Civil heavy and junior end Crime. With me being the last one in and a queue of junior tenants all waiting to do civil work, I stuck around for some months before joining Treasury Solicitors. Having missed the advocacy (why else did I chose bar school over the Lpc!), I left TSols after seven months and joined the CPS. People have their views about in-house barristers in the Civil Service, but there was no way I could have made a living at the junior criminal bar. Now back in the provinces several years later, I see junior criminal tenants in Chambers struggling. Only the honest ones will admit it! I thought the financial struggle was confined to the London bar in view of the high cost of living, but it clearly isn’t.


Foxy Bingo

PS: back to the actual question of barrister v. solicitor? (I digressed!). I think if you have the drive and the determination you should go for it! However, I urge those planning a career at the Bar to get real life experience in the working world (and save money for those early struggling years esp if doing legally aided work). To come from uni / bar school at 22/23 in no way prepares you for real life work as a barrister. I am an ethnic minority female and did my undergrad at an ex-poly. I applied for pupillage the first two years and had a decent amount of interviews, even getting to the last 2/3 in some. It was in one interview a QC told me i’d make a good barrister but said I should get some life experience. He was right.


Comments are closed.