Making plans, part two

In the last post, I talked about what happens after you’ve completed the LLB. If you intend to become a lawyer, you go off to do one of the two post degree vocational courses, and then join the fight for either a training contract or a pupillage.

If, like me, you have decided that you do want to work in the law after your degree, you essentially have two decisions to make. Do you want to be a barrister or a solicitor? And which area of law do you wish to practice in?

As I said last time, it’s no use making these decisions halfway through your third year, in the majority of cases. There’s no point setting your sights on international contract dispute management if all of your optional modules were geared towards, say, human rights in the UK. The ship has sailed, and you forgot to make sure you were on the right one.

I keep returning to the point that it’s never too early to make these choices, and that it can easily be too late. So I must know exactly what I’m aiming for, right? Wrong. I’ve not got a clue. I haven’t yet made the basic choice about whether to choose the route of a barrister or a solicitor.

Being a barrister is the bit all law students dream of, right? When we set out on this course, we imagine ourselves strutting around the court, robed and wigged, setting the world to rights. Advocacy is a seductive role. But I also really feel the attraction of being a solicitor. Building a relationship with clients, giving advice that could avoid court altogether. Both streams appeal, but I’ve got to pick one.

Becoming a barrister seems slightly harder, as it is much more competitive. It’s also a little less secure, as the barrister is basically self employed, paying fees and rent to the chambers he or she gets into. If you join a chambers, you’re essentially joining an organised collective, rather than a firm. But it is appealing, which is why it’s massively oversubscribed, and people are fighting tooth and nail to get appointed anywhere.

Becoming a solicitor isn’t easy either. It’s also oversubscribed, but perhaps not as badly as the Bar. I don’t want to make this sound like the “soft option,” because it’s not. I really do find the idea of being a solicitor as appealing, but for different reasons.

As well as this, there’s the sector. I already have some ideas, like any early Law student must. I don’t think I’ve any interest in tax law. Arguing about whether a jaffa cake constitutes a cake or a biscuit seems to me slightly like arguing about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. A diversion at most. Shame, because tax law is, I’m given to understand, very well paid.

So what appeals to me right now? Well, each of the following does:



Intellectual Property

Human Rights

Communications (with particular reference to current online comms)

Shipping (This one sticks out on this list)


See what I mean? That list is purely off the top of my head, without looking into anything too hard. Others will come up. I may complete an area of study and find I love it, and I’m good at it.* I may complete one I thought I’d love, and hate it. Who knows?

I’m doing what I can to whittle this list down. I’ve already been (tentatively) offered a mini-pupillage in one of these areas. I am unutterably excited by this. As well as looking good on a CV, I will see the process close up, and hopefully get a good opportunity to ask a lot of questions. I’m doing what I can to seize this chance with both hands.

As well as things like these (and I will start to apply for vacation schemes and the like soon), I need to look at some of the information about the profession. Money isn’t the big thing, but how much do some sectors earn? If I’ve got a straight choice between two areas, but one earns three times the amount of the other, I’d be mad to not consider that.** Which areas are more employable? I’d like to see figures about the ratio of applicants to places broken down by sector, but I can’t find anything.

I like the idea of being a “high street” solicitor. I like the idea of employment advocacy. I like the idea of being a criminal defence barrister. I like the idea of advising on Human Rights, or communications disputes, or standing up for unrepresented asylum seekers, or a dozen other things. But I can’t do them all.

I will have to pick, and soon. But at the moment, I’m just enjoying to occasional decent argument about legal theories, and preparing for exciting work experience opportunities. I’ll let you know how I get on.


*A good example of this: I thought I’d hate both tort law and property, but I’m actually starting to find them really interesting.

** I’m in the enviable position of not having kids, so as long as I earn a comfortable wage, I’m reasonably happy.

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4 Responses to Making plans, part two

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention Making plans, part two | lateforlawschool --

  2. samcburt says:

    Me again! (@samcburt).
    Exam in the AM and saw the recent blog, couldn’t resist a time-out.
    I had the same issues re BVC/LPC, and felt my non Russell Group degree would get me absolutely nowhere post BVC, so opted for the latter (though that was not the only factor, it merely qualified my reasoning).
    What can be considered (though not ideal) is the QLTT (Qualified Lawyers Transfer Test). A Barrister friend (1 year post BVC, with an exemplary academic record) has recently taken this route. Said friend obtained a 1st LLB, completed BVC/BPTC (whichever you prefer), and then spent the past 18months attending mini pupillages, working for CAB and ultimately working FT as a paralegal at a mid sized PI firm. Irrespective of all of her achievements/experience, no pupillage surfaced.
    She is now due to start the QLTT (a short conversion course consisting of Sols Accounts and not much else) in order to retrain as a solicitor, sponsored by her employer with the guarantee of a TC.
    Moral? – as unattractive, expensive and stressful as this route may be – all hope is not lost should an incorrect decision be made (although I would never recommend it, merely an example).

    I spent an hour speaking to ALevel students about the pros and cons of an LLB and university education very recently. When I asked a 17 yo student (who was extremely adamant about studying the LLB as it was apparently the only way to qualify…?!) what he wanted to be his only response was ‘a lawyer’. When asked what type: ‘one that goes to court’. Solicitor or barrister? – ‘no, I want to be a lawyer’.
    Looking at the next crop of graduates which I assume will graduate when you finish PT study, I don’t think you will have a problem finding a TC/Pup if that is the competition.

    As for modules at undergraduate level, I’ve found speaking to most employers that they have little bearing on their view of you as an individual. Unless of course there are striking differences between the area of law you want to qualify into, and what you elected (without any real reason for the disparity). A casing point is the fact that firms take on a wide selection of trainees with degrees of no relevance to law, the GDL only covers the foundations, and only has room for personal preference if it includes a dissertation.
    Electives at LPC however, do matter. Many firms insist that you undertake electives specific to their area of practice (and often where they should be taken). Electing for Mergers and Acquisitions and Public Company law during the LPC, will raise a few eyebrows at an interview for a small high street criminal firm.

    On a few smaller points:
    Tax Law is more interesting than it comes across.
    I loved shipping/international trade law at uni, look up INCOTERMS. Hill Dickinson are a fairly decent firm when it comes to marine law.
    Intellectual Property, goes well with competition/antitrust have a read of T201/04 (Microsoft).

    Sorry for the bad layout/grammar. It’s 3am and I am writing on my phone.

    Keep up the good work with the blog!!

  3. Beth says:

    They’ve changed the rules on the QLTT so you can no longer become a solicitor after the BVC/BPTC without pupillage. If I’d known that when I started my p/t BVC, I would have considered the LPC more carefully.

  4. Helpful says:

    Beth, they have reviewed the QLTT rules for part timers this july and you will still be able to get the QLTT had you started it before the new rules came in to effect.

    Please help me with how to complete the 2 years!

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