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:
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.