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10 Myths About What it Takes to Become a Barrister

by Martin Lewis
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So, you think you want to become Barrister? You’re ready to stand up for justice, fight the good fight and preserve the fair execution of the law?

Fantastic! A career in the law is a prestigious profession and one full of honour, hard work and intellectual prowess. 

However, if you are basing your expectations on the plot of an episode of Suits think again! 

We’re here to reveal some hard truths and bust some myths about the realities of what is required to become a barrister. 

1. Becoming a Barrister is Glamorous

If you’re an avid watcher of legal dramas you could be forgiven for thinking that a career as a barrister will all be glitz, glamour, designer suits and lavish parties.

Unfortunately, we have to break it to you that that is rarely the case. 

A large part of your work as a barrister will be paperwork. Lots and lots of paperwork. 

The hours are long and cases require diligent attention to detail which will mean pouring over documents for hours. You’re going to be working to defend justice and uphold the law, once you become a barrister you’ll find there’s very little time for glamour!

However, there are certain events and fundraisers where you’ll be able to dust off your best suit, sip on champagne and dazzle the higher-ups.

2. Only White Men Become Barristers

There is a myth that to become a barrister in the UK you have to be white, male and posh. The legal profession in the process of taking a long hard look at itself and diversity a topic on everyone’s lips at the moment. 

While it may be true that in the past the profession was shamefully lacking in diversity, there is change ahead. 

In the last few years there has been a marked increase in women and BME students successfully applying to law school, so don’t let the lack of diversity put you off a career at the bar. You can be part of the change that makes our legal system more accessible and diverse.

becoming a barrister diversity

3. You Need to Study Law to Become a Barrister

You might think that you need to study law as your first Bachelor’s degree to stand a chance of having a legal career, but that’s not necessarily the case. There are full time and part-time courses that can set you on your way to the bar, even if it’s a decision you’ve come to after you graduate.

In the UK, if you have graduated university with a degree in an unrelated subject, the Graduate Diploma in Law (GLD) is a conversion course that packs the equivalent of 18 months of undergraduate study into an intensive year-long course. 

You can also boost your prospects of a career at the bar by seeking out work experience and mini-pupillages to enhance your CV while you work to become a barrister.

becoming a barrister

4. Barrister’s Lives are Super Exciting

Ah yes, we all love the moment that the lead in the legal drama cracks the case in dramatic fashion. The ‘Eureka moment’ when all the pieces finally fall into place. Often followed by a steamy scene in a supply cupboard…

Unfortunately, what’s far more likely is that you’ll be buried under mountains of paperwork, with checking and drafting documents taking up most of your time.

And, don’t think you’ll be reeling off emotive speeches in court to ‘sway the Jury’. Whilst good public speaking is essential, and advocacy is one of the most important parts of your training to become a barrister, leading lines of questioning are prohibited in court. 

So, most barristers use simple, plain language and stick to the hard facts. Sometimes the simple methods are the most effective, and won’t get you held in contempt of court! 

5. Becoming a Barrister will Make you Rich

Ah yes, all Barristers are rolling in it, aren’t they? Driving around in their sleek cars and wearing designer suits. Well, not quite…

Whilst the most experienced and talented barristers can be handsomely compensated, this accounts for a rather small portion of barristers within the legal profession. 

A lot of Barristers work at smaller firms and will be paid a comparatively modest salary when they start out.

And remember, nobody starts at the top. At the start of your career, expect to be earning close to minimum wage as a trainee and not a whole lot more while you build up your caseload and get established.

To become a barrister, you need to really look at your motivations. If you’re in it for the money there are far easier and more profitable careers. However, if you truly want to help change lives and fight for justice, then you might just make it. 

becoming a barrister rich

6. Becoming a Barrister Requires Backstabbing

Lawyers are all evil, backstabbing monsters, right? Contrary to the popular opinion that all law students sell their soul at the beginning of their bachelors, barristers, solicitors and law students are just normal people.

Yes, the environment is competitive, but it’s not like anyone’s going to push you under a bus to make sure they get the job instead of you! 

Inns of court and law firms are professional environments, and manipulative behaviour will probably be spotted and won’t go down well.

7. Barristers Spend all Day in Court

No, you really won’t. Did you forget our old friend paperwork? 

Most barristers don’t actually spend that much time in court at all, with the largest portion of their time spent preparing for cases. It also largely depends on your specialism with the largest amount of court time going to criminal cases.

So, don’t think that when you become a barrister you’ll be bursting in and out of courtrooms constantly. 

8. Barristers are in Charge of Everything

Not quite. Barristers in England and Wales take cases on behalf of and work for their clients. 

Your job will be to give legal advice to your client, but, at the end of the day, it will be their decision whether to adhere to that legal advice or not. 

Barristers can’t pull all the strings, they can only present their clients with the facts and best professional opinion. Barristers can’t actually force their clients to take their advice though.

model wooden toy pressure

9. Barristers Have no Time for a Social Life

If this was true then it’s unlikely that many people would be interested to work in the legal services. Contrary to popular opinion, the social scene when you become a barrister is actually quite good with, a few glamorous social events throughout the year to fill up your calendar. 

Yes, the hours can be long and the work is demanding, but it is also rewarding and most barristers are able to balance their work with a happy home life.

becoming a barrister friends

10. Barristers have to be Brainiacs

Lawyers on TV are often portrayed as having a Rainman-esque ability to hold every detail of every case they’ve ever had in their minds. 

Ready to whip out a fact or historical piece of evidence at the opportune moment. In reality, work as a practising barrister is about diligent prep work and long hours. 

Many law students can be intimidated by their degree, thinking if they don’t get a First their legal career is already over but this is really not the case. 

becoming a barrister brain

In truth, hard work and graft are far more important qualities to have, although a photographic memory wouldn’t exactly hurt…

If you have decided on a career as a barrister and in need of a uniform we’ve got you covered with our Barrister Gown, Wig and Band Set.

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