So, you’re thinking about a career as a Barrister? If you’re basing your expectations on the plot of an episode of Suits, think again, we’re here to reveal some truths. Read on for myths and misconceptions of becoming 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.
A large part of your work as a barrister will be paperwork. The hours are long and cases require diligent attention to detail which will mean pouring over documents for hours. However, there are certain events and fundraisers where you’ll be able to dust off your best suit.
2. Only White Men become Barristers
There is a myth that to be 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.
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.
3. You need to study Law to become a Barrister
You might think that you need to study law as your first 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.
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. Unfortunately, what’s far more likely is that you’ll be buried under mountains of paperwork, 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, leading lines of questioning are prohibited in court so most barrister use simple, plain language and stick to the hard facts.
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.
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.
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 like 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, 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.
8. Barristers are in charge of everything
Not quite. Barristers in England and Wales take cases 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. 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.
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 legal services. Contrary to popular opinion the social scene as a barrister is actually quite good with a few glamorous social events to fill up your calendar.
Yes, the hours can be long and the work is demanding, but it is also rewarding and most barristers balance their work with happy home life.
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 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.
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 a Barrister Gown, Wig and Band Set.