Most undergraduate students pursuing a degree in law have one ultimate question that hangs over their minds. The question is- “Which is the most appropriate step to take upon graduating from law school?”
Experienced professionals with a law degree will tell you that there is no single route that a law graduate should follow.
Studying law in the United Kingdom leads to two major routes. You can either become a solicitor or a barrister.
A law graduate can also pursue to become one of the following: a company secretary, an intellectual property expert, a patent agent, a court reporter, a tax adviser or even pursue a career in academia. If you have an interest in public security, you may want to work with the security services, forensics, welfare and social policy formulation. A passion with the fourth estate can direct one into in journalism.
When one chooses to be solicitor, they are usually employed in a law firm and serve their clients directly. And if one opts to be a barrister, they will have to be groomed in order to become self-employed.
In order for one to qualify as a barrister in England or Wales upon graduating with a degree in law, they should enrol for the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), which is regulated by UK’s Bar Council. Students are mandated to have Inn of Court admission and proceed to register with the BPTC. After completing the BPTC, one is attached as a pupil in barristers’ chambers or any other approved pupillage training organization (PTOs) which serves as a further 12-month training programme. Pupillage should be applied by the law student in their final year of undergraduate studies. The period spent at the barrister’s chamber is popularly known as ‘set’.
Each set is distinctively divided into two six-month periods. During the ‘first six’ you will work directly under an experienced barrister; during the ‘second six’ you can handle cases on your own. During your entire pupillage, you will be receiving payment from your barrister as a matter of practice and law. As a pupil, you have the discretion to spend the entire 12 months at one chamber or change chambers upon completing your first six months and spend your subsequent six months at a different chamber.
Other authorized places where you may undertake your pupillage are: at the employed Bar, where you work in-house for companies, firms or charities. You may also serve as a pupil at the Armed Forces Legal Services, the Crown Prosecution Service or at the Government Legal Service. Seek more information about alternatives to barrister chambers at the Bar Standards Board website.
The Bar Council regulations demand pupils to actively engage themselves 35 hours per week for the 12 months. As a trained barrister you will mainly work in the court or serve in the tribunals.
Alternatively, if you may want to pursue a career away from the traditional legal profession, you can seek employment at the banks and building societies, insurance corporations and human resource departments of large firms.