Solicitors vs Barristers
Solicitors vs Barristers - Who comes out on top?
What is the difference between the two?
On a basic level, a barrister will generally provide advice to clients whilst representing, defending and advocating for them in court, and they must wear a wig and gown whilst doing so. They are passed new cases by a Solicitor who is already working on the matter on behalf of the client.
Comparatively a Solicitor will generally provide advice to both private and commercial clients whilst preparing relevant documentation prior to and during a court case. However, a Solicitors work is not limited to dealing with court claims, they will deal with a variety of cases working in a number of areas, such as drafting commercial contract or wills and trusts.
How do the routes to the roles differ?
The routes that individuals take to qualify as a solicitor or barrister are quite similar in their infancy. Solicitors generally do a law degree, go on to do the Legal Practice Course (LPC) although, from 2021, you will have to take the Solicitors Qualifying Exam. Upon completion of the course, individuals have to secure a training contract, which generally lasts two years.
Whilst barristers will also generally complete a law degree, they will then go onto do the Bar Practice Course (BPC) before undertaking a pupillage, which will generally last one year.
Is it easier to secure a training contract or a pupillage?
Becoming either a barrister or solicitor is notoriously difficult with both industries facing fierce competition for a limited number of training or pupillage contracts, offered annually.
The latest statistics show that there are consistently fewer than 400 pupillages available each year and yet 1,753 students enrolled in the BPC in 2018/19.
Conversely, there are roughly 5,500 training contracts available each year with an estimated 30,000 individuals fighting to secure a spot.
As such, neither can be considered easier to secure than the other with a high calibre of individuals fighting for a position each year.
What is the difference between a training contract and pupillage?
A pupillage will generally last twelve months, with training split into two equal six month periods. During the first six months Pupils will shadow a qualified barrister and assist in research, drafting opinions and arguments. The second six months is more practical work as Pupils obtain a provisional practising certificate. This will allow them to provide legal services to the public under the supervision of their supervisor(s).
In contrast, a training contract generally lasts 24 months and trainees will get to sample at least three areas of a law firm, undertaking what is known as a seat. Trainees must undertake both a contentious and non-contentious seat, this means that they experience cases that involve court conflicts and those that involve neither the court nor conflict, such as contract drafting. During a training contract, trainees undertake a Professional Skills Course (PSC) in order to become fully qualified solicitors. The PSC is split into three core modules: advocacy and communication skills; client care and professional standards; and financial and business skills. In addition to the core modules, trainee solicitors will need to undertake around 24 hours of elective modules.
What is the difference in pay between a barrister and solicitor?
Solicitors and Barristers’ wages can vary greatly depending on the size of firm or chambers that they work for, and the area of law that they operate in.
However, in 2018 the average annual salary of solicitor working full-time in a private practice was £62,000. The average salary of a solicitor will vary depending on the region that they work within to match living costs, for example, the average salary of a solicitor in greater London is £88,000 compared to £46,000 in the Midlands and Wales.
In comparison approximately 80% of barristers are self-employed and their earnings can vary significantly depending on a range of factors. Whereas, qualified barristers in private practice with around five years' experience can earn anything from around £50,000 to £200,000. For those with over ten years experience, earnings can range from £65,000 to £1,000,000.
 Chambers Student, ‘A preliminary warning’ (Chambers student) < www.chambersstudent.co.uk/the-bar/a-career-at-the-bar/a-preliminary-warning> Accessed 26 May 2021
 Laura Noakes, ‘What is a training contract’ (All about law, 24 February 2021) < www.allaboutlaw.co.uk/law-careers/training-contract/what-is-a-training-contract> Accessed 26 May 2021
 BPP, ‘Differences between a pupillage and a training contract’ (BPP, 9 December 2020) <www.bpp.com/insights/differences-between-pupillage-and-training-contract> Accessed 26 May 2021
 Ibid (n2)
 The Law Society, ‘How much do solicitors earn?’ (The Law Society) < www.lawsociety.org.uk/en/career-advice/becoming-a-solicitor/how-much-do-solicitors-earn> Accessed 26 May 2021
 Prospects, ‘Job profile barristers’ (Job Prospects) <www.prospects.ac.uk/job-profiles/barrister> Accessed 26 May 2021