Most of us will have watched courtroom dramas on TV, but these do not always paint a realistic picture of working in the legal profession. Here we look at the reality behind the top myths.
It’s highly lucrative
A legal career can pay very well; however, it takes time to get there. A trainee solicitor’s salary must be at least the minimum wage and a trainee barrister must be paid at least £12,000 during their pupillage (first year). These are not huge salaries when considering the cost of postgrad study funded by many law students.
Newly-qualified solicitors will earn in the region of £22,000 and upwards, while most junior barristers are self-employed and earnings are much more varied. A recent survey by Chambers Student suggests they will earn anywhere between £10,000 and £100,000 in their first year, depending on the area of law in which they practice.
To be truly successful and earn very good money, a lawyer needs more than just academics; for example, they will need a commercial mindset and/or an ability to accrue a good client base.
It’s very glamorous
We can blame the TV shows for this one. Whilst a legal career can mean attending fancy functions and will usually mean wearing a dapper suit, long hours and hard work in offices and court buildings will usually feature more heavily. Anyone who has visited a provincial magistrates or county court will be well aware of the very mundane surroundings.
That being said, the social life can be very good. Many larger firms have social committees that organise work events throughout the year. Barristers’ chambers organise good parties and there are opportunities to attend industry and charity events.
Lawyers are posh
Many still tend to think of the law as elitist, attracting only those who have been to public school and the top universities. Whilst historically this may have been true, things have changed in recent years. As the top universities have increasingly admitted students from all social backgrounds, so the diversity of trainee solicitors and barristers has increased.
The increasing number of legal professionals qualifying through alternate routes, either as legal executives whilst employed or via the approved legal apprenticeship schemes, will undoubtedly diversity the profession further.
The court room is your second office
Criminal lawyers, and to a lesser extent family lawyers, do spend a substantial amount of time in court; however, they will usually instruct a barrister for complicated hearings and trials. Most solicitors spend a lot of time in their offices and in meetings with clients and barristers. Qualified duty solicitors or those who are police station accredited will also spend a lot of time in police stations.
You can never be the boss
It is a commonly held belief that it is difficult to own a law firm; however, since March 2012, new legislation has made it possible for non-lawyers to own law firms and for these to be managed in ways other than partnerships. This means that anyone can now invest in law firms or become involved in their management.
A legal career can mean long hard days, particularly during the first few years; however, it should always prove to be an interesting, and at times incredibly satisfying, career.
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