In any justice system the key figures that make sure justice is served, include Lawyers, Judges, Magistrates and juries. Unlike in the United States of America, “Lawyers” in the British legal profession are divided into two branches; barristers and solicitors. Both the former and the later specialize in advocacy, and although both jobs are similarly highly demanding in their own right, there is a distinction between the role of a barrister and a solicitor.
Prior to the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990 (CLSA) and the Access to Justice Act 1999 (AJA), a barrister was regarded as superior to a solicitor, because only barristers had rights of audience. However this has changed and if a solicitor completes the required training, they as well can exercise rights of audience.
When it comes to addressing the process of becoming a solicitor or a barrister, in order to distinguish the training that is required in both fields of practice and understand the roles of both lawyer’s, it is better to address the professions with their differing titles, rather than regard them as one. This paper will evaluate the roles and training of both solicitors and barristers, as well as evaluate the profession of a judge, which is regarded as the core of any legal system (Elliot & Quinn, 2009); in regards to the appointment process and the issue of accountability.
It will also address the role of a lay magistrate and the jury; in order to provide an understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of these figures in the justice system. Be it would be solicitors or barristers, all perspective law students have to go through a specific academic route in order to qualify as lawyers. Traditionally the route to law begins with a three years law undergraduate course (LLB), [Elliot & Quinn, 2009] where students will study various modules to familiarize themselves with the legal system.
In some universities student might be given the choice of selecting which modules they would like to study, however regardless of the modules they choose to study, they would have had to study core modules such as Public Law; which covers Constitutional and Administrative Law, including Human Rights; Law of the European Union; Criminal Law; Obligations, which include Contract, Restitution and Tort Law; Property law, Equity and the Law of Trusts, (www. barstandardboard.
org. uk). Achieving this degree will qualify a student to be recognized, by both the Law society for trainee solicitors and the Bar council for trainee barristers. However there are other alternative routes, such as a Postgraduate Diploma in Law (PDL) also known as Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), (www. legalweek. com); this is a one year (or two years part-time) conversion course for students who already have a degree in another subject but want a career in law.
Although the GDL is for students who already have a degree, there are also other alternatives such as the Common Professional exam (CPE); for mature students with achievements in other fields. Although this course is not recommended by the Law society, as they would rather students gain access into the legal profession through the conventional route as an undergraduate, (Elliot & Quinn, 2009). However www. legalweek.
com suggests that an increasing amount of law firms actually prefer to employ students that have the CPE academic background, on the bases that the CPE promotes independence, because of its nature as an advanced course, and the fact that CPE students already have life experiences. On completion of the undergraduate study, students will either enrol onto the Bar vocational Course (BVC) for barristers, or the Legal Practice Course (LPC), for solicitors.
For students who enrol onto the BVC they are required to have at least a 2:1, and for acceptance onto the LPC there is no minimum qualification, however it would be beneficial to at least acquire a lower second class degree (2:2), in order to be recognized by the Law society, because with increase in the amount of professional solicitors, it is obvious that the competition for places on the course will be intense which could result in students with lower grades being over looked, (Law Society website. Trends in the solicitor’s profession: statistical annual report.
2004. Cited in Elliot & Quinn, 2009. p. 180). The (one year) BVC for barristers will cost approximately ? 12. 000, as opposed to the (one year) LPC which costs ? 9. 000. Unlike the degree programme, both the LPC and the BVC cannot be funded by the government. Students on the LPC have a few options regarding funds like bursaries from the Law Society; some students will even get offers from law firms who want to assist them with finances, on the bases that they would work for the firm on completion of the LPC.
However at this point it gets much difficult for the students who want to enrol on the BVC, as there are only 500 spaces a year on the course and students who apply have to rely on sponsorship from their Inns of Court. The Inns have only ? 4 million for sponsorship between them and only 25% of the 2000 students, who apply for the BVC every year, will receive sponsorship from their Inn.
Which means students will have to loan money to pay for the course, (Elliot & Quinn, 2009). At the Bar there are four Inns of Court from which students have to join one; Inner Temple, Middle Temple, Grays Inn and Lincolns Temple; all the Inns provide professional accommodation for barristers and law libraries. One key function of the Inn is the responsibility for calling barristers to the Bar. Anyone wishing to train at the Bar must join one of the Inns.
Every Inn provides minor disciplinary tribunals for complaints against barristers as well as promote collegiate activities in which pupils will be required to work together in order to encourage practical team work, there are also dining facilities, common rooms and gardens, (Elliot & Quinn, 2009). The BVC which from autumn of 2010 will adopt the term Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) can be taken at one of the eight Inns of Court schools in the country; the contents of the course are split into two areas; knowledge and skills.
The eight areas of skills will compromise of tuition on interviewing skills, oral exercises, opinion writing, legal research, and negotiation, etc. On the other hand the five areas of knowledge will include civil litigation and remedies, evidence, professional ethics and criminal litigation, (www. barstandardsboard. org. uk); the purpose of this mixture of practical and theoretical training is so barristers will have knowledge of what to expect when they are faced with a real court situation in the future.
After the BPTC students will be called to the Bar where they will serve a year pupillage; this is the final stage of training. They will be required to serve under a pupil master who is an experienced barrister, all their travel expenses will be met and they will receive a salary of no less than ? 833. 33p a month (www. barstandardboard. rroom. net) or ? 10,000 a year, (Elliot & Quinn, 2009).
The twelve months of pupillage include the non-practicing six months which could be referred to as the theory stage; pupils will accompany their pupil master in the chambers and on court trips in order to learn a few skills in advocacy and paperwork, the final six months will be practical and pupils will embark on legal services and advocacy (on their own) with the permission of their pupil masters. The BVC in all is an intense but rewarding training process, which could discourage a few students because of its cost.
However after training there are a lot of benefits, like being self employed and earning a significantly large sum of money for services, (Elliot & Quinn. 2009). Further more after 15 years of experience as a barrister, those with an excellent reputation would be called by the Lord Chancellor (head of Judiciary) to the Queens Council (QC). This is a form of promotion that will provide some benefits; such as a higher salary of about 270,000 pounds year, more job opportunities and an assistant junior barrister to help with big cases. For the few well know QC’s, their earnings are about 1 million pounds a year, (Elliot & Quinn, 2009, p. 190).
For the perspective solicitors, the next step is to enrol on the LPC as a student, with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA); who will confirm that you have been recognized as graduate with a relevant law degree, (www. lawsociety. org. uk). The course structure will include core areas, elective areas, pervasive areas, skills areas and compulsory areas. The process of training for solicitors is not as complicated or expensive as that of barristers; it is a straight forward one year course that will lead to an apprenticeship.
On completion of the LPC students must work in a firm as apprentices for two years before they are able to practice on their own, or form a partnership, (Elliot & Quinn, 2009). However a survey carried out by the Law Society pointed out that the job of an apprentice is demanding, because a third of them work for 50 hours a week, (Elliot & Quinn 2009, p. 182). Although the profession of a solicitor and a barrister have become very much alike, there are still a few areas of practice that are limited to solicitors.
For example barristers have to work independently, while solicitors can form a partnership in a firm. However this can be risky because if a solicitor is liable, his/her partner will automatically be liable. Since 2001 solicitors have had a choice of forming Limited Liability partnership (LLP) which means every partner is solely responsible for his or her actions. Other areas of practice such as conveyance are also limited to solicitors, and other experts in the field, (Elliot & Quinn 2009).