Becoming a solicitor or a barrister
My understanding of a lawyer is a person who has practiced law as a barrister or a solicitor. This is basically someone who is licensed to practice law. I feel lawyers in this country need certain qualities like: legal knowledge and practical skills, efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and an ability to use their skills for the benefit of all the members of society.
Legal Education and Training
In Legal Education and training, there are three sections to becoming a solicitor or a barrister, these are: Academic stage, Vocational stage and the professional stage.
This is the stage where if people want to become a solicitor or barrister they need a law degree. This qualifies you going to university for approximately 3 years to do a course in law, which will give you your law degree. This is needed by the Bar Council and the Law Society for you so that you can take a course to whether becoming a barrister or a solicitor. The Bar Council is where future barristers would apply to and the Law Society is where future solicitors would apply to. The law degree covers seven key topics of law, these are: public law, EU law, Criminal law, Contract law, Tort law, Property Law and equity and trusts law.
If you do not do a law degree at university and choose to do another degree, you can still become a lawyer. This is possible because of the Graduate Diploma in law. If you take this course it is possible to follow in the professions of law. This course also has another name, it is otherwise called as the CPE (Common Professionals Examination). This course can be done in a 1 year full time and a 2 year part time. The price range for an average Graduate Diploma in law is from £3500 to £8000  . The only disadvantage to doing this course is that it is either crammed into 1 year or 2 and that you are rushed into understanding the topics , and might not fully understand them, however with the law degree you have 3 years were you can understand the course as there is enough given time2.
This is the stage where you have to choice whether what job choice you want to choice, solicitor or being a barrister. To become a barrister you will have to apply for a place of the Bar Vocational Course to study, this course is for a 1 year full study or a 2 year part time study. The range cost for this course is in between £8000 to £150003, but it is the price you pay if you want to be called to the bar. The topics that are covered in this course are: criminal and civil litigation, the law of evidence, and skills such as drafting, opinion writing and advocacy as well as legal research and fact management. Not only must future barrister s do the BVC, but they must also join one of the four most honourable training Inns of Court, the four are: Lincoln’s Inn, Gray’s Inn, Inner Te  mple and the Middle Temple. The inns formalities have changed over the centuries, when they first started barristers trained lodged and were appointed in there inns but know the inns only control one formality which is to call qualified barristers to the bar, which gives them the qualified status of a barrister. The students of the Inns of Court must dine of a minimum of 12 times. This use to be a formality of 18 times but it was changed as it was seen as too much and also the formality of “dining" with the experienced barristers was actually what it means, the fact that all the students had to do was dine with the experienced was seen as not getting no legal training out of “dinning" at the inns of court. This is why it was changed because the fact the students would get out more from their experience from this change, but the dining is still a part of the tradition4.
To become a Solicitor you will have to apply for a place at the Legal Practise Course to study. The typical coast range for this course is between £6000 to £125005, also like the BVC it is also a 1 year full course or a 2 year part time course. The topics that are covered on this course are: the laws of business, property, wills and probate, criminal and civil litigation and professional conduct. They are also taught vital skills to becoming a solicitor like: advocacy, research, drafting, interviewing, advising, problem solving and IT. The student of the LPC can choose which career path that they want to go down whilst they are in law, for example a student can pick Criminal law or something that interests that certain student6.
Again this stage is different for both Barristers and Solicitors. For barristers the professional stage is when barristers do their Pupillage. A Pupillage is similar to an apprentice ship as the students have a period of time to build on their skills they had learnt on their BVC. However Pupillage’s are like gold dust, this is because there are like 2,000 applicants finishing their BVC and then applying for their Pupillage’s and in 2008 there was only 584 places for people to do their Pupillage7. This leaves a lot of people without a Pupillage and therefore leaving a terrible back lot for future Barrister. The Pupillage is split into two separate par  ts. The parts are split equally into 6 months each, the first six months are about the student shadowing the experienced barrister known as the “pupil master". The student also assists the pupil master on his work, this could be doing research about the case or preparing legal documents, which they had already experienced in their BVC. Once the first six months have finished, the pupil than moves onto the next section, this is when the pupil has to do their own work, so this means that the pupil has to go it on their own work. The students get paid while doing their Pupillage, and in most chambers the first six months are paid by their chambers and then in the second six months as because they have to do their own work, this means they own their own money, but if they are not earning what they were paid in their first 6 months by the chambers, the chambers will match their pay.
After the completion of the Pupillage, the pupil, if lucky enough, gets award a place at the chambers at which they had done their Pupillage, this is where the student has been awarded tenancy. However, if you are not so lucky, but you have completed your year of Pupillage then you will have to squat until you can find a place at another chambers of which you can get your tenancy at a chambers. It is more frequent that pupils at the end of their Pupillage do not get a tenancy and have to squat, this is because there is more pupils applying for tenancies than there are actual places at the chambers. This is an ongoing problem in the legal industry8.
The professional stage for Solicitors is the training contract, this is like the Pupillage for barristers but not exactly the same but they just carry the same idea that they should gain experience in their profession. However, they have another thing in common with the Pupillage, this is that they are both hard to obtain. Even though the training contract is slightly easier to get into than a Pupillage, but they both show that it is very hard to become a legal practitioner. It is said that there is about a 50% chance that a student would get a place on the training contract. The training contract lasts for approximately 2 years, and in this period the students are known as trainee solicitors. In this, there are three different sections of which the trainee solicitor has to do for a minimum of three months. These three different sections are different sections in law and they must also experience contentious and non-contentious work. The trainee solicitors must keep a record of their working experience and they must also complete a professional skills course, which is made up of advocacy, client care and financial and business skills.
After the trainee solicitors have finished their training contract, they are then put onto the Roll of Solicitors, where they will have a chance to earn a living as solicitor or most people would accept an offer of an assistant solicitor with the firm that they did their training contract with9.
Continuing Professional Development (CPD)
For the so called legal practitioners, the training in these sections do not stop as they are required to do certain hours each year for training. Solicitors who are in legal practice or are employed, or solicitors who work more than 32 hours a week must complete a minimum of 16 hours a year of CPD. Barristers must do a minimum of 42 hours of CPD in their first three years as being a Barrister and 12 hours thereafter10.
Legal Knowledge and Practical Skills
One of the main criticisms in Legal Knowledge and Practical skills is that the lack in performance by lawyers in general. Over the years Barristers and Solicitors have been criticized with their work, it was found by the 1993 Royal Commission on Criminal justice that in the area of Criminal law11, the defense cases were not prepared to the degree of standard that they should be. The main reason for this, was because they had delegated their work to unqualified staff and obviously this brings to the attention that they seem to be too lazy to do their work themselves as they have the power to delegate the work to minor officials who are not qualified to do their job, so it leaves a very bad reputation as the work is not up to the standard of a solicitor or a barrister.
Another criticism in their work as lawyers was their advocacy. This was found to be very poor in the 1993 Royal Commission on Criminal Justice, this was found to be because of the poor training in their advocacy. This maybe because in their second six months of their Pupillage, they are not getting the right experience they need for being able to speak in the courts and maybe also that they had not learned enough in their first six months in their Pupillage or their BVC to even dream about standing up in court. This was seen to be another improvement that is needed by barristers and solicitors as solicitors are know getting more and more advocacy work, and this needs to be brought to their attention as solicitors get little training in advocacy, however solicitors can take the certificate of advocacy for the right to speak in court and this is a one year course were they train in advocacy.
1997, the magazine Which?, did a survey on solicitors standards of advice, this was done two years before, with the same results but I felt that this would be more relevant to our period. They had found that out of the 79 solicitors approached by the researchers which were assessed by Which’s legal team, the majority gave advice which was incomplete, or in some cases were incorrect. Which? Went on to say that lawyers cannot be expected to be experts in every area of law, but argued that if asked something outside their area of expertise, they should admit that and either find out the answer or refer the client to someone else. I agree with this statement made by which?, however this is taken from the AS Law Elliot and Quinn 2002 Longman, and that the source is more than 10 years old and a lot of things can change in 10 years, but the whole fact that there has been no real change in the law or anything otherwise to say that solicitors have changed their ways.
Both solicitors and barristers are moving to a practical approach, which is seen as the fusion of the split in lawyers in the fact that solicitors are different to barristers. This is true as solicitors nowadays are getting more advocacy work and the right to speak in court whereas before they did not have this right. You can argue this to be an advantage, but this subject also has ma  ny disadvantages and this has to be addressed as if there is fusion why should there be two very different training processes. The disadvantages of fusion would be that there would be a decrease in the specialist skills of advocacy12. This would be bad because of the loss in the two professions, would be that the most trained in advocacy, barristers, would be lost and the standard for advocacy would be lowered. Another disadvantage would be the loss of the second opinion when it comes to a case13  ; this is because the barrister acts as the second opinion of the case and this would give you a more of a varied view on a case. Finally, the last disadvantage would be that the loss of the cab rank rule14. This is where the barristers have to take on any work that is given to them with the exception that if they are have another case that day, this would be loosed and that barristers would only take up certain cases which they wanted and would not have to take on a case they would feel that there is a likely hood that they would loss it.
Efficiency and Cost Effectiveness
The fact there is two different types of lawyers that play two different roles causes a lack in efficiency and cost effectiveness. Firstly, there are less efficient is there is two sections in the law profession, this is because in the system we have today you have to contact a solicitor first and tell them of the situation and the case, then they will most likely refer you to a barrister who most likely does not know you and might not have the full information given from the solicitor. This provides a break down in the relationship between the client and the solicitor and barrister. Even though I would be contradicting myself in saying that the fusion of solicitor and a barrister would be bad, but there are certain advantages like this which spring to mind that if there was a fusion between solicitors and barristers then there would be more efficient and quicker, a better knowledge of the situation and there would also be no break down relationship with the client feeling most happy.
This then leads me on to my next point, which would be the cost effectiveness of solicitors and barristers. Solicitors and barristers are seen to be of the upper class because of the high financial risk they take to get into their profession, so there is this moral gloom that they would not be affordable to people of the middle class and lower, which in some cases is true. The cost of a case is all down to how many hours are spent on finalizing the case and this could differ from case to case and also the cost of the solicitor or barrister hourly. Obviously this high cost would put a lot of people off, and which stems into why most people use unqualified lawyers like the Citizen Advice bureau, which is free legal advice from voluntary workers. This could be sorted out with the fusion of solicitors and barristers as there would only be one type of lawyer and therefore only one cost, compared to two very different costs.
Another disadvantage of the cost effectiveness of barristers today is the noble position of a QC. They are seen as being in the top range of barristers offering the highest value of the legal profession you could get, and because of this they obviously charge more as they are seen to be the best of the best when it come to the legal profession. In 2003, the Office of Fair Trading stated that it thought the position of QC was not of benefit to the public. It said: QCs do not necessarily offer a better service, the QC title is too generic and does not tell purchasers about the area of specialization, the system focuses on advocacy skills whereas users require a range of skill such as legal advice and case management and there is no monitoring of quality or incentive to keep standards high once the title has been conferred15.
The divided profession in the legal system, I feel, is a waste a talent as you have to decide early before becoming a solicitor or a barrister. Young future solicitor’s or barristers have to choice very early on in training on which path they should choose to follow. They have to choice this after completing the academic stage of training. It is said because of this the students would not be able to see whether which position in the legal system they would prefer or would do best in, because of this you can say it is a waste of talent, because most people may go down the road of being a barrister and then finally finding out after talking a huge financial risk that they do not have the capacity to fulfill the jobs requirement and that the position of solicitor would of suited them best. Otherwise, if you are of the rich, it would not be so hard to convert, however you would have lost a lot of your life in training. Also if you were of a middle class or lower there would be no chance you would be able to move across and therefore you would have wasted your life and your academic talent.
Ability to use their skills for the benefit of all the members of society
The middle class image of solicitors and the upper class image of barristers puts many people of them, this is because that people find out that it is hard financially to become a solicitor and a barrister so it puts off this image that you cannot afford them. This means the their ability in law cannot be used for all members of society and therefore they are seen as tools of the wealthy, and therefore if you have money there is a higher percentage that you would win the case because you could afford a solicitor and a barrister and the other side of the case would mostly likely not being able to afford it.
Is there a real need of Professional Lawyers?
To an extent, I believe that you could live without the need of professional lawyers and in the world today people have being using unqualified lawyers and have achieved justice in law of which they would achieve if they had professional layers, this is because loads of work is done by unqualified lawyers, this is organizations like the citizens advice bureau who offer free advice on legal matters. Many people turn to organizations like these because they could not afford the prices of which a professional lawyer would charge, and so far this has worked. I feel very strongly about this statement because in law most of the decisions are based on what a reasonable man would do (mainly civil law) and beyond reasonable doubt. These are all common sense theory’s of which a normal person could work out and in theory this type of justice has been around for hundreds of years, for example the use of juries and lay magistrates. These are all people that are not qualified in law but on a daily basis make judgments in law, this just shows that we also do not have to have professional lawyers.
Reforms to Legal Education and Training
I think the biggest reform to legal Education and training should be that the division between Solicitors and Barristers should be broken down and to be made into one profession. I feel this is a key issue as many people do not use the services of professional lawyers because of their astonishing fees, this is clearly shown with people diverting to free legal advice which is as good as someone who gave it to them was professional. I feel this is key objective; otherwise there might be a loss in that there might be a part in the legal profession that requires only lay people for lawyers, and to stop this happening the fine line has to be broken and unified. This is not only in cost but also in the training, where one lacks the other provides and visor versa and if you to do this, you would have to bring a fee which is chargeable to all people of the nation and that they can afford it and also that the future lawyers do not became over nation isled and still get some kind of income. Another thing that would need to be changed it the training, in the fact that it needs to offer better services for the ones that are studying in law and that they can get the best education in law they can get and so this country can have an elite set of lawyers. There should also be a system where if there is an incapacity that the lawyers are not fulfilling the needs of their clients that they should be removed from the legal system as a whole as it could be a start of them be lazy and this cannot be when dealing with justice.
I feel to an extent that the legal education for barristers and solicitors cannot provide what this country needs, this is because till know these professions have done justice to law but there are many disadvantages of the legal education and training of lawyers for example the division between solicitors and barristers, and I feel until these disadvantages have been meet that the legal system can rest in peace with its legal education and training.