One thing that really gets on our nerves (collectively as aspiring solicitors) is the misconceptions people have of the legal profession in the UK. This is mainly due to media influence such as television programs and movies, which often overlap the UK and USA legal professions. Let’s set the record straight on the most common misconceptions I have dealt with.
Help! Can you advise me on X and Y legal issue?
Well we are delighted that you came to us for advice, you could have done worse. But please understand this, just because it says ‘Studying LLB Law at University of Central Lancashire’, it does not mean I can get your landlord to see sense, or get your ex-husband to leave you alone. We often feel that people assume that law is just one topic that can be put in one text book, but this is not the case. There are hundreds of areas of law which a person can go on to specialise in, from energy law to property law. We’re like ice cream; available in different flavours.
So do you have to wear a wig?
In terms of law, Section 49 of the Courts and Court Officers Act 1995 abolished the requirement that barristers should wear wigs in court, and solicitors aren’t barristers. A solicitor’s natural habitat is an office or the courts of first instance (if even than). It is very rare that a solicitor is present in court, often because a barrister is instructed to do the
dirty work litigation. The solicitor’s responsibility is to get all the facts and evidence together and build the case. The barristers can take it from there and use the information to persuade a court. So in summary, no we wont be wearing wigs, stop watching Law & Order, it’s rubbish and inaccurate!
Will you become a lawyer?
A lawyer is a very generic term, please don’t use it. Because of the tenuous relationship between solicitors and barristers, the professionals don’t like to be chucked into the same box. Yes a lawyer is someone who practices law, but they practice law in different ways. A solicitor is someone who ‘solicits’ with the client, and solicits drawing up wills, contacts, or instructing the barrister. In a medical context, they’re kind of like the GP, and the barrister is the Specialist Doctor. They try to find out what’s best for the client and they do the best they can to prevent a situation from escalating up to the need for litigation. Save for solicitor-advocates (who have done additional training to appear in court).
Why don’t you become a judge when you graduate?
Yes, why didn’t I think of that, a six figure salary sounds perfect! Unfortunately, that’s not how it works. In order to become a judge, you have lots of networking and dogsbody jobs to do. Not only that, but you need to have decades of experience behind you, you need to have been a lawyer (solicitor/barrister ahem), and you need to know the right people. Yes guys, I am afraid REED was lying to you when they implicitly told you that you could become a judge by putting up your CV online.
You’re scum of the earth, how could you represent a crook!
In a perfect world everyone has justice in mind. But in this very gritty industry, the more money you have the greater the injustice you can create. Solicitors are bound by codes of practice (click here if you’re really interested), that obligates them to represent their client to the best of their ability and in their client’s best interest. I suppose solicitors are like parking officers, except they are paid a little bit more. It’s a job that needs doing and it puts food on the table for many families. A good question to ask yourself – if a solicitor was to represent their client with bias, would it then actually be the solicitor doing the injustice, and no longer the client? And of course, everyone has their right to a fair trial. So you see, solicitors are just the messengers doing as they’re asked, so please don’t shoot them.
- They don’t do justice – they do what’s best for their clients.
- You can’t job search to become a judge.
- Barristers get called to the bar – Solicitors get admitted to the roll.
- They don’t have to wear wigs, but they still have the black gowns.
- Oh, and English Courts do not use gavels, come on we’re better than that.
Thank you Stephanie Lomas for helping me in the draft.