The Beginner's Guide to a Career in Law 2021

Barristers Barristers represent clients in court and advise on specialist legal issues. They receive their cases through solicitors and are self-employed. When not in court, they work in chambers (offices shared by groups of barristers) where they prepare their arguments and advice. Again, barristers work in many different areas of law. Key elements of the job include: • advising clients on the law and the strength of their case; • writing advice letters and legal opinions for clients; • representing clients in court, including presenting the case and cross-examining witnesses; and • negotiating settlements (when a legal dispute is resolved privately outside of court). Once they qualify, a barrister is known formally as a ‘junior’. They remain a junior until they are made a Queen’s Counsel (QC) – this is also known as ‘taking silk’. A QC is a senior barrister with extensive experience who is seen as having outstanding ability. Most barristers never become QCs.

Areas of law There are hundreds of different types of law. At the simplest level, you can divide lawyers between those doing commercial work (ie, work for companies) and those involved with individual people. You could be a banking lawyer scrutinising a major loan by a bank to a corporation, or a personal injury lawyer advising someone who was injured at work. Day-to-day working life varies hugely from practice area to practice area – an immigration lawyer’s job will differ from an intellectual property solicitor’s. See the “practice area snapshot” below for more detail.

Further reading Solicitors Barristers

Chartered legal executives and paralegals are also lawyers who work in law firms, but the route to these jobs does not require a university degree. Find out more about paralegals, legal executives and apprenticeships in the rest of this booklet.

Human rights

Intellectual property

Private client

Public law

This practice area is incredibly wide ranging and includes immigration and asylum cases, privacy cases affecting celebrities and international law issues. Clients may range from low-income refugees and prisoners through to large news organisations and government departments.

This involves protecting intellectual ideas (eg, new inventions, brands and music) from exploitation, usually through copyright, trademarks and patents. The work of IP lawyers includes commercial exploitation cases, infringement disputes, and agreements covering IP rights, either exclusively or as part of larger commercial deals.

Private client lawyers advise on all aspects of an individual client’s

Public law concerns relationships between people and government. This might mean challenging the level of care provided to a disabled person by a local authority, or on a larger scale, advising the government on national infrastructure

financial affairs, including capital

gains tax, inheritance tax planning, setting up lifetime trusts and preparing wills. Private client lawyers also handle a wide range of charity work.

development, such as a new energy or transport project.


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