The Legal Profession: One Career, Many Avenues
Whether we are reading about the heroic small-town attorney Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mocking Bird, or watching in awe as Richard Gere portrays a smooth attorney in Primal Fear, it is apparent through culture and media that there is a power and prestige associated with the law in American society. This paper compares the training and education of such American lawyers with their English counterparts, concluding as to why it may behoove us in the US to adopt the apprenticeship requirements of England.
To begin, it is important to note that n the English system, the legal profession is distinctly divided; lawyers are either Barristers or Solicitors. While the Barristers are governed by the various Inns of Court, the Solicitors branch is governed by The Law Society (Chambers Student). Despite this distinction, members of either branch may now seek the rank of Queen’s Counsel (Q.C.).
Barristers primarily argue in court and are likely to serve on the more important courts. They serve as advocates before a court of appropriate jurisdiction and speak in court, presenting the case before a judge or jury (Chambers Student). Solicitors primarily work with clients and handle legal documents, including conducting proceedings in courts (although Solicitors were required to engage a Barrister as advocate in a High Court or above after the profession split in two) (Chambers Student). As an additional branch of the legal profession, there are also Legal Executives, who are represented by the Institute of Legal Executives.
Now that we recognize the distinction among them, let’s consider both the advantages and disadvantages of the split profession. The most notable distinction is that by having a Barrister review a course of action, the client is offered an independent opinion from an expert in the field who is distinct from the hired Solicitor (Law Observer). Moreover, judges are appointed from the bar in many jurisdictions. Given that Barristers tend to have short-term client relationships, these judicial appointees are more removed from the client and therefore independent (Law Observer). Much like how the US has three branches of the government in an effort at a system of checks and balances, a Barrister acts as a check on the Solicitor conducting the trial. According to some critics, a distinct disadvantage of the split profession is that a multiplicity of legal advisers can lead to an inefficient process and higher costs (Law Observer).
Given our understanding of the two divisions, we are in a better position to appreciate the variations among education and training. A prospective Barrister must first complete the academic stage of their legal education by obtaining a qualifying law degree (The Law Society of England and Wales). However, instead of obtaining a formal law degree, the student may undertake a one-year law conversion course, now known as a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), so long as he...