In April 2023 we were awarded the opportunity to partake in an exchange with the pupils of 29 Bedford Row Chambers. Those chosen to participate in the exchange were tasked with experiencing a week on the other side of the legal profession to gain an insight and experience into the full workings of any case. We, as trainee solicitors, were offered an opportunity to undertake the work associated with a mini pupillage which involves shadowing barristers in chambers and court.
What is the difference between a solicitor and a barrister?
While solicitors and barristers are both ‘lawyers’ in the general sense, there is a difference between the two roles. We are currently undertaking our training contract, which upon completion will result in us being qualified solicitors. A solicitor is usually the first port of call for a client and their role is to provide professional legal advice and support. Solicitors will carry out most of the day to day tasks on a case, such as dealing with paper work, corresponding with the other side and preparing the case for court. Contrastingly, barristers are usually involved at a later stage to provide specialist legal advice and represent the client at a court hearing. A solicitor will brief the barrister, who will then argue a client’s case in front of a judge.
During my week in chambers I was fortunate to work with several highly acclaimed barristers who are experts in family law. I was able to see what the daily life of barristers entails, both the positives and negatives and compare the different skills sets to my role as a trainee solicitor.
It was a truly insightful experience, being able to sit and participate in client meetings, court hearings and reviewing court documents. I even had the opportunity to fill out court applications and deal with a variety of new issues regarding international family law. The barristers I shadowed were very knowledgeable and offered practical tips for me to take forward, as a solicitor following the end of my training contract. It was important to reflect on the role that solicitors have in adequately briefing a barrister and ensuring they have all the necessary information about an individual’s case.
Overall, it was a very useful and interesting opportunity which I would definitely recommend to other aspiring solicitors and barristers.
As a trainee solicitor, I often attend court with the role of taking a note and providing support to the client. Usually I will have spent a number of months working on the client’s file to prepare their case for the court hearing and will therefore have developed a real sense of familiarity with the case. During my time at 29 Bedford Row, I had the unique experience of being able to appreciate the court process from the perspective of a barrister. It was interesting to understand the different skills and techniques adopted by barristers, which enable them to come on board with a case at a much later stage and be able quickly and efficiently absorb the many events that have taken place during a client’s case.
An exciting aspect of the week was getting a ‘behind the scenes’ view of how a barrister will discuss with their opponent ways to achieve an agreement in respect of certain elements of a hearing. As solicitors, we are usually not privy to these discussions at court and therefore it was hugely insightful to observe these conversations and appreciate ways in which a barrister will look for way to reach an agreement with the other side.