Law careers: Barrister and Solicitor

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Law careers are considered to be prestigious. But be warned: law is a demanding field of study. You will need a considerable level of commitment. The process of qualification is a long one. However, law is a fascinating and rewarding career.

After they graduate, law students have further studies ahead. Firstly, they have to decide whether to pursue a career as a solicitor or barrister. Aspirant solicitors continue their studies with the Law Society of Ireland. Those who wish to be barristers do further studies at the Honorable Society of King’s Inns.

Education

There are a wide range of Law courses available at third-level colleges, including Law and Legal Studies degrees. In addition, there are degrees that combine Law with another subject such as History, Politics, Philosophy, Taxation, Business, French, and German. You can also do a higher-certificate or ordinary degree courses in Legal Studies and Legal Studies with Business. These can facilitate access to the degree courses.

As you can guess, Law students study many aspects of Irish and International law. This includes aspects such as tort, contract, criminal, land, and constitutional law. Furthermore they will cover subjects such as Irish Legal History and Legal Writing. Students on some courses will also have core or optional subjects in areas such as languages, business and the arts.

Options after Qualification

The Law Society of Ireland oversees the professional training and certification of solicitors, while the Honorable Society of King’s Inns is responsible for the education of barristers in Ireland.

Newly qualified solicitors usually start as a junior in an established private practice. New barristers spend a period devilling with an experienced barrister before branching out on their own.

A general law degree also opens many doors in careers such as politics, journalism, lecturing, banking, stockbroking, teaching, and property management. There are also opportunities in the public service, insurance, and taxation sectors. Finally, there are lots of opportunities for postgraduate study and research in legal studies. Students can specialise in areas such as human rights, European law, or criminal justice.

The Work

Solicitors are often the first port of call for a member of the public when legal matters arise. They provide all manner of legal advice and services to the public, organisations, and businesses. Common tasks and responsibilities include:

  • Drawing up documents to oversee land and property sales
  • Helping individuals in legal disputes with others
  • Drawing up wills and other legal agreements
  • Dealing with business and corporate law
  • Advising people in trouble with the Gardaí

Solicitors also brief barristers for court cases. Some firms of solicitors specialise in a particular area, such as environmental or media law.

Barristers plead cases before the district, circuit, high and supreme courts. They can work for the prosecution or the defence. They don’t usually deal with individual members of the public. Instead, they receive instructions and briefs from a solicitor.

Solicitors often consult barristers for their advice and opinions on specific legal points, even if a court case is not pending. Barristers also represent clients at tribunals and public enquires, and draft legal documents. Some barristers specialise in certain areas, such as criminal, family, or labour law.

Personal Qualities & Work Environment

An aptitude and command over the English language is vital, as it is necessary to understand and translate complex legal language. Researching skills are also hugely important as is a willingness to work hard.

Barristers are not allowed advertise and survive solely on reputation and word of mouth. That means that fostering good relationships with peers and clients is a must. Confidence and public speaking skills are also required. Solicitors usually work from an office, while barristers divide their time between their chambers and the courtroom. Long hours are common and expected, especially for people beginning their legal careers.

Jargon

Adverse possession: When someone occupies land without legal title for a long enough period, normally 12 years, that they are recognized as the legal owner (‘squatter’s rights’)

Conveyance: The transfer of ownership and rights of property from one person to another

Tort: Any wrongdoing that may result in a civil action for damages

Devilling: A period of training where a trainee barrister shadows an experienced barrister for a year

Further Resources

Law Society of Ireland
The Honorable Society of King’s Inns
Irish Centre for Human Rights, NUI Galway


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Whichcollege.ie is a national database of universities, colleges, institutes and providers of third level and PLC courses in Ireland. We operate a national search database of courses at certificate, diploma and degree level as well as providing information about career paths and directions.
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