Many of us grew up watching the classic 1970s British comedies such as Joe and Maggie, Dad’s Army, or The Goodies. If you’re one of those people, you’ll undoubtedly know what the Queen’s Counsel or Queen’s Counsel (usually shortened to QC or QCs) is: the senior most lawyer in the British court system. Their role is to appear in court as the barrister (lawyer) representing the British Crown (government) in front of the jury. While they are extremely intelligent and experienced lawyers, the role of the QC is mostly to provide a voice of authority in court and to dazzle the jury with their oratorical skills. In reality, a career in law is a very exciting one, providing you with a great life and a social media following to boot!
The role of a barrister is extremely varied, but generally entails acting as an advisor to ministers and senior government officials, appearing in court as an expert witness, arguing cases for individuals or companies, acting as an attorney for the prosecution or defense in a criminal case, and preparing important paperwork relating to the practice of law. While the title of a barrister is legally defined as ‘Queen’s Counsel’, in reality, it is largely determined by the amount of work that you put in. Getting a ticket to court is a great start, but working hard to become a decent, respected barrister is a satisfying career route.
So, if you’re interested in pursuing a career in law, there are many exciting steps that you can take to launch your legal career. From studying at one of the world’s great universities to gaining valuable professional experience to preparing for the Legal Aid Board examinations (which all newly qualified lawyers in the UK have to pass in order to practice), there are plenty of opportunities for you to make the most of your talents.
Study Law At a Prestige University
If you’re looking for an accredited institution, none other than the famous London School of Economics (LSE) could teach you to become a QC. Many famous names have graduated from LSE, including five Prime Ministers (a sixth, David Cameron, graduated from one of its predecessor institutions, the London School of Economics and Political Science).
Not only do they have a great name, but the legal studies at LSE are widely considered to be some of the best in the country. Students are granted full access to case studies and are encouraged to apply their legal knowledge through mock trials and case assignments. In 2019, the Law Faculty at LSE were the 14th largest in the UK, with over 2,000 students enrolled.
Other well-known universities that you could graduate from with a legal background include Cambridge, Oxford, and Durham Universities. While these are all reputable institutions, the choice is yours as to which one you’d like to study at.
Get A First Ticket To Court
The first step to becoming a QC is getting a ‘ticket’ to court. This is a great opportunity to make your legal debut, whether you’re appearing in person or via video link. You’ll want to make sure that you prepare thoroughly for these cases; therefore, it’s a good idea to register with a mock trial society so that you can practice in front of a jury of your peers. Registration with a society is completely free, and you’ll receive a discount for participating in real trials. After completing a mock trial, you’ll have the opportunity to practice in front of actual members of the bar; this is also when you can make professional connections that could help your career in the future. It’s also worth noting that the more successful you are in trials, the more tickets you’ll be granted to appear in court in the future. From there, you can build a profile of appearing in court, making you more attractive to potential employers.
If you’re getting a ticket to court for the first time, you’ll be required to attend a local court where cases are heard. Most courts will have one or two sessions a week, so you’ll have the opportunity to make the most of your studies by regularly appearing in court.
Gain Professional Experience
While it’s important to gain experience as a student, you must also seek out opportunities to gain more in the professional world. There are a variety of ways in which you can gain legal experience, whether you join a law firm, appear in court in a pro bono capacity, or simply offer assistance to the public through community clinics. If you’re looking for some extra cash, you could even set up your own legal practice and start charging clients!
In 2019, over 37,000 students were listed as Barrister or Attorney at Law on LinkedIn, suggesting a great opportunity for you to gain valuable job contacts. If you prepare for the right exams (including the necessary legal knowledge and analysis), you’re sure to succeed, putting you on the path to a lucrative career as a barrister. Or, at the very least, a job on a tax return!
Pass The Legal Aid Board Examinations
The Legal Aid Board (LAADE) is a government body that regulates legal aid in England and Wales. Essentially, it ensures that only experienced practitioners who are approved to practice are allowed to represent clients who can’t afford to pay for legal advice. In 2019, the passing rate for the 1.1 London Intermediary Property (ILP) Law was 95%. While this is a high level of achievement, it’s also a great opportunity to work on your weaknesses. If you need help preparing for your exams, you’re welcome to join a mock trial society or attend a few legal seminars before the end of the year.
To become a QC, you’ll need to pass three exams. The first is the Fundamentals of Law (FDLE). This is a basic legal knowledge exam that all newly qualified lawyers have to pass in order to practice. The second is a Professional Skills assessment (PSE), which is a bit like the bar exam in the United States. The third is a Professional Conduct Assessment (PCE), which looks into your ethical standards. All three of these exams are administered by the LAADE. You can find out more about them here.
Once you’ve passed these exams (which should all happen in the next few years), you’ll be able to enjoy a rewarding career in law. And, if you practice intelligently and ethically, you’ll soon find yourself appearing in court on a regular basis. So, put that chin up, pull up those shirts, and get ready to dazzle those juries!