Jul 14, 2022

Written By Helena Kudiabor

Can a solicitor advocate become a barrister?

Jul 14, 2022

Written By Helena Kudiabor

Solicitor advocates combine the talents of both solicitors and barristers, allowing them to represent their clients throughout the entirety of their legal proceedings. Although solicitor advocates are qualified solicitors with an additional qualification, it is possible for them to retrain to become a barrister.

What is a solicitor advocate?

A solicitor advocate is a person who is fully qualified to practice law as a solicitor. However, by completing an additional qualification known as ‘Higher Rights of Audience’ they have the same rights of audience as a fully qualified barrister.

This allows them to represent their clients in many different courts, including The Supreme Court, The High Court, Court of Appeals and The Crown Court. By having the ability to provide their clients with legal advice, as well as being able to represent them in court, this ensures continuity throughout the legal process.

What is the difference between a solicitor advocate and a barrister?

While solicitors advocates and barristers are both qualified legal personnel, there are a couple of differences between them. Firstly, solicitors' advocates are typically employed by a law firm, who provides them with clients.

Their role is then to represent these clients in a court of law. However, the majority of barristers are self-employed (around 80%), and receive their cases via a chamber. They receive their salary based on the fees they charge their clients, although a few are employed by a law firm.

Another difference between barristers and solicitors advocates is their work attire. Barristers are famous for their long black robes and wigs. Queen’s Counsel Barristers (those appointed by the monarch) wear silk robes, while all other barristers wear wool. Solicitor advocates can often wear a wig, but do not have a uniform, so just wear professional attire.

Furthermore, while solicitor advocates speak with their clients frequently before they defend them, barristers do not interact much with their clients. They will receive the details of the case from a brief prepared by a solicitor, and will use this information to prepare.


How can solicitor advocates become barristers?

The typical route to become a barrister first requires a law degree or a law conversion course, but a solicitor advocate will have already done this to become a solicitor. The next step is to complete vocational bar training. The course aims to prepare aspiring barristers for their legal career, advising them on how the English legal system works, and how to represent their clients in court. This is often not too difficult for solicitor advocates, as they have experience representing clients.

The final stage is a year long pupillage in a barrister’s chamber. During this, students shadow a qualified barrister, and provide support with court cases. To increase your likelihood of finding a pupillage, it’s advisable to get some work experience by completing a mini-pupillage. Solicitor advocates can find it easier to secure a pupillage, due to their extensive experience.

What are the pros and cons of switching from a solicitor advocate to a barrister?

Retraining as a barrister can have many benefits. You’ll have experience working closely with clients, which means you’ll be able to better understand what your clients need, and how to advocate for them better.

Barristers also receive more flexibility in their careers, given that the majority are self-employed. This means you can choose how often you want to work, and where you want to work from. Barristers who work especially hard can become Queen’s Counsel, wearing silk robes and receiving more lucrative cases.

However, a career as a barrister comes with a few drawbacks. As you’re likely to be self-employed, you’ll miss out on the security that an employer offers. You won’t receive employment benefits like holiday pay and sick leave, and your salary can vary monthly depending on your caseload.

Barristers also communicate less with their clients, and you may find yourself missing these interactions.


Whether you’re interested in a career as a solicitor advocate, or you’re currently qualified as one, rest assured that you can later qualify as a barrister if you wish to do so.


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