LEGAL PERSONNEL

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SOLICITORS TRAINING

1. 3 A Levels - Law is not a required subject. 2yrs

2. University - Law is not required. 3yrs at least

On a qualifying law degree, there are 7 core modules: Constitutional and Administrative Law, the Law of Contract, Criminal Law, Equity and Trusts, EU Law, Land Law (Property Law), Law of Torts.

2a. Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) - For those without a law degree. 1yr

Essentially a crash law degree designed to bring you up to the required standard in the core legal subjects.

3. Legal Practise Course (LPC) - to teach basic skills. 1yr

A practical course for training in necessary skills for a solicitor such as client interviewing, negotiation, advocacy, drafting documents and legal research.

4. Training Contract - working in a firm for experience on the job. 2yr

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TRAINING PROCESS A03

EXPENSES - The LPC is not government funded. Students will have to pay the fees of the LPC (about £14,000) and support themselves during this year. The result of this policy is that students from poor families cannot afford to take the course and are therefore prevented from becoming solicitors, despite the fact that they have a qualifying law degree, and sufficient ability. Other students take out loans, yet this results in starting the training period with a large debt.

To overcome this problem, a few universities have started offering four-year degree courses combining a law qualification and a practical course, so students only pay the university fees. They could also try to get company sponsorship.

OVERSUPPLY - For every training contract, there are at least 3 applicants. Therefore there are obvious problems with supply and demand. Many applicants do not get the contract and therefore have to apply for other jobs, many of which will not be graduate level. 

The only way to overcome this is academic excellence, and making oneself stand out, with work experience, languages, highest attainable grades etc. 

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WORK OF SOLICITORS

The majority of those who succeed in qualifying as a solicitor will then work in private practice in a solicitor's firm. 

There are other careers available, and some go on to work in the Crown Prosecution Service or for a Local Authority or Government Department.

Others will become legal advisers in commercial or industrial businesses. 

A solicitor in private practice may work as a sole practitioner or in a partnership. There are about 9,000 firms of solicitors, ranging from small 'high street' practice to big city firms.

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REGULATION OF SOLICITORS

Solicitors Regulatory Authority (SRA)

The SRA sets a Code of Conduct for all solicitors to follow: uphold the rule of law and the proper administration of justice, act with integritynot allow your independence to be compromised, act in the best interests of each client, provide a proper standard of service to your clientsbehave in a way that maintains the trust the public places in you and in the provision of legal servicescomply with your legal and regulatory obligations and deal with your regulators and ombudsmen in an open, timely and co-operative manner, run your business or carry out your role in the business effectively and in accordance with proper governance and sound financial and risk management principles, run your business or carry out your role in the business in a way that encourages equality of opportunity and respect for diversity, and protect client money and assets.

When the code of conduct is breached, the SRA can hand out fines, disciplinary actions, revoke the solicitors/firms right to practice etc. 

If a complainant isn't happy with a decision, the responsibility for regulating the firm or solicitor can be passed onto the Legal Ombudsmen.

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BARRISTERS INTRODUCTION

There are over 12,000 barristers practising in England and Wales

All barristers are collectively referred to as The Bar.

All barristers must also be a member of one of the four Inns of Court, all of which are situated near the Royal Courts of Justice in London. The Inns of Court are societies of lawyers that offer their student and barrister members a whole manner of services and facilities to help them in their work and study.

Lincoln's Inn

Inner Temple

Middle Temple

Gray's Inn

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BARRISTERS TRAINING

1. 3 A Levels - Law is not a required subject. 2yrs

2. University - Law is not required. 3yrs at least

On a qualifying law degree, there are 7 core modules: Constitutional and Administrative Law, the Law of Contract, Criminal Law, Equity and Trusts, EU Law, Land Law (Property Law), Law of Torts.

2a. Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) - For those without a law degree. 1yr

Essentially a crash law degree designed to bring you up to the required standard in the core legal subjects.

3. Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) - to teach basic skills. 1yr

Teaches key skills for barristers e.g case work skills, legal research, general written skills, interpersonal skills, advocacy, opinion writing, conference skills

4. Pupillage - working with a more experienced barrister to learn. 1yr

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WORK OF BARRISTERS

Barristers practising at the Bar are self-employed but usually work from a set of chambers where they can share administrative expenses with other barristers. Most sets of chambers are fairly small, comprising about 15-20 barristers. They will employ a clerk as a practice administrator - booking in cases and negotiating fees - and they will have other support staff.

Barristers are experts in the art of advocacy, which means presenting a case in court, or at a tribunal or public enquiry. They also give specialist advice on all aspects of the law. Barristers are also asked to provide opinions on a wide range of legal problems that do not involve court cases.

Independent barristers receive a brief from a solicitor - they are not usually approached directly by the client. Barristers spend a large amount of time in preparation for court cases. In civil law cases, the barrister will prepare written pleadings, which are very important to the client's case.

Barristers usually specialise in one, or perhaps two, specific areas of law, including criminal, civil or commercial law cases, shipping law and medical litigation.  

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THE CAB RANK RULE

Normally barristers operate what is known as the 'cab-rank rule', under which they cannot turn down a case if it is in the area of law they deal with and they are free to take the case. This is to avoid situations where some people may not be able to get a barrister to represent them, allowing fair access to justice for all.

However, where clients approach a barrister direct, the 'cab-rank rule' does not apply. Barristers can turn down a case which would require investigation or support services which they cannot provide.

They are also allowed to use their legal clerk to deter unsavoury cases which would bring a bad name to the practice, by bumping prices, or suggesting better suited legal professionals.

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REGULATION OF BARRISTERS

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) regulates barristers and their professional practice and specialised legal services businesses in England and Wales in the public interest. It sets the standards of behaviour expected from barristers and can take action where it needs to if those standards aren’t being met.

Once they have been called to the bar all barristers have to follow the BSB’s Handbook. This is the case regardless of where they work, or the area of law that they specialise in.

The BSB can give fines, suspensions, or more severe disciplinary actions for breaching the handbook.

If a complainant is unhappy with the decision of the BSB, they can request that the Legal Ombudsmen looks over the actions taken, and change them if they see fit.

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THE ROLE OF A JUDGE

A judge presides over court cases, to either pass a verdict in the inferior courts, and sentences in the superior courts.

They ensure a fair trial, with proper procedure, to make sure that everyone gets equal access to justice.

They are expected to sit in court and hear evidence from both the prosecution and defence while applying the more appropriate points of law to the case, without swaying the jury, or other presiding judges in any way.

All judges as a group are named the judiciary, and they are expected to sit in both civil and criminal cases. However, to become a judge, the person in question must have been a solicitor or a barrister for at least 7 years so they will only have 1 or 2 specialist areas which is a problem with the judiciary appointment process

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QUALIFICATION OF JUDGES

Justices of the Supreme Court need to hold high judicial office or have a superior court qualification

Lord Justices of Appeal need to have existing High Court judge status or at least seven years of legal experience

High Court (aka puisne judges) judges require being a barrister or solicitor for seven years or Circuit judge for two years

Circuit judges require experience of being a barrister or solicitor for seven years or they need to have been recorders or district judges

Recorders need to have been a barrister or solicitor for seven years

District judges need to have been barrister or solicitor for a minimum of 5 years

The qualifications required to be a judge are set out in the Tribunals, Court and Enforcement Act 2007. 

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SELECTION OF A JUDGE

Justices of the Supreme Court are selected by a Supreme Court Selection Committee specially convened by the Lord Chancellor when a vacancy arises. 

All other judicial selection is organised by the Judicial Appointments Commission. The Judicial Appointments Committee is comprised of a mixed panel of judges, lay people and lawyers. All appointments are now advertised with the aim of diversifying the judiciary. The Committee looks for the five qualities in a good judge which are; intellectual capacity, personal qualities, ability to understand and deal fairly, authority and communication skills, and efficiency.

Applicants for lower level posts will be asked to write an essay or undertake a case study. Interviews assess attitude and aptitude and may include role play.

Applicants for higher appointments are expected to show competence at a lower level (appointment at assistant recorder level is usually used to discover potential judges for more permanent positions).

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JUDGES TRAINING

Training for judges is conducted by the Judicial Studies Board.

For superior judges the training is optional. For an inferior judge, the training is compulsory especially for newly appointed recorders.

The training consists of a one week course which deals with sentencing, running a criminal court and human awareness. Inferior judges also have to spend a week shadowing an experienced judge before they themselves can sit on the bench.

One day courses run from time to time to update judges on changes to the law and new statutes that are made. However, they are expected to always keep themselves up to date on the ever-changing laws.

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SECURITY TENURE OF JUDGES

Superior judges have the security of tenure in that they cannot be dismissed by the government. This originated from the Act of Settlement 1701 which allows them to hold office whilst of good behaviour. It is now contained by the Senior Courts Act 1981 for the High Court and the Court of Appeal. Whereas the Constitual Reform Act of 2005 for the justices of the Supreme Court. The current provision now means that judges can only be removed by a signed petition through both Houses of Parliament. 

Inferior judges have significantly less security in tenure of office as superior judges. The Lord Chancellor has the power to dismiss inferior judges for incapacity of misbehaviour, for example, serious offences, breaches of the code of conduct, incapacity in service etc. 

The Judicial Pensions and Retirement Act of 1993 states that all judges now have to retire at the age of 70. Though in some cases they are enabled to work beyond this age, such as if the judge in question holds a superior position. In these cases, they are asked if they would like to retire, and if not, must retire at 75.

 

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