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Converting From Barrister To Solicitor

Maral Farsi Nazemi, Professional Ambassador for Aspiring Solicitors and in-house counsel at a leading brokerage company in the UK converted from being a barrister to a solicitor.  Maral shares here experience below.  Aspiring Solicitors is proud to have Maral as a Professional Ambassador.  Not only is she a great lawyer and friend, she is a genuine and passionate about equality and justice.  Thanks Maral.

“In my last year of University, I decided to apply for the Bar.  Most of my friends had applied to do the LPC to become solicitors and I had a few friends who had applied for the Bar. I had been studying the Law of Evidence which I really enjoyed and I also wanted to do something which involved advocacy. Knowing I could convert from barrister to solicitor in the future, I wanted to keep my options open rather than immediately restrict myself to the ‘LPC-training contract-solicitor’ path.  I spent the summer before I started the Bar course working at Norton Rose in their banking knowledge department. It was my first proper insight into a city law firm and I really enjoyed being part of the team.

My year on the Bar course was a real eye opener. I through myself into the advocacy, the mini-pupillages and the various subjects (civil and criminal litigation, drafting, conference skills etc) but I realised that life at the Bar could be quite solitary and I felt a real lack of being part of a team which I had really enjoyed while working in a law firm.  The harsh realities of being the main bread winner in my family also kicked in and the solicitor route offered an attractive alternative with the added bonus of a more stable and regular income. In the summer after the Bar, I decided to reapply to Norton Rose.  I started working in its Disputes department and while there, and with the firm’s backing, I decided to convert to become a solicitor.  I had to sit a 3 hour exam which covered the bits of the LPC which the Bar course did not cover (solicitors accounts and ethics etc) and show 2 years’ worth of legal experience over at least 3 areas of law, which I had from working at the firm and various hefty pro bono cases I had undertaken.  I submitted my experience to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and was admitted to the Roll of Solicitors. In addition, the firm wanted to put me through my paces.  Despite already being admitted to the Roll, the firm wanted me to show that I could also do what their trainees did and so they asked me to do a seat in the banking and corporate finance departments.  This was a lucky turn of events for me because I really enjoyed my corporate financial services seat.  While there, I worked on several high profile matters and two regulatory investigations with a quasi-contentious angle.  The fact that I had done the Bar was coming in pretty handy as I was sent to a blue-chip investment bank for 3 weeks to interview clients as part of a regulatory investigation. There I was in the trading pits of a huge bank interviewing people, gathering boxes of material documentation for the investigation and getting lost in the endless corridors separated by frosted glass doors accessible only by certain passes which, of course, I didn’t have and which meant I was often locked out knocking sheepishly on the doors hoping someone would let me in! But I had a lot of responsibility and it was exciting so when the partners asked me whether I would consider staying on permanently in their team, I jumped at the offer and I haven’t looked back since.

As far as the application to the SRA was concerned my transition from barrister to solicitor was fairly smooth. I had passed my conversion exam and had enough legal experience to be admitted to the Roll.  However, becoming an associate at the firm required a lot more hard work because, in my case, the challenge was to show why I should be taken on as an associate over one of the firm’s own trainees.  What got me through was a strong academic record, a hard working and persevering attitude, the ability to throw myself into new things and take up challenges, strong communications skills, a friendly and professional outlook and of course, as always, a bit of luck.”