Becoming a criminal defence QC is a huge challenge. The typical entry route into law is for someone to study a degree and earn a 2:1, then to take a one-year legal course that will give them entry to the BPTC. It is possible to go straight onto the BPTC from a law degree as well. After passing the BPTC (which takes a year of full time study or two years if done part time), there is a one year pupillage before you can become a barrister.
The pupillage is paid, and involves six months of study and six months of practice under supervision. After that, a person is qualified to be a trainee barrister. From there, they can pursue further training to take the silk and become a QC.
A Criminal defence barrister is someone who plays a very important role in the courtroom. Their job is to defend criminals who may have no-one else who believes in them. Barristers are often asked how they can defend someone that they ‘know’ is guilty. What the barristers like to emphasize is that you never know for sure. Rights and wrongs are harder to call than you might think, and there are a lot of people in the courtroom who are innocent or who were desperate or misguided. The barristers are not making moral judgements, they are doing their job and facilitating justice.
Criminal Defence QCs don’t get involved personally with the cases that they deal with. They focus on the case, and they do the best job they can, no matter who is prosecuting and no matter who they are defending. Police officers may be more inclined to become invested in the case, but the legal representatives on both sides are simply interested in seeing justice done. They need to take things that way so that they can cope with the job that they do. Many QCs are self employed and do a lot of legal aid work, which is not well paid and which is hugely stressful. Advocacy is a hard job, and many of the representatives used by the prosecution are inexperienced, in house lawyers, which makes the job difficult in a lot of cases.
If you’re interested in becoming a QC, think carefully about your motivations. While some barristers and QCs can earn a lot of money, it’s a long road and a hard job that takes passion. Successful barristers like Michael Wolkind QC can be found on legal directories.