VIC Different "ranks" of a Solicitor

Australia's #1 for Law
Join 150,000 Australians every month. Ask a question, respond to a question and better understand the law today!
FREE - Join Now

Anthony Khalil

Active Member
23 January 2018
10
1
34
In Victoria, the ranks of a solicitor include but are not limited to:
1 associate;
2 junior associate;
3 senior associate;
4 senior counsel (SC); and
5 partner
I was reading an article and it said that becoming a senior counsel is effectively as a barrister would be taking up their 'silk,' but it also said that senior counsels are senior solicitors, who are not on the path of partnership.

THE QUESTION
If I become a solicitor, and start off as an associate and then decide to try become and SC, if I was successful in this endeavour, does this hinder my ability to become a partner at a law firm, or prevent/limit my chances of doing so?
 

Iamthelaw

Well-Known Member
13 September 2016
412
86
794
In Victoria, the ranks of a solicitor include but are not limited to:
1 associate;
2 junior associate;
3 senior associate;
4 senior counsel (SC); and
5 partner
I was reading an article and it said that becoming a senior counsel is effectively as a barrister would be taking up their 'silk,' but it also said that senior counsels are senior solicitors, who are not on the path of partnership.

THE QUESTION
If I become a solicitor, and start off as an associate and then decide to try become and SC, if I was successful in this endeavour, does this hinder my ability to become a partner at a law firm, or prevent/limit my chances of doing so?

I think you're confusing SC in the current context. I know some firms (typically commercial) use the title 'special counsel' but that is very different to taking silk.

Taking Silk (SC or QC) stands for Senior Counsel/Queens Counsel - These are titles given to experienced barristers, not solicitors. It's not a matter of 'working your way up' to become SC in a firm, typically you would go to the bar and after a few years (many) with significant achievements, apply for the title. I know of a couple of QCs that left the bar and are employed in firms but that is very rare.

In terms of some one who became a QC without ever becoming a barrister in Australia, I can only think of one ever.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Anthony Khalil

Rob Legat - SBPL

Lawyer
LawTap Verified
16 February 2017
2,455
511
2,894
Gold Coast, Queensland
lawtap.com
Iamthelaw is correct.

There are no 'ranks' of solicitors. The titles you refer to are simply names given to positions within a firm for some firms to indicate their standing with the firm.

You can look at it this way (expanding on your theme, and somewhat tongue in cheek - but not too far from the truth):
- Paralegal: an experienced, non-legally qualified staff member. Often an experienced legal secretary. Operates files as an author under the supervision of a partner, often in commercial matters.

- Law clerk: generally one for the older crew. Essentially a very experienced paralegal. Often know more than most solicitors in their area of specialty, but have no legal qualification.

- Trainee solicitor: What used to be called an articled law clerk. A person studying to be a solicitor, but not yet admitted. Generally don't know as much as they think they do, and significantly less than paralegals and law clerks (which I can say, as I was a five year articled law clerk).

- Employed solicitor: Legally qualified, working as an employee of a principal.

- Associate: Employed solicitor who may, one day, remotely, and if they make budget often enough, be on the path to partnership. Expected to work longer hours. Anyone in the industry who isn't one knows that it means nothing; those who are one pretend otherwise.

- Senior associate: Either they've been an associate so long people are asking too many questions for them to remain so, or they're close to partnership but can't quite crack it. It could be there's no room at the top, the partners are too tight-fisted to give make room, the 'gender' is wrong (unfortunate truth), or they haven't brought in enough clients of their own. Perhaps their law degree is from the wrong place. Or they can't drink enough.

- Salaried partner: Or, as they're remind you, just 'partner'. They get their name on the board, but they don't get to participate in the profits. Or lack thereof.

- Equity partner: Also "full partner". Name on the board, share in the profits. Much more finger pointing when you don't bring in sufficient clients or billings. Tend to share the pain downhill. Join a whole new pecking order by going to being a little fish in a way bigger pond, depending on the size of the firm. May lament their old life when they look at their profit share compared to what it cost to buy in. Basically indentured to the bank first, and the firm second.

- Managing partner: One of, generally, three things - (1) power hungry partner who shoot fires out of their eyes and rules with an iron fist, (2) partner who has no clients, takes the lion share of profits, and comes into the office two days a week, but knows/charms everybody and is an absolute client magnet (and without whom most of the other equity partners would have nothing to do), or (3) some poor sap who was voted into the position, has a ton of extra work, and receives no extra remuneration for it.

- Special (senior) counsel: I added the brackets, but it's generally only seen as special counsel. Almost honorific title, but it generally refers to either (a) partners who have left the partnership and decided to come back part time or (b) ex-partners of other firms who move to a new firm, but without partnership.

- Legal secretary: The person who actually knows what they're doing and runs the place.

- Sole practitioner: Silly chump who fulfills all the above roles in one person. This would be me.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Anthony Khalil