Barrister Careers

How to become a Barrister

What does a Barrister do?

Barristers provide specialist legal advice to professionals such as solicitors and architects who consult them on behalf of their clients. They may represent individuals and organisations in court or at tribunal.

The main areas of law are:

  • Common Law - this includes criminal law and civil law (contract, tort, property, family, constitutional and administrative law). Barristers specialising in criminal law will spend much of their time in court, whereas civil law is mainly advisory work
  • Chancery Law - this is mainly advisory work regarding wills, trusts, estates, tax, and company law, with little court work involved.

Prior to a hearing, barristers spend time acquainting themselves with the facts of the case by reading statements and legal reports, and talking with the client if necessary. In court they present the case, cross-examine witnesses, sum up all relevant material and propose reasons why the court should support the case. Barristers have the right to appear in the higher courts.

The amount of time spent in court appearances, in advising, or in drafting written opinions depends on the area of law the barrister specialises in.

Most barristers work in private practice, although approximately 20 per cent work in industry, commerce, and central or local government. This is known as the 'Employed Bar'. The role of the barrister can vary greatly depending on their employer. The majority will work in specialist legal departments advising only the organisation they work for.

What's the working environment like working as a Barrister?

Working hours may be long, including evenings and weekends. A considerable amount of time may be spent travelling to the venue where a case or inquiry is being heard.

Most barristers work in offices called chambers, which they may share with other barristers. In London, most chambers are in the Inns of Court.

When in court barristers wear a wig and gown.

What does it take to become a Barrister?

To be a barrister, you should:

  • be confident
  • have a good memory
  • be able to assimilate and analyse large amounts of information
  • be able to think logically, with attention to detail
  • be able to explain matters clearly, with good presentation skills
  • be able to avoid becoming emotionally involved in distressing cases
  • be able to cope when working under pressure
  • be discreet - information needs to be kept confidential.

Barrister Career Opportunities

At each stage of training, there are more applicants than places. Once qualified, it can be difficult to secure tenancy in chambers.

Many barristers are based in London, while others practise in the towns on the administrative circuits - Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Chester, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.

Barristers are mostly self-employed. However, some work for commercial employers, or in local or central government.

After between ten and fifteen years' experience, barristers may apply 'to take silk' or become a Queen's Counsel, which is necessary in order to become a Court of Session judge or High Court judge.

Barristers may work as legal advisers in magistrates' courts. Some move into senior positions in industry and commerce.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Barrister that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

The General Council of the Bar
289-293 High Holborn
Tel: 020 7242 0082

National Admissions Test for Law (LNAT)

Facts and Stats:

  • In 1445 a case was brought in the French courts against certain beetles that had destroyed a farmer's crop. The beetles failed to obey the summons and the case was abandoned.
  • In 1924, a Pike County Court in Pennsylvania, USA sentenced a dog to life imprisonment for killing a cat.
  • In America, 50 to 70 cents of every dollar awarded in damages by a jury goes to the lawyer.
  • A woman in Israel is suing a TV station and its weatherman for $1,000. Their heinous crime? They predicted a sunny day and it rained. She claims that the forecast led her to wear light clothing causing her to catch the flu.

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