- A challenging and high profile role ensuring your clients are legally protected
- Opportunity to progress to become a Queen's Counsel (QC) or a judge
- Requires an excellent standard of English, and the ability to research, analyse and retain large amounts of information
Barristers are legal professionals who provide advocacy and legal advice to solicitors and other clients. Solicitors are the first port of call for members of the public requiring legal advice. If a court appearance is required, the individual will then be referred to a barrister who will provide court representation and specialist counsel depending on the nature of the case.
As a barrister you'll plead the case on behalf of your client and the client's solicitor. Members of the public can also go directly to a barrister to ask for advice and representation in court.
- Have meetings with clients and taking on cases (briefs)
- Research the law relating to previous similar cases
- Read witness statements and reports
- Offer advice and provide written legal opinion
- Negotiate settlements out of court
- Prepare legal arguments and get briefs ready for court
- Cross-examine witnesses and present the case to the judge and jury
- Sum up the case
In order to practise as barrister, you must be registered with the Bar Council and have a Practising Certificate, which is renewed annually online via the Authorisation to Practice renewal process.
Newly qualified barristers must complete 45 hours of continuing professional development (CPD), including at least nine hours of advocacy training and three hours of ethics, during their first three years of practice on the New Practitioners Programme.
After that, you must create an annual CPD plan, with details of your CPD objectives, activities and reflections, in line with the Established Practitioners Programme (EPP).
Salaries will depend on what type of work you do, who you work for and where you're based.
As a barrister, you'll either be self-employed and work from chambers in private practice or be employed by an organisation like the Government Legal Service, Crown Prosecution Service, armed forces or a human rights organisation. You'll spend most of your time preparing for cases and presenting in court. Your work will focus on one particular area, like criminal or family law.
As an employed barrister, you'll generally earn less than you would in private practice. The most experienced practitioners working on very high-profile cases can earn considerable sums, but do have to pay their own overheads, which can be costly. You'll often work long hours and possibly weekends.
You may travel to courts every day, particularly if you're involved in criminal or family law. If you're self-employed, you'll share chambers with other barristers. You'll divide your time between chambers and court. If you're an employed barrister, you'll be office-based with occasional travel to meetings, court or tribunals.
In court, you may need to wear a wig and gown, and you'll usually be expected to dress in smart business clothes.
This role would suit someone with excellent verbal communication skills, analytical thinking skills, and who is emotionally resilient.
You'll need an approved law degree, or a degree in another subject followed by the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) or Common Professional Examination (CPE). You'll then need to pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) before applying for the Bar Course (formerly known as the BPTC). Following this, you'll need to complete practical training called 'pupillage'. Relevant work experience is essential before and during your studies as Bar Courses and pupillages are highly competitive.
To get into some universities you'll need to pass the Law National Aptitude Test (LNAT).
You could start your career by working in a law firm or the law department of an organisation. With support from your employer, you could complete a qualification like the Level 6 Professional Higher Diploma in Law through the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives.
Solicitors can apply to become barristers by approval of the Bar Standards Board and sitting a Bar Transfer Test.
The Bar Council and the Bar Standards Board have more information on becoming a barrister.
In Scotland, the equivalent role is called an Advocate. To become an advocate you need a Scottish law degree and the Scottish Diploma in Legal Practice. It is then necessary to undertake a period of training (usually 21 consecutive calendar months) in a solicitor's office approved by the Faculty of Advocates.
Upon completion of pupillage, you can apply for tenancy and become a junior barrister in chambers. The cases you deal with will become increasingly serious and complex.
For self-employed barristers, career development and financial stability is very much dependent on your cases, your approach to work and your ability to successfully build up a practice and reputation.
Alternatively, barristers may choose to practise at the employed Bar and apply for positions with in-house legal services departments in commercial companies or public sector organisations. Career progression may involve leading a team or moving into the higher levels of general management.
Senior barristers from both the self-employed and employed Bar can apply to 'take silk' and become Queen's Counsel (QC). This involves leading in very serious cases or entering the judiciary as a recorder prior to becoming a judge. You'll usually need a minimum of 15 years' practice to be able to apply.