What is a barrister and how do they relate to UK law firms?
Barristers are experts in their fields and are often consulted for expert legal advice. They are on intimate terms with the judges and court staff and can deal with a case throughout its entire course.
Their career path begins with an undergraduate law degree, followed by a bar practice course (BPC), or a PGDL law conversion course at ULaw. They then undergo a period of practical training called pupillage.
In most common law jurisdictions, a barrister specialises in courtroom advocacy and litigation. Their day-to-day tasks include appearing in court or tribunals, drafting legal pleadings and giving expert legal advice on particular cases. Barristers typically work in specialised areas of the law and can only be instructed by solicitors, but can sometimes be self-employed.
A barrister’s job requires a high level of expertise and strong debating skills. They also have to be able to work both as part of a team and on their own, depending on the case they’re working on. It’s not unusual to have to work long hours and at unsociable times.
Becoming a barrister usually starts with completing an approved law degree (a good 2:2 or above) followed by the Bar Professional Training Course, which is generally undertaken full-time over one year. After the BPTC, you’ll then need to undertake pupillage. This is a year of on-the-job training and is generally done with a set of chambers (although it can be undertaken with the Government Legal Service or Crown Prosecution Service). Pupillage is arranged by the Bar Council and competition for places is high, so you should start planning your pupillage application early.
Barristers are generally only available to members of the public through the Public Access Scheme if their case is straightforward. In most cases, a solicitor will handle initial client liaison and will refer their clients to the barrister when they need to appear in court.
Barristers are a specialist type of legal adviser that deal with cases in the higher courts. They specialise in courtroom advocacy and litigation, and they often deal with complex and sensitive cases. They do not come into contact with clients directly and instead they are given a brief by solicitors to undertake the necessary legal work and prepare themselves for a case hearing. This can involve a lot of research and writing and also pleading in front of a judge at a legal hearing.
It is important for barristers to have strong research and analytical skills to be able to prepare themselves for legal hearings and other legal work. It is also important that they have excellent time management skills as they can sometimes be working to tight deadlines.
Many of the more senior barristers may also be involved in alternative dispute resolution, which is a process where disputes can be resolved outside of court, such as through mediation or arbitration. This can be a great option for businesses and individuals who want to avoid the high cost and uncertainty of traditional court-based legal proceedings.
Barristers are mainly self-employed but they do have the option to join a chambers, which is an organisation that allows them to share services and facilities. Increasingly, some barristers are becoming authorised to act as direct access lawyers and can be hired by members of the public without the need for a solicitor.
Barristers are experts in courtroom advocacy, providing expert legal counsel and representation in court and in written guidance. They are normally instructed by solicitors who may be acting on behalf of a client, but some barristers can also be directly engaged by the public under the Public Access Scheme (in England and Wales).
A barrister’s skills are sought out by other legal professionals for their expertise in particular areas of law and for their ability to build a case, often using their experience and knowledge of current case law and precedent. Solicitors, for example, often seek the opinion of a barrister when they are facing an unusual point of law which is not clear from the existing legal precedents.
Most barristers are self-employed and work in a set of chambers with other fellow barristers to share their operating costs and administrative staff. However, some are employed by banks and businesses as in-house legal advisers or are retained as consultants for specialist areas of the law.
Once a barrister is called to the Bar, they will start as Junior Counsel and have the letters BL after their name. Once they gain more experience, they can apply to become Senior Counsel and will have the letters SC after their name. Senior counsel tend to focus on the more serious and complex cases in the High Court, Court of Appeal and Supreme Court.
Barristers are members of the General Council of the Bar, which is a professional association that regulates the way they practice. In England and Wales, a barrister is required to be a member of one of the four Inns of Court (Lincoln’s Inn, Gray’s Inn, Middle Temple and Inner Temple). The Inns perform both scholastic and social functions and provide financial aid to student barristers through scholarships. Barristers are permitted to work as sole practitioners or band together into groups known as chambers. They may share administrative staff and operating expenses in their chambers. Junior barristers are often employed by senior barristers to gain experience and build their careers. Barristers are not allowed to form formal partnerships with solicitors and must work for an agreed fee for each case they accept.
Barristers typically work for solicitors to represent their clients in a range of legal disputes, including criminal cases and public law related matters like judicial review proceedings. However, they can be instructed directly by members of the public through the Public Access scheme.
A barrister is a specialist type of lawyer that acts in contentious legal disputes. Their day-to-day activities involve meeting with clients, researching relevant legal frameworks and cases, preparing briefs, questioning witnesses and presenting cases in court proceedings. In addition, they are required to comply with codes of conduct outlined in the Bar Standards Board Handbook.
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