Barrister Job Description

Written by: Evie Courtier
Published on: 4 Dec 2023

Barrister

  • Within this Barrister job description, we will dive into commonly asked questions about the role of a Barrister, including: ‘what does a Barrister do?’, and ‘how much does a Barrister earn?’, discovering the requirements and rewards of Barrister jobs in further detail.

  • What is a Barrister?

    Barristers specialise in courtroom advocacy, drafting legal documents and providing independent legal advice for their clients. Barristers have a distinctive role in the legal system, often focusing on presenting cases in court, offering expert legal opinions, and advising clients on different aspects of the law.

    Barristers are most commonly self-employed, operating from chambers, (the shared office spaces where groups of Barristers work). Those in Barrister jobs may also work in government departments or agencies such as the Crown Prosecution Service or the Government Legal Profession, or alternatively, within private organisations such as in-house legal departments of charities and companies.

    In many legal systems, including the UK jurisdiction, the process of hiring a Barrister involves a Solicitor instructing the Barrister on behalf of the client. In this case, as described in our Solicitor Job Description, the Solicitor handles the initial client contact, gathers evidence, and provides instructions to the Barrister. The Barrister then prepares the case for trial, presents arguments in court, and provides legal opinions.

    Barristers are often recognisable from their traditional court attire, wearing a wig and gown, when working in high courts. The legal profession in a myriad of jurisdictions, like England and Wales, maintains a traditional separation between those in Solicitor jobs and Barristers, each specialising in different aspects of legal practice. For more information of the formalities of working as a Solicitor, see our ‘Solicitor Job Description’.

  • What does a Barrister do?

    The daily duties of a Barrister will naturally be determined by the case they're working on at the time. However as a common overview, responsibilities will include:

     Courtroom advocacy: the primary role of a Barrister is to represent clients in court. This involves presenting legal arguments, examining and cross-examining witnesses, and making submissions to the judge or jury.
     Legal advice: Barristers provide expert legal advice to Solicitors, other legal professionals, and directly to clients. This advice may cover a wide range of issues, including the merits of a case, potential legal strategies, and the interpretation of laws.
     Legal research: Barristers conduct extensive legal research to prepare their cases thoroughly. This involves analysing statutes, case law, and legal precedents to support their arguments and provide well-founded advice.
     Drafting legal documents: Barristers are often responsible for drafting legal documents such as pleadings, briefs, and opinions. These documents are crucial in presenting a case coherently and persuasively.
     Negotiation: while Barristers are primarily known for their courtroom work, they may also engage in negotiations to settle cases out of court. This involves discussions with opposing parties to reach mutually agreeable solutions.
     Representation in tribunals: in addition to higher courts, Barristers may represent clients in various tribunals and quasi-judicial bodies, depending on the nature of the legal issue.
     Continuing education: Barristers must stay abreast of developments in the law, attending legal seminars, and engaging in continuing education to maintain their professional competence.

  • How to become a Barrister

    The process of becoming a Barrister involves a dedicated and extensive combination of education, practical training, and meeting specific professional requirements. The path to becoming a Barrister can vary by jurisdiction, but here's a general overview of the steps involved:

    Educational Qualifications:

    • Undergraduate degree: first things first, you must obtain an undergraduate degree in law or a related field. In some jurisdictions, a non-law degree may be acceptable, with the addition of a conversion course, such as the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL).

    Complete the Bar:

    • The Bar Course is a postgraduate qualification that individuals must complete to become qualified as a Barrister. The Bar Course is a one-year, full-time course (or two years if taken part-time), offering a practical and vocational training programme designed to equip expectant Barristers with the skills and knowledge necessary for practice at the Bar.
    • Assessment methods include written exams, practical advocacy assessments, and professional skills assessments. Successful completion of the Bar Course, along with pupillage, allows individuals to be “called to the Bar”.

    Inns of Court (England and Wales):

    • In England and Wales, aspiring Barristers must join one of the four Inns of Court (Lincoln's Inn, Gray's Inn, Inner Temple, or Middle Temple). These institutions provide dining, education, and support services for Barristers.
    • Prospective Barristers usually join one of the Inns during their undergraduate law studies or before commencing the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).

    Call to the Bar:

    • After completing the Bar Course, Barristers are eligible to be “called to the Bar” by their Inn, officially allowing them to practise as Barristers. This celebration involves an admission ceremony and the taking of certain oaths or affirmations.

    Pupillage or Training Contract:

    • The next stage for an aspiring Barrister, is to complete a period of practical training, known as pupillage (in England and Wales) or a training contract (in some other jurisdictions). During this time, individuals work under the supervision of an experienced Barrister or in a legal environment to gain practical skills.
    • The process typically lasts for one year, and is divided into two parts: the first six months (non-practicing or "non-practicing period") and the second six months (practising or "practising period").
    • The application process for pupillage positions is highly competitive. It usually involves submitting applications to Barristers' chambers, attending interviews, and potentially participating in an assessment process.

    Professional Skills Course (PSC):

    • In some jurisdictions, Barristers are required to complete a Professional Skills Course (PSC) to develop additional practical skills necessary for legal practice.

     

  • What’s the typical Barrister career path

    It’s important to note that across the dynamic legal profession, Barristers may choose to navigate their careers based on personal interests, professional opportunities, and changes in the legal landscape. Upon qualification as a Barrister, they may conduct:

    Tenancy or Practise as a Sole Practitioner:

    • Following successful completion of pupillage, Barristers may either join a set of chambers (tenancy) or choose to practise as sole practitioners. Tenancy decisions are typically based on the individual's performance during pupillage.

    Ongoing Professional Development:

    • Barristers engage in continuous professional development (CPD) throughout their careers to stay updated on changes in the law, develop new skills, and maintain their professional competence.

    Specialisation:

    • Barristers often choose to focus on specific areas of law, such as criminal law, family and matrimonial law, commercial litigation, or human rights law. Their expertise allows them to provide focused and knowledgeable representation in their chosen field.

    Advancement and Recognition:

    • As you accrue experience, you may achieve recognition for your expertise, taking on more complex cases. With progression, comes the opportunity to become King’s Counsel (KC), (formally, Queen’s Counsel), a prestigious designation recognising outstanding advocacy skills and legal knowledge.

    Leadership and Advocacy Roles:

    • Senior Barristers may take on leadership roles within chambers or the legal profession. They may also become involved in advocacy outside the courtroom, such as contributing to legal reforms, serving on professional bodies, or becoming judges.

  • How much does a Barrister earn?

    As detailed within our latest salary survey, those in Barrister jobs earn a starting salary of £65,277 per annum. Working as a Barrister presents great earning potential, with roles often offering salaries within the six figure region. It’s important to note here that salaries and benefits will adhere to certain practice areas, location, and seniority.

    56% of Barristers on site saw a pay rise this year, compared to 14% in 2022. Additionally, 89% conducted a hybrid working arrangement, and 22% received a bonus.