Our quick bright guide to what a barrister is, what they do and whether it could be the right career path for you.
What is a 'barrister'?
Barristers specialise in courtroom advocacy, specialist legal advice, representing clients in court and through written advice. Unlike solicitors, who have a lot more direct access to their clients, barristers are rarely hired by clients. Solicitors will mostly instruct barristers on their clients behalf.
Solicitors can act on behalf of their clients whereas a barrister can only do so when instructed by a solicitor or other qualified body.
Typically they will specialise in a particular area of law (e.g. criminal, family, commercial) and as a result the day-to-day focus of what they do will vary. Many are self-employed and work in what are called 'chambers'. They share the responsibility of running these. You will find there are those that work for the government or for private and public organisations as well.
What do they do day-to-day?
Depending on their specialism, employment status (e.g. self-employed or not), level of seniority, you will find that barristers cover the following activities in their work:
- Advising clients on their case. This requires a large amount of research which they then present in either written form or verbally to a client or solicitor.
- Understanding and interpreting the law to provide legal advice generally to clients as part of an organisation or at events.
- Representing clients in court. This can include presenting the case, questioning witnesses, giving summaries etc.
- Negotiating settlements.
- At more senior levels, barristers can be involved in development of legal policy and strategy.
Could you become a barrister?
The competition to becoming a barrister is extremely high. It is an intellectually demanding role and requires a significant amount of additional training after university. It is notoriously competitve as well.
Prospective barristers should also be prepared for working long, often unsociable, hours in their early careers as they work to establish themselves. However, the rewards can be high in this profession and renumeration for successful barristers can be significant. Read our Bright guide to becoming a barrister.
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