- What do barristers do?
- Barristers career path
- Barristers salaries
- Qualifications and training
- Barristers skills
- Pros and cons of being a barristers
- Barristers work-life balance
- Typical employers
- Related jobs
What do barristers do?
Barristers act as the spokesperson for a client, typically standing up in court to use their legal knowledge to argue a case. There are many areas that you can specialise in as a barrister depending on your interests within the law and your experience. Most generally, you could work in civil law where you deal with damages to an individual or organisation or in criminal law where you deal with clients who break a country’s laws. Here are the tasks that you have as a barrister:
- Meet with your client and discuss their case. In some situations, you may have very limited time to talk about the case with a client before being called to court.
- Prepare your argument for court having researched relevant recent and historic legal cases that you could use in your argument.
- Discuss cases with solicitors to understand the preparatory work that the firm has done.
- Argue your case in court including speaking for your client and examining witnesses.
- Write up legal cases including the outcomes of a case.
Barrister career path
Barristers are legal representatives that typically work for law firms. As such, you’re exposed to many different legal careers throughout your working life. If you enjoy legal work but don’t want to attend court as much, you could become a solicitor. If you enjoy the court aspect of the work, you could progress to working as a judge. Here is the career path you follow as a barrister:
You begin your working life in a pupillage. This is a training position for barristers. You learn the necessary skills you need for your career, having all your work monitored by a trained barrister. You learn the best practices of working as a barrister, including all the customs and norms. You also do background research into cases and bring any relevant information to your supervisor.
With experience, you become an associate barrister. As an associate barrister, you’re managing clients, making sure they have the correct advice they need for their cases and representing them in court.
After working for a firm for many years and gaining a great deal of experience, you become a partner. This means taking a step back from legal work and instead monitoring current employees within the department, making sure they’re happy, working well and have all the training they need. You also work with clients, checking on how satisfied they are with the work they’re receiving and meeting with new clients to try and get new business for the firm.
Your salary as a barrister depends on the firm you work for and your experience level. Here are the salaries that you could earn at different levels of the barrister career ladder:
- In an entry-level training pupillage position, you earn a minimum of £12,000 per year which could extend to £20,000 per year depending on the firm.
- As a barrister, you earn an average of £30,000 per year, ranging to £60,000 per year.
- As a partner at a legal firm, your salary is £70,000 on average per year but could extend beyond £100,000 per year depending on the firm.
Qualifications and training
Working as a barrister requires some specific qualifications. Here’s what you need to qualify as a barrister:
Most barristers have an undergraduate degree in law. Another option is completing a degree in a subject other than law then doing a conversion course. Both of these options teach you the background and contextual information that you need for a career in law. Many legal degrees have some focus on debating and learning how to argue a case. Having this information and being able to put your argument forward in a concise and clever way is a crucial part of being a barrister.
In order to practice as a barrister, you need to pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) with the Bar Standards Board (BSB). This is an exam that tests you on your legal knowledge. It’s also a necessary exam for continuing your legal career as you can’t progress to a pupillage without completing the bar.
Since the barrister job market is so competitive with many students applying for pupillages, having some work experience is a great way to help you get noticed and show hiring managers that you’re a good candidate. You can get some work experience through an internship. Internships involve you working for a legal firm completing administrative and research work for members of the team. It teaches you the skills you need for a role and how to effectively work in a firm. Most internship opportunities are set up to work around your university work so many internships are in the summer holidays. If you’re interested in exploring internship opportunities, take a look at the commercial law internships and the criminal and human rights law internships available now.
Learn how to excel in your applications with this Bright Network Academy module on acing a law assessment centre.
Working as a barrister requires specific, high-level skills. Combining these skills with your experience and education is a great way to get your application noticed. Consider including examples of when you developed a skill or when you’ve demonstrated a skill in your previous jobs or during your education. Here are the skills you need to work as a barrister:
- Legal knowledge. Having a great understanding of the law and legal processes is important for barrister work. Since you often specialise in a particular area, you also need localised knowledge of the part of law that is relevant to your work.
- Research. You should be good at researching historic legal cases so you can apply them to the cases you’re working on. This also means having a broad knowledge of legal history so you can provide your clients with as much advice as you can give them.
- Resilience. You need to be resilient to be a barrister. This is because you have many clients to work with and may have to switch between court hearings regularly with several in a week. Being able to deal with high-pressure work means being resilient. Learn about resilience and taking feedback with this Bright Network Academy module.
- Communication. Being a barrister requires having great communication skills. Not only are you providing important legal information to your clients, you’re also representing them in court. You should be able to argue your point professionally and convincingly with the correct legal jargon.
Pros and cons of being a barrister
As with any career, there are positive and negative parts of being a barrister. Being aware of these good and bad points helps you know if it’s the right career path for you. Here are the pros and cons of being a barrister:
- You can earn a lot of money in the career path when you reach higher levels.
- The role offers great career progression, potentially helping you work your way up in a company.
- Being a barrister is the perfect job if you enjoy learning about the law and love debating and arguing your point.
- It takes a long time to train as a barrister and it can be an expensive process, particularly as you have a low income during your pupillage. This can make becoming a barrister more accessible to people from higher-income backgrounds who have financial support.
- It can be a stressful job because you’re working long hours and dealing with lots of different clients at once.
- You have to keep up to date on your particular area of law and the developments in the field so you can apply it to the cases you’re working on.
Barrister work-life balance
You have long working weeks as a barrister because of the number of cases you have to prepare for. Additionally, you often have to do a large amount of work in your first few years of working for a law firm. Travelling to court might also increase your working week because it could add to a commute. Long working weeks often impact your ability to maintain a good work-life balance.