What Barristers Do
Barristers provide specialist legal advice and represent their clients in courts and tribunals. The work is intellectually challenging in an intense and demanding professional environment. It is also a very rewarding career. Barristers’ work varies considerably depending on the area of law they practise in, and their seniority.
Typically, barristers do some or all of the following:
Advising clients on the law and strength of their legal case. This often requires considerable amounts of legal research, followed by writing an ‘Opinion’ for your client setting out your advice.
Holding ‘conferences’ with clients to discuss their case and give them legal advice.
Representing clients in court. This can include presenting the case, cross-examining witnesses, summing up all relevant material and giving reasons why the court should support your case.
Negotiating settlements with the other side.
Most barristers are self-employed and work in chambers, although approximately 20 percent are “employed barristers” and work for an employer in industry, commerce or central or local government. This is known as the ‘Employed Bar’. The role of the employed barrister can vary greatly depending on the employer. The majority will work in specialist legal departments advising only the organisation they work for.
Self-employed barristers work in offices called chambers which they may share with other barristers. On completion of their training, barristers apply for tenancy in a set of chambers. Barristers’ working hours may be long and varied, including evenings and weekends. A considerable amount of time may be spent travelling to the venue where a case is being heard. Nevertheless, a growing number of barristers balance their work with other commitments, including family.
The Skills and Qualities that make a good Barrister
Increasingly, recruiters are looking for graduates who possess specific skills to equip them for the changing world of work. The ability to adapt and manage change is an essential requirement. The situation is no different for would-be barristers. Students must be able to demonstrate certain discernible skills both to qualify as a barrister and to succeed in the competitive professional and business world.
These skills include:
- Academic ability
- Outstanding written and oral communication skills
- An ability to absorb and analyse complex material, often very quickly
- Numeracy skills
- Interpersonal skills
- Good judgment
- IT skills
- Professional responsibility
- A commitment to continuing professional development
- An ability to work with others
- Total integrity
There are two option to qualify as a barrister, the first is to obtain a qualifying law degree and the second is open to graduates in any subject, although non-law graduates would have to undertake a law conversion course. This is called the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), and is undertaken prior to commencing the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).
Places for the BPTC are rather competitive which means that a good degree (at least a 2.1) is extremely important. These courses taken one year full-time or two years part-time/distance learning. Applications for the GDL should be made by February prior to entry.
Entrants to the BPTC will have to have covered the seven foundations subjects:
- Public Law (including Constitutional Law, Administrative Law and Human Rights)
- Law of the European Union
- Criminal Law
- Obligations (including Contract, Restitution and Tort)
- Property Law
- Law of Trusts
All applications for the BPTC are made through www.barprofessionaltraining.org.uk which opens at the beginning of November and closes in early January.