A barrister is anyone who has been called to the Bar. Barristers are specialist legal advisers and advocates who, provided they have completed the necessary training, can appear in all courts in England and Wales – including the High Court, Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
Solicitors instruct barristers to represent clients in Court or a tribunal. To learn more about the role of a barrister, see our dedicated ‘What Is A Barrister?’ page.
The basic distinction between a barrister and a solicitor is that a barrister mainly defends people in court while a solicitor undertakes legal work outside court. However, there are many differences between the two professions. For a more in-depth insight, see our dedicated ‘What’s the Difference Between a Solicitor and Barrister?’ page.
The Bar is an independent professional body for barristers. The Bar plays a crucial role in the efficient and effective operation of criminal and civil courts. The Lawyer Portal works in official partnership with the Bar Council to promote and showcase career opportunities at the Bar.
The Bar accepts barristers from all backgrounds. It’s important to understand that there is no such thing as a ‘typical barrister’. Those in the profession come from a wide range of social, academic and professional backgrounds. However, there are certain skills and abilities, such as strong communication skills and academic ability, that the Bar considers vital to succeed as a barrister.
The Bar has been historically viewed as inaccessible for those from different backgrounds, but there has been an effort to change this and make becoming a barrister as accessible as possible.
As such the Bar is always keen for aspiring barristers from Black, Asian, or ethnic minority backgrounds, those who have a disability, identify as LGBTQ+, come from a low-income background and/or are a woman.
Becoming a barrister can be one of the most varied, challenging, stimulating and exciting legal careers available. From delivering a closing speech to a silent courtroom to cross-examining a witness, no two days are the same as a barrister.
Arguably, the most visible barristers are those that work in criminal law, but many barristers can gain just as much satisfaction from dealing with complex business disputes. While legal issues do vary between the different areas of law, the key challenges are similar. A career as a barrister is about representing your client to the best of your ability and thinking on your feet.
If you relish winning arguments and solving difficult problems through logical and reasoned arguments, then you could thrive as a barrister. For more reasons to become a barrister, see our ‘Why Be a Barrister?’ blog.
If you are interested in becoming a barrister, now is the time to start thinking about the qualifications and experience you will need to join the Bar. Competition for training places as a barrister – known as pupillages – is very high. Good GCSEs, A-Levels and a lower second-class honours degree are the minimum qualifications for a barrister.
There are three key components involved in becoming a barrister:
You can apply to begin your journey as a barrister by submitting an application via the Pupillage Gateway. Alternatively, some chambers accept cover letters and CVs directly or provide an application form on their website for you to complete.
To learn more about how to become a barrister, see our dedicated ‘How To Become a Barrister’ page.
To become a fully qualified barrister takes five to seven years depending on your education and training:
A training contract is a period of recognised training for individuals qualifying as a solicitor and normally take two years of full-time study to complete. The ‘equivalent’ of a barrister training contract for those working towards qualifying as a barrister is called a pupillage.
A pupillage is a 12-month period undertaken after the BPC, where you will work under the supervision of qualified barristers at a set of chambers. Once you have completed this, you can then apply for a ‘tenancy’ at a chambers, which is where you will work from. Find out more in our Pupillage Guide.
A mini-pupillage is usually a week spent at a chambers that is comparable to an internship or work experience. This is normally available to undergraduate students considering taking the BPC, offering a taste of what a career as a barrister might be like.
Barrister apprenticeships are a ‘viable option’, but unfortunately, they are rare. The employed bar is in a strong position to provide apprenticeships. However, very few organisations do. Meanwhile, the self-employed bar is far less likely to offer apprenticeships.
The employed bar refers to barristers that are employed by organisations like the Crown Prosecution Service, the Government Legal Department or the Armed Forces. The self-employed bar – sometimes called the ‘independent bar’ – refers to barristers who operate on a self-employed basis.
Yes, most barristers are self-employed, often working with other barristers in organisations known as chambers. However, there are barristers that are employed directly by organisations, such as large companies or public bodies like the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
A barristers’ chambers is a collection of like-minded individual barristers who all practice from the same address and share the same administrative services. In most chambers, there are clerking staff, who are overseen by a head or senior clerk. Senior clerks work with junior clerks and other support staff to manage all aspects of barristers’ professional lives.
This includes arranging court dates, negotiating fees, managing invoices and credit control. A chambers administrator will deal with general chambers management and supervise other support staff to ensure chambers operate smoothly.
There are four Inns of Court, all based in London, which represent and connect those studying to qualify as a barrister and those already practising as barristers. You will need to be a member of one of the Inns of Court when you apply to study the Bar Training Course or join chambers as a pupil barrister.
Barristers are regulated by the Bar Standards Board (BSB). The BSB sets the standard of conduct expected from barristers and can take disciplinary action against barristers who don’t meet those standards.
A barrister’s earnings very much depend on the area of law in which they practise, level of experience and location.
To learn more about barrister salaries, see our dedicated ‘Barrister Salary Vs Solicitor Salary’ page.
Correct as of 1 April 2022, official UK government data shows that there are 17,252 practising barristers across England and Wales. More than 13,000 actively practising barristers are self-employed, while just over 3,000 are employed.
Yes. However, this will be limited to certain countries. As a UK qualified barrister, you can practise in Commonwealth countries.
Since Brexit, the requirements for UK barristers practising in Europe have changed. You may be able to practise as a UK qualified barrister in Europe, provided that you meet the requirements outlined in the Lawyers Services Directive.
Legal systems around the world differ, and not all countries will recognise the UK qualifications that differentiate a barrister from a solicitor. For example, in the USA ‘attorneys’ do the work of a solicitor and can represent clients in court when required – meaning there is no distinction between barrister and solicitor in the US like there is in the UK.
If you are interested in practising as a barrister abroad, you will need to research the route to qualification in the country in which you wish to practise, as most UK chambers do not have locations overseas. You will need to be prepared that you may have to qualify again in the location where you want to practise.
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