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British Law >> Jobs Area >> Barrister

Barristers specialise in advocacy which involves taking instructions from a solicitor, and then preparing and presenting cases in court. Barristers have 'rights of audience' in higher courts on contentious matters.

Barristers can specialise in specific areas of law, such as criminal law, and so can undertake both criminal prosecution or defence in all courts. Barristers also work in other areas of practice such as civil law (e.g. matters related to family or common law), and work at the Chancery Bar providing advice and litigation services in areas of dispute such as in commercial and property matters.

In Scotland, Barristers are described as 'Advocates' and have a similar role and rights of audience in all Scottish courts. Their practice is usually in the 'Supreme courts', including both civil and criminal (Court of Session and High Court).

In Northern Ireland, Barristers operate much the same as in England and Wales, but training requirements differ. Law graduates who wish to practise in Northern Ireland must apply for a one year Vocational Certificate course at Queen's University, Belfast. Law graduates must have studied the core law subjects (8): constitutional, contract, tort, criminal, land, equity, evidence and European.

Barristers are involved in:

  • understanding and interpreting law
  • receiving instructions to act for parties (briefs)
  • mastering and managing cases (based on briefs)
  • researching and clarifying points of law in support of cases
  • writing opinions and advising solicitors and other legal professionals
  • preparing cases for court (client conferences, evidence, witnesses, legal arguments)
  • presenting legal arguments to the court
  • examining and cross-examining witnesses
  • advising clients on matters of law and evidence
  • drafting any necessary legal documents
  • negotiating with clients and third parties or their representatives concerning settlements

Since most barristers specialise (practise) in an area of law they will be involved in the above activities to differing degrees.

A criminal barrister will be involved in a large amount of advocacy in court.

A Chancery Barrister will spend significant periods of time providing advice on corporate and commercial matters, and negotiating with third parties, in addition to representing clients in courts in matters of litigation.

A family law barrister will be involved in mediation as a first step in trying to avoid adversarial dispute, but will invariably represent clients in court in divorce cases, custody disputes, etc.