What do Barristers do?
The Bar is a relatively small profession, with nearly 16,000 barristers in England and Wales. The majority of barristers, around 80%, work self-employed at the Bar from sets of chambers. The rest work as employed barristers, either by the government or large organisations such as banks etc.
Barristers are responsible for their own financial affairs, such as tax returns and pensions. They also have to pay a portion of their earnings to chambers as rent, as well as other associated costs such as clerk wages.
Barristers specialise in two key areas:
The amount of time a barrister spends in court will depend on the area of the law in which they have a specialism.
Criminal barristers are highly likely to find themselves in court every day.
On the other hand barristers working in the more commercial sectors, such as civil litigation, will be in court far less often.
Specialist opinion on specific areas of the law
Solicitors will often seek a barrister’s opinion on a range of matters, for example the likelihood their client will be successful in litigation or other such actions.
The fact that solicitors, who are already highly knowledgeable in an area, seek the opinion of a barrister is a clear indicator of the level of both knowledge and expertise expected from barristers.
How do I qualify as a Barrister?
There are three main stages to this process.
The first is the Academic Stage in which you must study either a Law Degree or a Non-Law Degree You preferably should obtain either a 2:1 or above.
Secondly comes the Vocational Stage in which you must study your Bar Professional Training Course at Law School for one year (e.g. BPP, University of Law etc.). If you studied a Non-Law Degree then you must complete a conversion course such as the CPE, GDL or PgDL.
Finally comes the Practical Stage in which you must secure and complete a one year pupillage in which you will work with a senior barrister in a few different areas of law. You then must secure a tenancy. It is tradition within Barristers chambers for there to be a vote on whether you will be allowed tenancy or not. Typically most Barristers Chambers will have a pupillage committee who will review the work you have completed and either make a recommendation that you are given pupillage or not, most people will vote according to the recommendation of the pupillage committee. However it is not guaranteed they will keep you on, so you may have to find tenancy elsewhere.
How much do Barristers earn?
The typical earnings during pupillage are around £10,000. However, as you will be self-employed, it is up to you to make your own money.
Once you have attained tenancy then the range varies widely due to factors such as which area of law you are practising in, and the reputation of the Chamber. Average earnings for newly qualified barristers range from £30,000 to £300,000.
Barristers who have experience of over 10 years can earn considerably more than this, especially on the attainment of the status of a Queens Counsel (QC).
Useful websites for careers at the Bar
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