What is a Barrister

| Career Insights

What is a Barrister?

Barristers are legal experts who represent clients in court and provide legal advice. For members of the public seeking legal assistance, solicitors are the first point of call. If an appearance in court is necessary, the client will be directed to a barrister who, based on the nature of the case, will offer court representation and specialized counsel. 

Many barristers work for themselves, while others work for government institutions, including the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Government Legal Profession. A growing number of barristers are hired by commercial and public organizations, such as non-profits.

If you work for yourself, you'll work in chambers, where you'll either have your own office or share space with other barristers. 

Barrister’s Responsibilities 

Work activities are determined by a variety of circumstances, including your practice area. Your major focus, though, will be on solving issues and settling conflicts, and you'll generally need to: 

  • Handling legal briefs and cases 
  • Comprehend and apply the law 
  • Conduct legal research on important legal issues 
  • Create reports and provide advice to lawyers and other professionals 
  • Prepare cases for trial, which includes conducting client meetings and drafting legal arguments. 
  • Present arguments in court 
  • Help clients with legal and evidentiary issues, as well as help, strengthen the credibility of their case 
  • Witnesses should be examined and cross-examined. 

The combination and focus of these activities will be mainly determined by your field of practice. Consider the following scenario: 

A criminal barrister's job entails a lot of courtrooms advocacy, while a family law barrister's job entails a lot of alternative dispute resolution. A barrister may represent clients in court in a contract dispute or divorce lawsuit, but he or she may also take part in mediation to avoid going to court. Chancery and business law barristers spend considerably less time in court than those in other fields of expertise, and instead devote more time to writing and advising work. 


To become a barrister, you must complete three levels of education: 

  • Academics 
  • Vocational 
  • Pupillage 

You'll need a minimum of a 2:2 undergraduate degree to complete the academic portion of your program. If you have a non-legal degree or a law degree that is older than five years, you will need to do a law conversion course, often known as the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). 

Some course providers provide a combined academic and vocational course that includes both academic and vocational components of the program. 

To begin the vocational portion of your program, you must pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT), which assesses your critical thinking and reasoning abilities. In addition, you must join one of the four Inns of Court: 

  • Middle Temple 
  • The Inner Temple 
  • Gray's Inn 
  • Lincoln's Inn 

The Inns include libraries and common rooms for barristers and student barristers, as well as educational and social help. The Inn you join has no bearing on the fields of law you can practice or the chambers you can apply to for pupillage or tenure, but if you get a scholarship, you must join the Inn that gave it. More information will be provided by the student administrator at each Inn. The four Inns of Court also have a limited number of scholarships available. 

The vocational part of the training is designed to equip students with the specialized skills, information, attitudes, and competence required to practice law as a barrister. This was formerly accomplished by completing the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). However, starting in September 2020, the BPTC will be replaced by a variety of new Bar courses. These courses may have different titles, but they will all fulfil the occupational requirement. 

  • Bar Course 
  • Bar Vocational Course (BVC) 
  • Bar Vocational Studies (BVS). 
  • Bar/Barrister Training Course (BTC) 
  • Bar Practice Course (BPC) 

Before beginning a Bar course, students should apply for a pupillage through The Bar Council's Pupillage Gateway. Applicants have the option of applying to up to 20 chambers or Authorized Training Organizations (ATO). 

The completion of a pupillage is the final step in becoming a fully qualified barrister. Two six-month periods in chambers are spent under the observation of one or more "pupil supervisors." 

During the first six months, students shadow and help their supervisors; during the second six months, they will work on their own cases. It is possible to spend the entire twelve months in the same chamber or alternate between the two six-month intervals. 

Relevant work experience is required. Any legal experience is beneficial, but recruiters like a mini-pupillage, which is a one-week term of work experience and shadowing inside a set of chambers. Other relevant job experience is: 

  • Marshalling - spending up to a week with a judge 
  • Pro-bono work - volunteer work with Citizens Advice 
  • Public speaking - e.g., through a university debating or law school mooting society paid 
  • Law work experience - e.g., as a paralegal working for a solicitor, taking notes in court, or working as a court usher. 


Salaries for individuals doing pupillage (the last step of qualifying for the Bar) are at least £18,866 in London and £16,633 outside of London. The Bar Standards Board has set this minimum (BSB). However, some chambers provide far more than the bare requirement. Leading commercial sets, for example, may be worth more than £50,000.

Accredited barristers in private practice with five years' experience may expect to earn between £50,000 and £200,000. Earnings for people with over 10 years of expertise might range from £65,000 to £1,000,000. Hourly charges range from under £20 for a newly trained criminal law lawyer to £900 for a tax attorney.

Around 80% of barristers work for themselves, and their incomes might vary greatly based on a variety of circumstances. These factors include your geographic region, practice area, expertise, and reputation, as well as the sort of organization you work for (self-employed or employed). Salaries in leading commercial sets, for example, might be significantly greater than in family or criminal sets. Check out the Legists Salary Checker to find the average salary in your area or your sector!

Salaries for barristers in their early years of practice can be quite low, and there can be a long period of time between completing work and getting money. 

Check out the Law Jobs section to find any vacancies for barristers, or set up either an email or WhatsApp job alert to be notified of new vacancies.



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