Commercial law: area of practice (barristers)
This area of law is concerned with the regulation of business agreements and can cover a wide range of disputes, including claims over the payments for goods and services; insolvency proceedings; shareholder disputes; insurance proceedings; directors’ duties proceedings; and multinational commercial disputes. Commercial law intersects with other practice areas, such as trusts law, tax law, European law and criminal law.
What to expect
Clients are typically commercial organisations, the directors of companies or shareholders. Cases are varied and can involve a high level of factual and legal analysis. For example, one of my cases centred on allegations of fraud and false accounting and part of my role involved disentangling a complex web of multinational transactions.
There is a large amount of advisory work and a lot of a commercial barrister’s time will be spent in chambers rather than court. The increasing cost of civil litigation and the courts’ encouragement of alternative dispute resolution means that the number of commercial cases reaching trial is much reduced. While court provides the most satisfying element of the work, the paper work presents equally enjoyable challenges particularly when expert evidence is involved.
Commercial barristers are expected to work on multiple cases simultaneously. By the time you are a middle junior you could juggle 25 cases at any one time. Typical working hours are 8.00 am to 8.00 pm, but some longer hours may be required at busy times. The demands of clients can be intense.
Whether you travel overseas for work depends on your chambers. My chambers has longstanding links with jurisdictions in the Caribbean as well as a European law firm in Brussels. I have recently appeared before the Privy Council in a commercial dispute arising in the Turks & Caicos Islands, as well as before the European Court of Justice and proceedings under the ICC’s arbitration procedure.
If you want to be an advocate day in and day out, this might not be the practice area for you; if you want to work on interesting and challenging cases that aren’t always what they first seem, you’ll be suited to the commercial Bar.
Experiences differ in individual practices but, generally, work seems to be holding up well.
As a pupil
Pupils can expect to deal with papers relating to a wide range of matters, which will cover many areas of law. They are likely to attend a lot of expert meetings and the occasional court hearings. Their working hours should largely mirror those of their supervisor; it’s the best way to learn about the demands of the job and the range of work.
Types of law
- The ability to think on your feet when confronted with the unexpected.
- Analytical skills and the ability to get to the heart of a case.
- The ability to see the practical consequences of abstract points of law.
ANDREW KINNIER is a barrister at HENDERSON CHAMBERS and specialises in commercial practice. He studied law at Cambridge University and was called to the Bar in 1996.