Job descriptions and industry overviews

Barrister: job description

19 Jul 2023, 08:58

Barristers offer advice about legal cases to clients and advocate on their behalf in court.

A legal contract being signed.

Barrister : Salaries | Employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Barristers are legal professionals who provide advocacy and legal advice to solicitors and other clients. Solicitors are the first port of call for members of the public who need legal advice, but if a solicitor’s client needs to appear in court, they will be referred to a barrister who will represent them there.

Typical duties include:

  • providing expert legal advice to solicitors and their clients.
  • researching and preparing cases.
  • drafting legal documents.
  • representing clients and cross-examining witnesses in court.
  • liaising with solicitors and other legal professionals.
  • negotiating settlements between the client and other parties.
  • personal organisation, such as travelling to court and managing expenses.

Long hours (which can include travel), heavy workloads and tight deadlines are very common.

Graduate salaries

Once you’ve completed training, your first role as a barrister will be as a pupil, for which you’ll receive a pupillage award. The Bar Standards Board (BSB) sets a minimum for these that’s around £20,000 for pupillages in London and around £18,000 for those outside. The BSB increases the minimum pupillage award every January

Beyond pupillage, barristers tend to be self-employed and their earnings differ widely depending on the area of law in which they specialise. For example, barristers in commercial law have traditionally been among the highest paid while those in criminal law earn considerably less.

Some barristers are employed and receive a salary. For example, according to salary survey websites, barristers at the Government Legal Department earn around £50,000.

Typical employers of barristers

Chambers : while barristers are technically self-employed, they work within sets of other barristers known as chambers. Chambers tend to specialise in particular areas of law.

A range of employers and organisations : there are in-house roles available in a variety of organisations, including governmental organisations, industry, the armed forces and the Crown Prosecution Service. These roles are advertised on targetjobs and by careers services.

Qualifications and training required

You can only become a barrister if you have a degree, either in a law or non-law subject. This degree will almost always need to be at least a 2.1. If your degree is in a subject other than law, you’ll need to complete a law conversion course known as the graduate diploma in law (GDL). This takes one year to complete full time. You can clue yourself in to law conversion courses and your options with this article .

Both law and non-law graduates will need to take the one-year Bar course (formerly known as the Bar professional training course or BPTC). The Bar course is an academically intense, skills-based course that prepares you for pupillage and lays the foundations for future practice. You’ll have to join one of the four Inns of Court to do your course. On completion, having passed twelve qualifying sessions, you will be 'called to the Bar'.

The Inns of Court provide a lot of support for aspiring barristers. You can find out more about the Inns and why they are essential to your Bar career here and you can learn more about the Bar course here .

The final stage in becoming a fully-fledged barrister is the completion of a pupillage. This consists of two six-month periods spent in chambers under the supervision of one or more ‘pupil supervisors’. During the first six months you’ll shadow and assist your supervisors; during the second six you will have the chance to take on cases by yourself. It’s possible either to spend all twelve months at the same chambers or to complete the two six-month periods in different chambers. See our article on what pupillage is and how it works for more information.

Once you’ve completed a pupillage you will need to find a permanent base from which to practise, known as a tenancy. You may be offered tenancy in the chambers in which you did the pupillage. However, this isn’t always possible so be prepared to look and apply elsewhere.

Work experience in the form of mini-pupillages will considerably increase your chances of gaining a pupillage. Some chambers advertise pupillages using the Pupillage Gateway; others use their own websites. Check out our article on why mini-pupillage is the best way to boost your skills for the Bar .

Key skills for barristers

  • The ability to apply legal theory to practice in court.
  • Strong presentation and advocacy skills.
  • The ability to present a point of view convincingly.
  • The ability to absorb, understand and analyse large amounts of information.
  • Quick-wittedness, self-awareness and excellent persuasion skills.
  • Strong interest in how the law works and a willingness to stay abreast of current affairs in the profession.
  • Self-motivation and dedication to the legal process.
  • The ability to handle pressure, long hours and tight deadlines.

targetjobs editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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