What is a Barrister?
18 June 2017
Barristers are specialist legal advisers and advocates. We advise on difficult points of law, draft complex legal instruments, negotiate on behalf of clients in direct negotiations and mediations and represent clients before the courts, arbitrators and other tribunals.
Our practices vary greatly. Some of us spend all their time in court while others draft contracts and other documents or advise orally and in writing, Some will undertake a wide range of work such as crime, divorce or common law. Others will focus on an area like tax or patents.
Until recently barristers had to practise as independent sole practitioners though we had been allowed to share premises known as "chambers" and employ clerks and other staff to manage our business. The Legal Services Act 2007 allows us to form firms or other entities with other barristers or even members of other professions.
We are often compared to consultant physicians or surgeons in medicine whose patients are referred by general medical practitioners. Until 2004 we could be instructed only by solicitors, patent and trade mark attorneys and other professional intermediaries. If a client in the UK wished to consult a barrister he or she had to instruct one of those intermediaries first. Since 2004 we have been allowed to accept instructions for some matters directly from members of the public through the Bar Council's Public Access Scheme though we are required to recommend a solicitor or some other professional intermediary where that is in the best interests of the client.
We are regulated by the Bar Standards Board which is regulated by the Legal Services Board under the provisions of the Legal Services Act 2007. Each and every one of us is bound by a code of conduct which is incorporated in the Bar Standards Board Handbook. The BSB Handbook requires us to carry at least £500,000 cover against professional negligence claims. Our professional body is the Bar Council ("the General Council of the Bar of England and Wales").
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