Are you good at public speaking? Do you have a logical, analytical approach? A career as a barrister might be something you want to consider.
It’s a long way from the lawyers we see on TV, dramatically shouting their objections across flashy courtrooms. But being a barrister can be a fascinating and challenging job - plus you get to wear a wig to work!
In this guide we’ll look at how to become a barrister and whether it’s the right path for you.
What is a barrister?
Many barristers are self-employed, working from offices that are called “chambers”. Groups of barristers (known as “sets”) will often work from the same chambers, sharing offices and services such as receptionists and paralegals. These sets often specialise in one or two areas of the law, such as criminal or family law.
Some barristers are employed by an organisation such as the Government Legal Service, the army, or the Crown Prosecution Service.
Barristers usually have long working hours and they typically go to court every day. When they’re in court, barristers wear a wig and gown.
What are the day-to-day tasks of a barrister?
Barristers spend most of their time preparing and doing research for their cases, and then presenting their arguments in court.
Their everyday responsibilities include:
- Doing in-depth research into the law to find similar cases to the one they’re working on.
- Meeting with clients and accepting new cases, known as “briefs”.
- Reading reports and statements that witnesses have given.
- Providing advice to clients and colleagues.
- Negotiating settlements outside of court (this means finding a solution that both people involved in the case are happy with).
- Preparing their legal arguments and getting cases ready to go to court.
- In court, cross-examining witnesses.
- In court, presenting their case to the judge and jury.
- Summing up the case.
What skills do barristers need?
Barristers must be able to explain complex issues clearly so that their clients and members of a jury can understand their arguments. They will have good “powers of persuasion” – both verbally and written – to convince others of their points.
Barristers also have:
- Very strong analysing and research skills.
- The ability to hold lots of information.
- Excellent writing ability and standard of English.
- Logical approach.
- Very good attention to detail.
- Able to work well under pressure.
- Confident when it comes to public speaking.
- Able to take initiative and manage your own workload.
Tell me how to become a barrister.
It’s a long and challenging path to become a barrister. You will need to complete:
- At least three A-levels (the required grade varies depending on what university you want to apply to).
- An undergraduate degree in law degree; or a degree in another subject plus the Graduate Diploma in Law (which is known as the law conversion course)
- Bar Aptitude Test (BCAT)
- Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). This gives you the legal skills that are needed, and the course can be done either full or part time. At this stage you’ll also have to join one of the four “inns of Court” which will require a number of tests. When you finish the BPTC and the Inns tests, you will be “called to the bar”. At that point you can call yourself a barrister!
- Practical training called “pupillage”. This involves training at a barristers’ chambers for a year, split into two six-month periods. They’re called the “first six” and the “second six”. During the first six you’ll have a pupil supervisor, a barrister who you’ll assist and learn from. And during the second six you’ll be able to take on clients and cases of your own, and even represent them in court.
What would I earn?
The starting salary of a barrister is anywhere between £12,000 and £45,000. A highly experienced barrister can earn around £250,000 per year.
Salaries will depend on what type of work you do. Employed barristers (those who work for a company) usually earn less.
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Main image via Freepik
Courtroom by Surrey County Council via Flickr