As a qualified legal professional, the main role of a barrister is to speak for and represent clients in court, as well as in preparing some complicated legal documents. In general, a barrister is approached by a solicitor to represent a case they are working on when it goes to court. Barristers can work for the Crown Prosecution Service, the Government Legal Service, charities or themselves.
The majority of barristers (around 80%) work on a self-employed basis. The place of work of barristers are offices known as ‘chambers’. You will often find many self-employed barristers sharing a chambers with other barristers.
Barristers can cover a wide range of legal issues, however many barristers will specialise in a specific area of law. These can include, common law (often family matters, personal injury and housing), commercial law, criminal law, estates and trusts, entertainment and sports law.
Whilst standing up in court and representing their client is a big part of a barrister’s day to day activity, this is only one task on a much longer list. Other daily tasks can include the following:
- Researching the cases they are working on. This involves reviewing the key facts and points of law in order to produce questions to ask witnesses. As well as this, barristers must research the current state of the law and keep up with any legal changes to make sure they are up to date when they are in court.
- Drafting documents which are to be used in court. Barristers can also draft letters and emails in order to communicate with clients and solicitors on the other side of a dispute whilst a case is ongoing.
- Providing in depth advice on specific legal points. Solicitors are used for a first point of call with regards to obtaining legal advice. When a more specific area of law must be tackled, solicitors often call on barristers with the required legal knowledge to advise their clients in more detail. Barristers can provide valuable advice with regards to evidence, specific points of law and the general strength of the client’s case.
Although barristers often become involved in a case when a solicitor asks them, it is also possible for members of the public to instruct a barrister directly.