Becoming a barrister is the aim of many but the reality of few; it takes a certain type of person to be a success and a lot of hard work. This article is an ‘all you need to know’ guide to barristers; its purpose is to educate people on what is needed to succeed in the profession.
First of all, it’s important to assess what exactly a barrister is; the difference between a barrister and other legal professions (i.e. solicitors) can be confusing after all. In short, Barristers provide highly specialised legal advice to their clients, as well as representing them in courts and tribunals. In a bit more detail, it is fair to say that barristers are responsible for advising clients on the law, as well as on the strength of their particular case. As you can imagine, this can often require a large amount of research, followed by an official opinion in which advice is set out for the client.
As briefly mentioned above, Barristers are also responsible for representing their clients in court. When the situation requires it, this includes presenting legal cases, questioning and cross examining witnesses within court as well as summarising and explaining all relevant material and/or evidence. Another key duty for Barristers is giving reasons that the court should support their client’s case. In addition, it is sometimes necessary to negotiate settlements with the opposing side. Currently there are around 15,500 active, practising barristers in England and Wales. To become a barrister, there are a certain number of skills and qualities that you should possess. First of all, you should have a high intellectual ability. The job requires you to have a deep understanding of general law and the legal system in the country you wish to work. Most barristers have an area of law in which they specialise so an even deeper understanding of that is needed.
Barristers need to be articulate and be able to express themselves excellently through writing. In addition to this, those hoping to become barristers must have excellent and eloquent verbal communication, particularly under pressure. Due to the nature of the job, a tremendous amount of motivation and drive is also required. The training required to become a barrister can be split into 3 stages: the academic stage, the vocational stage and pupillage.
During the academic stage, one must complete and undergraduate degree. This doesn’t necessarily have to be in Law, but, if it’s not, then a further course known as a GDL must be taken. The vocational stage includes the Bar Professional Course; this course is designed to allow pupils to learn while applying their knowledge in real life law scenarios. This course takes between 1 and 2 years to complete depending on whether it is studied full time or part time.
The final stage is pupillage training, this is training that is undertaken at a barristers chambers or another recognised and approved legal environment. Pupillage training lasts one year. The legal profession in general is very competitive and there is no position more highly sought than that of a barrister. In fact, there is way more applicants and trainees than there are jobs. For this reason, it’s important to excel during your training and remain realistic towards your chances. Thanks for reading.