- Plural of barrister
England and Wales, whilst in some areas of government separate from each other within the devolved political structure of the United Kingdom, comprise a single legal jurisdiction, and accordingly they are together served by a single Bar.
The profession of barrister in England and Wales is a separate profession from that of solicitor. It is however possible to hold the qualification of both barrister and solicitor at the same time; it is not necessary to be disbarred in order to qualify as a solicitor.
Barristers are regulated by the Bar Standards Board, a division of the General Council of the Bar.
A barrister must be a member of one of the Inns of Court, which traditionally educated and regulated barristers. There are four Inns of Court: The Honourable Society of Gray's Inn, The Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn, The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, and The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple. All are situated in central London, near the Royal Courts of Justice. They perform scholastic and social roles, and in all cases, provide financial aid to student barristers (subject to merit) through scholarships. It is the Inns that actually "call" the student to the Bar at a ceremony similar to a graduation. Social functions include dining with other members and guests and hosting other events.
Student barristers must take a Bar Vocational Course (BVC) (usually one year full-time) at one of the institutions authorised by the Bar Council to offer the BVC. On successful completion of the BVC student barristers are “called” to the bar by their respective inns and are elevated to the degree of "Barrister". However, before they can practise independently they must first undertake twelve months of pupillage. The first six months of this period is spent shadowing more senior practitioners, after which pupil barristers may begin to undertake some court work of their own. Following successful completion of this stage, most barristers then join a set of Chambers, a group of counsel who share the costs of premises and support staff whilst remaining individually self-employed.
In December 2004 there were just over 11,500 barristers in independent practice, of whom about ten percent are Queen's Counsel and the remainder are junior barristers. Many barristers (about 2,800) are employed in companies as ‘in-house’ counsel, or by local or national government or in academic institutions.
Public Access to barristersCertain barristers in England and Wales are now instructed directly by members of the public. Members of the public may contract with (instruct) the barrister directly through the barrister’s clerk; a solicitor is not involved at any stage. Barristers undertaking Public Access work can provide legal advice and/or representation in court in almost all areas of law and they are entitled to represent clients in any court or tribunal in England and Wales. Once instructions from a client are accepted, it is the barrister (rather than the solicitor) who advises and guides the client through the relevant legal procedure and the litigation.
Barristers undertaking Public Access work must have completed a (fairly straightforward) special course; it provides no guarantee of special legal skill. At present, about 1 in 20 barristers have qualified as Public Access Barristers, often in the hope of attracting work which would otherwise be denied them. Confusingly, there is also a scheme called ‘Direct Access’. However, this is different and it is not open to the general public.
The ability of barristers to accept such instructions is a recent development; it results from a change in the rules set down by the barristers’ governing body, the General Council of the Bar, in July 2004. The Public Access Scheme was introduced as part of an attempt to open up the legal system to the public by making it easier and cheaper for the general public to obtain access to legal advice.
Barristers in Northern IrelandIn April 2003 there were 554 barristers in independent practice in Northern Ireland. 66 were Queen's Counsel (QCs), barristers who have earned a high reputation and are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor as senior advocates and advisers.
Those barristers who are not QCs are called Junior Counsel and are styled "BL" or "Barrister-at-Law". The term "junior" is often misleading since many members of the Junior Bar are experienced barristers with considerable expertise.
Benchers are, and have been for centuries, the governing bodies of the four Inns of Court in London and King's Inns, Dublin. The Benchers of the Inn of Court of Northern Ireland governed the Inn until the enactment of the Constitution of the Inn in 1983, which provides that the government of the Inn is shared between the Benchers, the Executive Council of the Inn and members of the Inn assembled in General Meeting.
The Executive Council (through its Education Committee) is responsible for considering Memorials submitted by applicants for admission as students of the Inn and by Bar students of the Inn for admission to the degree of Barrister-at-Law and making recommendations to the Benchers. The final decisions on these Memorials are taken by the Benchers. The Benchers also have the exclusive power of expelling or suspending a Bar student and of disbarring a barrister or suspending a barrister from practice.
The Executive Council is also involved with: education; fees of students; calling counsel to the Bar, although call to the Bar is performed by the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland on the invitation of the Benchers; administration of the Bar Library (to which all practising members of the Bar belong); and liaising with corresponding bodies in other countries.
The Bar Council is responsible for the maintenance of the standards, honour and independence of the Bar and, through its Professional Conduct Committee, receives and investigates complaints against members of the Bar in their professional capacity.
All barristers and solicitors in Northern Ireland have passed exams at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, of Queen's University of Belfast. The exams there are different from the rest of the UK, but on the possession of a qualifying law degree, the teaching can be missed and the exam sat directly. Those with a non-qualifying degree can still do the exams, on completion of the relevant course. After a pupillage with an experienced barrister at the Bar Library, one is then qualified.
Advocates in Scotland and the Channel Islands
In Scotland an advocate is, in all respects except name, a barrister, but there are significant differences in professional practice.
In Scotland, admission to and the conduct of the profession is regulated by Faculty of Advocates (as opposed to an Inn).
In the Bailiwick of Jersey, there are solicitors (called Ecrivains) and Advocates. Both in the Bailiwick of Jersey and in the Bailiwick of Guernsey, Advocates of the Royal Court perform the functions of both solicitors and barristers.
Barristers and solicitors in Canada
In Canada (except Quebec), the professions of barrister and solicitor are fused, and many lawyers refer to themselves with both names, even if they do not practice in both areas. In colloquial parlance within the Canadian legal profession, lawyers often term themselves as "litigators" (or "barristers"), or as "solicitors", depending on the nature of their law practice though some may in effect practice as both litigators and solicitors. However, "litigators" would generally perform all litigation functions traditionally performed by barristers and solicitors; in contrast, those terming themselves "solicitors" would generally limit themselves to legal work not involving practice before the courts (not even in a preparatory manner as performed by solicitors in England), though some might practise before chambers judges in non-contentious (and sometimes contentious) matters.
However, in Quebec, which has a civil law tradition, the situation is different from the rest of Canada. Advocates (avocats) practice before the courts, whereas civil law notaries (notaires) limit themselves to most of the functions of solicitors. However, many aspects of non-contentious legal matters are the concurrent domain of both advocates and notaries; with the result that advocates often specialise either as pleading advocates (i.e. litigators) or as non-pleading advocates (i.e. solicitor). The only exception is that advocates cannot perform notarial acts (i.e., essentially, certifications and authentifications of documents and the keeping of contracts and other legal records, en minute (in minute form) ). Most of the large law firms in Quebec are firms of advocates (pleading and non-pleading) who perform the full range of legal services like those performed by law firms in the common law provinces, the only exception being notarial acts.
Barristers in Ireland
In the Republic of Ireland, entry to the bar is given to those on whom a Barrister-at-Law (abbreviated to "B.L.") degree has been conferred. The conferral of such degrees is exclusively by The Honorable Society of King’s Inns. Senior members of the profession may be selected for elevation to the Inner Bar, when they may describe themselves as Senior Counsel ("S.C."). Admission to the Inner Bar is made by declaration before the Supreme Court, patents of precedence having been granted by the Government. The profession is governed by the Bar Council.
There is a single Inn that has retained (or at least has not delegated) its educational responsibilities: The Honorable Society of King’s Inns, (note: Honorable not Honourable as in England) located near to the Four Courts, the premises of the High Court and Supreme Court (as well as the Dublin Circuit Court). Unlike barristers in England and Wales, Irish barristers are sole practitioners and may not form chambers or partnerships. In order to practice, a newly qualified barrister is apprenticed to a more senior barrister of at least 7 years' experience. This apprenticeship is known as pupillage or devilling. Devilling is compulsory lasts for one legal year. It is common to devil for a second year in a less formal arrangement but this is not compulsory.
Barristers and solicitors in Australia
In the Australian states of New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland there is a split profession. Each state Bar Association has the functions of Inns of Court. Counsel dress in the traditional English manner (wig, gown and jabot) before higher courts, although are no longer robed for appearances in lower jurisdictions.
In Western Australia, the Australian Capital Territory and South Australia, the professions of barristers and solicitors are fused, but nonetheless an independent bar is in existence, regulated by those States' Legal Practice Boards. A similar arrangement exists in New Zealand. In Tasmania (Australia) the profession is fused although a very small number of practitioners operate as an independent bar.
Senior barristers appointed as "silks" are now referred to as "Senior Counsel" and append the letters S.C. to their names. "Queen's Counsel" are no longer appointed, except by the Federal Government and in South Australia and the Northern Territory; however those who were appointed as Q.C. have the choice of either becoming S.C. or retaining the older title. (Since only people appointed before the system changed can be a QC the name retains a certain cachet, so most of the remaining QCs have been happy to keep it.)
Barristers in Hong KongThe legal profession in Hong Kong is also divided into two branches: barristers (where the Chinese name da lu shi, 大律師 is also used) and solicitors (where the Chinese name lu shi, 律師 is also used).
In Hong Kong, the rank of Queen's Counsel was granted prior to the handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997. After the handover to China, the rank has been replaced by Senior Counsel (postnominal SC). Senior Counsel may still, however, style themselves as silks, like their British counterparts.
Barristers in other jurisdictionsThe United States does not draw a distinction between barristers and solicitors; all lawyers (who have passed a bar examination and have been admitted to practice) may argue in the courts of the state in which they are admitted. However, some state appellate courts require attorneys to obtain a separate certificate of admission to plead and practice in the appellate court. Federal courts require specific admission to that court's bar in order to practice before it. At the State appellate level and in Federal courts, there is generally no separate examination process, although some U.S. district courts require an examination on practices and procedures in their specific courts. Unless an examination is required, admission is usually granted as a matter of course to any licensed attorney in the state where the court is located. Some federal courts will grant admission to any attorney licensed in any U.S. jurisdiction.
Spain has a division which generally corresponds to the division in Britain between barristers/advocates and solicitors. Procuradores represent the interests of a litigant in court, while abogados is the general term for other lawyers. Procuradores are regulated by Royal Decree 2046 of 1982, which approved the General Statute of the Procuradores, and the Organic Law no.6 of 1985. The General Statute regulates the qualifications and conduct of the procuradores. Thus, obligations to act pro bono are laid down by Article 13.
In Germany, lawyers may only plead at the Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof) if they are admitted to that court. Fewer than 50 lawyers are admitted to the Bundesgerichtshof; those lawyers may not plead at other courts, do in practice deal with litigation only, and are usually instructed by a lawyer who represented the client at lower courts. However, those restrictions do not apply to criminal cases, and not to pleadings at courts of the other court systems (neither to the labour, administrative, taxation, and social courts, nor to the EU court system).
In Nigeria, there is no formal distinction between barristers and solicitors. All lawyers who pass the bar examination and are called to the Nigerian bar by the Body of Benchers of the Nigerian Bar may argue in any Federal trial or appellate court as well as any of the courts in Nigeria's 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory. The Legal Practitioner's Act refers to Nigerian lawyers as Legal Practitioners, and following their call to the bar, Nigerian lawyers are required to enrol or enter their names in the register or Roll of Legal Practitioners kept at the Supreme Court. Perhaps for this reason, a Nigerian lawyer is also often referred to as a Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Nigeria, and many Nigerian lawyers term themselves Barrister-at-Law complete with the postnominal initials "B.L.".
The vast majority of Nigerian lawyers combine contentious and non-contentious work, although there is a growing tendency for practitioners in the bigger practices to specialise in one or the other. In colloquial parlance within the Nigerian legal profession, lawyers may for this reason be referred to as "litigators" or as "solicitors".
Consistent with the practice in England and elsewhere in the Commonwealth, senior members of the profession may be selected for elevation to the Inner Bar by conferment of the rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN).
Barristers in fictionThere have been a number of famous portrayals of barristers in fiction:
- Sydney Carton in the novel A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens.
- The character of "Archie Leach", played by John Cleese in A Fish Called Wanda.
- Rumpole of the Bailey, written by real-life barrister, John Mortimer QC.
- Kavanagh QC, played by John Thaw.
- Lewis Eliot in the "Strangers and Brothers" sequence by C. P. Snow.
- Several of the characters in the Hilary Tamar mysteries written by real-life barrister Sarah Caudwell.
- The character of "Mark Darcy", in Bridget Jones's Diary.
- Verily Cooper in Orson Scott Card's fantasy series "The Tales of Alvin Maker"
- Cedric Munroe played by Lennie James in Outlaw.
- "Sir Wilfrid Robarts", played by Charles Laughton in the Billy Wilder film of the Agatha Christie novel Witness for the Prosecution.
- Sergeant-at-Law in The Canterbury Tales written by Geoffrey Chaucer.
- Everard Logan played by Sir Laurence Olivier in The Divorce of Lady X.
- Australian Bar Association (barristers in the Commonwealth of Australia)
- Bar Association of New South Wales (Australia)
- Victorian Bar Association (Australia)
- Queensland Bar Association (Australia)
- South Australian Bar Association (Australia)
- Western Australian Bar Association (Australia)
UK and Ireland
barristers in German: Barrister
barristers in Spanish: Barrister
barristers in French: Barrister
barristers in Irish: Abhcóide
barristers in Galician: Barrister
barristers in Georgian: ბარისტერი
barristers in Portuguese: Barrister
barristers in Serbian: Barister
barristers in Swedish: Barrister
barristers in Ukrainian: Баррістер
barristers in Chinese: 大律師