This page has barrister career advice for those looking to study and work in the UK.
What does a barrister do?
Barristers work with solicitors and represent clients in court. They provide expert legal advice and source legal evidence. Usually their work comes through being approached by solicitors, rather than by individual clients.
Most barristers specialise in a particular area of law such as:
- Criminal law
- Personal injury
On a day-to-day basis, a barrister’s work is likely to include tasks such as:
- Undertaking ‘briefs’ (also known as cases)
- Advising clients on their legal position
- Researching previous legal decisions and precedents relevant to a case
- Preparing cases for court
- Representing clients in court
- Negotiating settlements
- Providing professional legal opinions
Tasks will vary for barristers, depending on their area of expertise. Some areas of practice, for example, will require a barrister to spend more time in court, whereas others will generate more office-based work.
Barrister training and qualifications
There are three stages to becoming a barrister.
Academic: First you must complete a degree course at 2:2 level or above. This can be a law degree or any other degree-level subject, followed by either a Postgraduate Diploma in Law (PgDL) or a Common Professional Examination (CPE).
Vocational: In this phase, you need to join one of the ‘Four Inns of Court’, all based in London. There are then 12 qualifying units to complete. You also need to complete the Bar Professional Training Course.
Pupillage: To finally be allowed to practise as a barrister, you need to complete pupillage, which is a year shadowing and training with a qualified barrister.
Continuing professional development is an essential part of a career as a barrister and you will need to top up your knowledge and skills regularly.
If you’re wondering whether you’re suited to the career of being a barrister, ask yourself these questions. You’ll need skills such as these to succeed:
- Are you a good problem-solver?
- Are you a confident public speaker and presenter?
- Are you a confident decision-maker?
- Do you have clear report-writing skills?
- Are your attention to detail skills strong?
- Are you a skilled researcher?
- Can you work under pressure?
- Are you diplomatic and able to deal with awkward or stressed people?
Employment opportunities exist for barristers on an employed basis, but most (estimates suggest up to 80%) are self-employed.
Employed barristers may work for a wide range of companies, such as corporate firms, large organisations and government.
Self-employed or ‘independent’ barristers often set up ‘chambers’ with other independent barristers. Others work from home.
The average barrister salary is £58,000 according to surveys in 2019. However, salaries for being a barrister vary widely, especially as so many barristers are self-employed.
Qualified barristers tend to earn anywhere between £25,000 per annum to over £250,000, but those working in private practice can earn over £1million per annum.