Barristers: do you know how to define them?

HomeBlogBarristers: do you know how to define them?

The legal profession can be a confusing and complicated industry, with professionals ranging from lawyers, to solicitors and attorneys. Here is everything you need to know about a barrister.

What is a barrister?

Barrister meaning refers to a legal practitioner who is an independent specialist advocate and advisor in law. Less confusingly, a barrister’s role is to act on behalf of their client in a court of law, normally during a serious criminal case in front of a jury and a judge. Barristers generally spend their time in court, and they act on behalf of a client when a case goes to trial, however, they are not always required. The main roles of a barrister are:

  • To make court appearances, especially in trials;
  • Provide specialist advice on a specific issue;
  • Handle court applications;
  • To assist a solicitor with the drafting of court documents; and
  • To assist in understanding intricate areas of the law.

Barristers are easily distinguishable in a courtroom as they normally wear a wig and gown. Additionally, they are more cost effective than their solicitor and lawyer counterparts as they are paid by their work, and not by the hour. 

What is the difference between a barrister and a solicitor?

The main difference is who the client refers to as their first point of contact when needing legal advice. This is normally a solicitor. A solicitor can help provide clients with advice or assist in common legal matters. Barristers, however, spend most of their days in court, and are not as involved in the everyday legal matters of their clients. Further, barristers are not always required, and instead a solicitor can offer advice without needing the assistance of a barrister. Solicitors generally only need the assistance of a barrister if a case requires a great deal of time in court, or for cases that go to trial. Barristers also work at a higher level in court than solicitors. Additionally, barristers specialise in court appearances and communicating on a client’s behalf, whereas a solicitor does the prep work prior to the court appearance. A solicitor can only become a barrister if they decide to take and pass the ‘bar’ exam in the state they wish to practice in. 

What is the difference between a barrister and a lawyer?

A lawyer is a general term referring to someone who has been trained and received a law degree and is thus qualified to give legal advice. Barristers undergo many levels of training following a completion of a law degree, whereas lawyers refers to anyone who has been admitted into the legal profession, including barristers and solicitors. Barristers specialise in advocacy. For further information, check out our blog post on lawyers vs barristers.

Do solicitors require help from barristers?

Solicitors do require assistance from barristers, as the two professions overlap. Due to the nature of their work (barristers work independently as sole practitioners), solicitors often find themselves hiring barristers on behalf of their clients. 

What does a barrister do in court?

Barristers specialise in difficult litigation and advise in specialist fields of law. Barristers work in quarters called ‘chambers’ and pay a floor fee to rent out rooms in these chambers. These chambers can be a shared space, with many barristers centering their work there. Barristers conduct court appearances and perform many roles as a court advocate. Barristers spend most of their time in court; opening the case, advocating on behalf of their client with relevant evidence, cross-examining witnesses, examining their own witnesses, arguing in relation to the admissibility of evidence, addressing the jury if it is a criminal matter and convincing the jury of the innocence of their client. 

How do I become a barrister?

In Queensland, there are many steps to becoming a barrister. To become a barrister a person must:

  • Complete an approved law degree;
  • Complete an approved practical legal training course or a supervised traineeship;
  • Successfully apply for admission as a lawyer in an Australian jurisdiction;
  • Sit and pass the three Queensland bar examinations to the required standard;
  • Complete the Queensland Bar Practice Course to the required standard;
  • Apply for a barrister’s practising certificate; and
  • Complete the readership program.

For more information relating to the steps required to becoming a barrister, please see a Guide to becoming a barrister in Queensland.

How much do barristers get paid?

Results show that the average yearly income for male barristers in the 2017/2018 financial year was $190 454. The pay gap between females and males varied majorly, with female barristers only earning $70 227.

How much do barristers charge?

The cost of hiring a barrister to represent you in court can vary greatly, and ranges from anywhere between $2 500 to $10 000 + GST per day. 

Will I need to hire a barrister for my case?

Generally, it is best to hire either a lawyer or a solicitor for your case, and gauge their advice as to whether you will need a barrister. The solicitor should advise you as to whether they need the assistance of a barrister, which will in turn save you money from employing a barrister from the get go. 

What is Senior Counsel and Queen’s Council?

The Queen’s Council and Senior Council can be regarded as the top tier barristers in Queensland, with only 10% of barristers being awarded with the honour. These barristers are awarded with ‘taking silk’ after many years of outstanding practice, based on their superior experience, learning, seniority and standing as an advocate. From 2013, no further Senior Council is appointed, and all appointments will be of the Queen’s Council. 

Further information regarding the appointment and consultation process of Queen’s Council can be found here. 

How do I find a barrister?

Via the following website: https://austbar.asn.au/find-a-barrister/. This webpage contains the contact details, area of practice, and area of specialisation of a barrister who is a member of the Australian Bar Association. Additionally, the barrister must have a current practising certificate and has agreed to make their details available to the general public in order to appear on the site. 

If you have any queries, or unsure if you require a barrister to assist you in a court case, you should seek legal advice. Business Kitz and sister company Legal Kitz can direct you with your next step, in determining whether you have adequate representation for any legal issues that may arise. Our business specialists can assist with ensuring that your concerns are addressed, and can provide you with advice that is tailored to your situation. You can book a free 30-minute consultation via our website now.