Career Guide


Daniella Driscoll  · Jan 25th 2023

The legal system has long been a part of our way of life, since the dawn of time.

Gavel and judge's wig

Those with a highly analytical mind, logical approach and great attention to detail will succeed as a barrister. As a demanding and rewarding position, a barrister specialises in advocacy and represents individuals or organisations in court.

Barristers play a significant part in the court as an adviser for their clients on the case and are generally an independent source of legal advice.

Aspiring solicitors

What is a barrister?

Barristers play a crucial part in the court, providing advice for solicitors and representing both individuals or organisations in investigations, disagreements and court.

In England and Wales, barristers are advocacy specialists. Your main role is to be an independent source of legal advice, advising clients on the case. Solicitors usually hire them to represent a case in court and take involvement when advocacy is needed in court. Barristers have the role of pleading the case, on behalf of the client and their solicitor.

Barristers can work either employed, usually through government departments such as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), or for private and public organisations including charities. Self-employed barristers, however, work within offices called chambers, where you have your own office or share it with other barristers.

In Scotland, barristers have a similar role, presenting cases in Scottish law courts and putting across arguments to defend people of a crime or civil offences.

For vocational training, you will need to complete the Barrister Training Course (BTC) (varies in similar names) at university which takes around a year full-time or part-time equivalent.

The role of a barrister can vary in type, specialising in a particular area of law. From criminal law, commercial law, and environmental law to entertainment law and common law (such as housing and family), there are many specialisms to get involved with. This means you can be anything from a prosecution barrister, defence barrister, employment barrister, and criminal barrister to a planning barrister.


The responsibilities of a barrister can vary massively, although, in general, barristers focus on resolving disputes.

These are your responsibilities:

  • Explain to clients the strength of their case and matter of the law.
  • Get cases ready for court, including preparing legal arguments.
  • Have a great understanding of how the law works.
  • If self-employed, contribute to the management of chambers including recruiting pupils and tenants.
  • Manage your represented cases.
  • Meet and talk with clients and take instructions from them and their solicitors.
  • Negotiate settlements for your client out of court.
  • Partake in legal research of similar cases and relevant points of law.
  • Read witness statements and query witnesses in court.
  • Represent clients and present arguments in court.
  • Summarise a strong argument for your client and why the court should support them.
  • Write up your opinions and advise solicitors.


The salary of a barrister can vary depending on your experience level, where you work and the bonuses you will receive per year. The average barrister's salary is around £89,200. For a junior barrister’s salary, you can start on around £42,000 and earn up to £132,000 as a senior barrister[1].

For self-employed barristers, entry-level qualified barristers can earn anything between £12,000-£90,000 in their first year. With more experience, around the five-year mark, you can earn around £50,000-£200,000. The most experienced barristers with 10+ years of experience can earn over £1 million. Barrister salaries in the chambers can also be based on the type of barrister you are. For example, commercial barristers will earn more than criminal barristers[2].

Employment barristers


The role of a barrister is a graduate job. To become a barrister, you firstly need to acquire a minimum of a 2:2 undergraduate degree in law. If you have taken another subject, then you will need to complete a Graduate Diploma in Law. There are three components of training: academic, vocational and pupilage or work-based learning, and the degree covers the academic training.

For vocational training, you will need to complete the Barrister Training Course (BTC) (varies in similar names) at university which takes around a year full-time or part-time equivalent. This tests your critical thinking, and language skills and provides you with the specialist skills and competence to become a barrister. The Authorised Education and Training Organisations (AETOs) provide a full list of the organisations offering the vocation component of Bar training.

It’s useful to join an Inns of Court. The Inns of Court are the professional associations of barristers across England and Wales. This will help further your training, and provide support for barristers in various settings including libraries.

The Inns include:

In Scotland, you will need to acquire a Scottish law degree and a Scottish Diploma in Legal Practice to become an advocate. Then, undertake a period of training (around 21 months) in a solicitor’s office, approved by the Faculty of Advocates. Further practical training of eight to nine months is essential with an experienced advocate and to complete a competency assessment.

In Northern Ireland, law graduates should apply for the barrister-of-law course at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, taking around one year. Then trainees should undertake a 12-month pupillage with a master.

Training and development

The last stage in training for a barrister is to complete a pupilage (work-based component), to practise your on-hand skills. It takes a year and is broken into two parts, the first six months as non-practising and the second six months as practising. Competition and standards are high in this sector for academic and personal qualities - and why extra work and commitment go a long way for this career.

With fierce competition in this industry, barrister work experience is crucial.

During your pupilage, you are assigned a supervisor who organises and oversees your training. The first six months involve assisting and observing and in the second six, you will take on your work, under supervision. As the competition is fierce, you are not always offered tenancy at your chamber practice after your pupillage and will have to undertake the third six at another set of chambers.

Registering with the Bar Council and having a Practising Certificate allows you to practise as a barrister. This is renewed annually online via the Authorisation to the Practice renewal process. The Bar Council will help you find training opportunities and make industry contracts.

Newly qualified barristers must complete 45 hours of continuing professional development (CPD), including three hours of ethics and nine hours of advocacy training during their first three years of practice. Every barrister must have an annual CPD plan to ensure you are achieving your objectives.


As a barrister, it’s crucial to work with others and take an logical approach.

These are the required skills of a barrister:

  • Advocacy and active listening skills.
  • An analytical and logical approach to work.
  • Determination to succeed.
  • Excellent communication skills with a wide range of people.
  • Flexible approach to working and strong problem-solving skills.
  • Great with attention to detail.
  • Great with time and project management.
  • Self-motivated and strong sense of self-discipline.
  • Strong academic ability, especially when it comes to legal research.
  • Strong legal knowledge and awareness of court procedures and government regulations.
  • Strong written skills.
  • Takes responsibility for your actions.
  • The ability to express ideas and arguments clearly.
  • The ability to persuade and think using logic.
  • The ability to use a computer and its software effectively.
  • Works and remains calm in a pressured environment and accepts criticism.

What is a barrister

Work experience

With fierce competition in this industry, barrister work experience is crucial. You can achieve this by applying for a mini-pupillage, which is around a week of work experience. This involves shadowing within a set of chambers - and shows commitment to your career.

You can also search for any type of experience within the legal field. From marshalling (sitting with a judge) for up to a week, volunteering with organisations such as Citizens Advice to public speaking in a university debating team. You can even gain paid law work experience such as a paralegal, taking notes in court for a solicitor. The more you immerse yourself into the legal world through opportunities, the higher advantage you will be when it comes to a barrister job.

Career prospects

As a qualified barrister on completion of your pupilage, the next step is applying for a tenancy and becoming a junior barrister in chambers. For self-employed barristers in chambers, your career development and financial stability is dependent on your cases, and the ability to build up the practice’s reputation. You will need to work successfully on your own accord and manage your workload effectively.

Barristers play a crucial part in the court, providing advice for solicitors and representing both individuals or organisations in investigations, disagreements and court.

Employed barristers, can practice at the employed Bar and apply for positions at public sector organisations or in-house legal services departments in commercial companies. Within these organisations, you can progress into leading a team and moving to general management.

A senior barrister, whether employed or self-employed, can apply to ‘take silk’ and become a King's Counsel. This is a higher-up position, leading serious cases and you will require at least fifteen years in practice. It can also involve entering the judiciary as a recorder, before becoming a judge.

Barrister jobs and your development depends on the route you would like to take and what interests you. For example, you may create a reputation for yourself in a certain specialism and work your way up to the senior level.


  • [1]Lawyer Salary: Barrister Salary vs Solicitor Salary — Retrieved 23 September 2022.
  • [2]How much do barristers earn? — Retrieved 22 September 2022.

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