JOB PROFILE: Barrister/Advocate
Qualifications and courses
England and Wales
You will need either a qualifying law degree or another degree (minimum 2.1 Honours for both), followed by a postgraduate law conversion course, known as the Common Professional Examination, or a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL).
Following this, you must pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) prior to applying for the vocational stage of qualification. This involves becoming a member of one of the four Inns of Court where you will undertake the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). This will prepare you for completion of two 6-month pupillages (a mix of work and training taking place in chambers). Training for the ‘bar’ continues for 3 years, working in one of the Inns of Court.
Once you have qualified, you will be required by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) to undertake at least 45 hours of continuing professional development (CPD). This must include at least 9 hours of advocacy training, 3 hours of ethics and the completion of the Forensic Accounting Course. The amount of annual CPD you are required to take will drop after the first 3 years.
You will need either an Honours degree in Scottish Law from a Scottish university (minimum 2.1 Honours); an Ordinary degree in Scottish Law from a Scottish university with an Honours degree from a UK university (minimum 2.1 Honours); or a Scottish Ordinary degree with distinction. You must also undertake a 1-year full-time postgraduate Diploma in Legal Practice at a Scottish university.
For vocational entry, you will need to work for 12–21 months in a solicitor's office and ‘devilling’ (training with) a member of the bar for 9 months, before taking the entry examinations of the Faculty of Advocates.
What the work involves
Barristers/advocates give legal advice to other legal professionals and act for clients in certain cases in the high courts. You will research information and past cases before giving advice to solicitors on whether a case should go to court.
In court, you will examine witnesses and present the case for the prosecution or the defence.
You will also act for clients at tribunals or inquiries if asked to do so by a solicitor.
Type of person suited to this work
You will need to research large amounts of information before giving legal advice. You will need to be able to think logically to work out what is important in the case and apply the law to it.
You will need to be confident to speak in court, to convince a jury with your arguments, and able to think quickly when questioning witnesses or defendants.
Excellent written and public speaking skills are needed in order to prepare your case. Keeping an open mind is important and you must be able to gain people's confidence.
Barristers usually work in offices called ‘chambers’, and advocates in groups known as ‘stables’, most of which are based in the Advocates’ Library in Edinburgh.
If you specialise in criminal law, you will spend more time in court than civil law specialists would.
Most barristers/advocates are self-employed and it can take around 5 years to establish a practice and become known.
After 15 years' experience you can apply to ‘take silk’ to become a Queen's Counsel. You could apply to become a judge in the higher courts.
Some people work in central or local government where there is a clear promotion structure.
The work is varied and you will get satisfaction when you win a case.
Some cases may put you under pressure, particularly if they attract media attention.
You will sometimes work long hours to meet deadlines.
Minimum salaries during pupillage are £12,000, but can range up to £45,000 in the first year of practice for some of the prestigious sets.
Qualified barristers can earn between £25,000 and £300,000. Earnings of between £30,000 and £90,000 can be expected in the Crown Prosecution Service and Government Legal Service in England and Wales.
As a trainee advocate in Scotland you may be unpaid for around 10 months. Qualified advocates can earn between £30,000 and £35,500 and around £105,000 as Advocate General in the Procurator Fiscal Service.
Many barristers in England and advocates in Scotland are self-employed. Earnings can reach up to £300,000, however this is entirely dependent on experience, location and reputation.
In private practice top earnings can be in excess of £1,000,000.
Content generously provided by Indigo Trotman.