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What is a barrister?

The legal profession in England is divided into two parts: barristers and solicitors. In general, solicitors do transactional work while barristers appear in Court and tribunals and do advisory work of a complex nature.

A barrister is an expert advocate who represents clients and argues their cases, in person, in the courts, tribunals or before an arbitrator or other neutral/panel of neutrals. Barristers also provide specialist legal advice.

Barristers specialise in one or more areas of law and offer a high degree of knowledge, skill and expertise in their fields of practice.

The main focus of a barrister’s work is advocacy and advising on disputes, whether in court or arbitration. Because barristers are recognised for their expertise in advocacy their services are in demand in the international legal market.

Most barristers are independent sole practitioners and self-employed. They usually work alongside other sole practitioners in premises known as  ‘Chambers’, with paid staff who provide administrative support and diary management. They do not share profits, and are not in partnership with other barristers in chambers or with solicitors or other legal professionals.

Barristers are assisted by their clerks who are like agents. The clerks are the first point of contact for most clients; they book cases in for barristers and they will advise on which barrister is most suitable for your case. They also agree fees with you.

As a referral profession, barristers may be instructed on a specific point of law, or on discrete pieces of work on a case by case basis. You can ask for legal advice or for an assessment of your case before you decide whether to go to court or to a tribunal.