What is a barrister?
Barristers are specialist legal advisers and court room
advocates. They are independent, objective and trained to advise
clients on the strengths and weaknesses of their case. They
have specialist knowledge and experience in and out of court, which
can make a substantial difference to the outcome of a case.
Early advice can often save clients the cost and worry
of an unnecessary trial. A high proportion of civil cases are
settled out of court, and instructing a barrister greatly
strengthens the client's hand at negotiation. Even at a trial,
whether in a civil or criminal court, a well-argued case and good
cross-examination will impress a judge and, if relevant, a
What is a QC?
A limited number of senior barristers receive 'silk'
- becoming Queen's Counsel - as a mark of outstanding
ability. They are normally instructed in very serious or complex
cases. Most senior judges once practised as QCs.
How much will a barrister cost?
Legal aid may cover the services of a barrister and sometimes a
QC. Solicitors will usually help clients ineligible for legal aid
to negotiate an affordable fee. In some types of civil case,
barristers will only charge for their services if they win the
case. Because most barristers operate with low overheads, their
rates are very competitive. And whether you are legally aided
or paying privately, the quality of service is assured.
A number of barristers will do work for no fee in cases which
are especially deserving or of great public importance and legal
aid is not available. The Bar Pro Bono Unit exists to co-ordinate
How can I contact a barrister?
The usual route to a barrister is through a solicitor.
Solicitors have good working relationships with barristers and are
likely to be able to identify the most suitable barrister to deal
with your case. Assuming that the barrister identified is
available and that there are no conflicts of interest, they
are under a duty to take on your case (under the 'cab
Increasingly however, the public can access a barrister
directly should they have an enquiry. You can read more about
In addition, the Bar Council operates a scheme allowing licensed
direct access to barristers. Licensed access incorporates the two
schemes formerly known as Direct Professional Access and BarDirect.
For further details of licensed access, including rules,
regulations, guidance and terms work and to access an application
form and list of licensees, please click here.
From 6 July 2004, the rules governing access to the Bar were
relaxed to allow a greater degree of public access to
barristers. For further details about Public Access to
barristers, please click here.
Meeting your barrister
In many cases, barristers are able to give advice on a case by
simply looking at the papers. In more complex matters and in
cases going to court, clients will often have a 'conference'
or consultation with the barrister.
Where do barristers practise?
Self-employed barristers are individual practitioners who may
work as a sole practitioner or, more commonly, in groups of
offices known as chambers.The Bar Directory is the
main listing source for barristers in England and Wales.
If you are not satisfied with the service provided by your
barrister, you can, in the first instance, attempt to resolve your
complaint directly with the barrister's chambers or employer.
If that fails, and the barrister is acting
for you, you should contact the Legal
If the barrister is not acting for you and you want to
complain about their behaviour, you should contact the
Bar Standards Board.