About barristers

Barristers

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 jury.

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, although the availability of legal aid has been considerably cut back by government in recent years. 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.

Some 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 and some other organisations exist to co-ordinate their services.

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 (this is called the 'cab rank' rule).

Increasingly however, members of the public instruct barristers directly through the now well established public access scheme. You can read more about this here.

Organisations and individuals can also instruct barristers through the licensed access scheme, which you can read more about  here

Public Access

The public access scheme has existed for more than 15 years now and it allows members of the public to instruct suitably qualified barristers directly, without the need to go through a solicitor. Barristers are not automatically qualified to undertake public access work; they need to pass a public access course before being able to accept public access instructions.   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.

Complaints

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. All chambers and sole practitioners must have complaints procedures in place.

If your complaint cannot be resolved through that complaints procedure, and the barrister is acting for you, you have the option of contacting the Legal Ombudsman.

If the barrister is not acting for you and you want to complain about their behaviour, you can contact the Bar Standards Board.