What is the Bar?


The Bar of England and Wales is a unique legal profession of specialist advocates and advisers. Barristers are independent and objective and their highly competitive training, together with their specialist knowledge and experience in and out of court, can make a substantial difference to the outcome of a case.

The modern Bar is committed to excellence in advocacy, advisory services and in the way in which it carries out and offers its service. Barristers take a flexible and mobile approach to advising a wide range of clients using the latest technology. 

A majority of the profession continues to practise from London, but about 4,400 barristers practise from major cities and, in some cases, small towns outside of London, offering a wide range and depth of expertise.

Self-employed Bar

There are approximately 13,000 barristers in self-employed practice in England and Wales. Broad areas of specialisation include: Construction, Commercial, Company, Criminal (including extradition), Defamation, Employment, Environment, Family, Housing, Immigration, Insolvency, Insurance, Personal Injury, Property, Equity, Wills and Trusts. These can be subdivided further into more than 300 categories of expertise.

Through their grouping in chambers, or in some cases working as sole practitioners, barristers are able to operate with low overheads and can offer competitive rates. Legal aid will often cover the services of a barrister, even at the most senior level.

Employed Bar

Employed barristers might work for the Government or in industry and play an increasingly important role. Since the implementation of the Access to Justice Act 1999, which amended the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990, employed barristers have been permitted by the Bar Council to conduct litigation. There are around 3,000 employed barristers registered with the Bar Council, bringing the practising Bar to approximately 16,000 in number. 

Instructing barristers

The Bar remains predominantly a referral profession, with barristers usually 'instructed' by solicitors. Barristers who have completed appropriate training are, however, able to take instructions directly from members of the public (the Public Access Scheme). In addition, members of certain professional bodies, some overseas clients and organisations with licences from the Bar Council are able to seek advice directly from barristers and may instruct them in non-court litigation (the Licensed Access Scheme).

Pro bono

Membersof the Bar often provide their services on a pro bono basis; for example through the Free Representation Unit or the Bar Pro Bono Unit. For more information, visit: www.barprobono.org.uk.

Legal Services Act 2007

The Legal Services Act 2007 has precipitated further liberalising changes to the Bar's Code of Conduct and the ways in which barristers are permitted to practise. Since 2010, barristers have been permitted to become managers and partners with other lawyers and non-lawyers in Legal Disciplinary Practices (LDPs) regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), in other 'recognised bodies' regulated by the Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) and can act in a 'dual capacity' as both self-employed and employed simultaneously (though not in the same case), subject to certain provisos. They may investigate or collect evidence and take witness statements, conduct correspondence, share premises and office facilities with any other person (subject to certain conditions) and attend on clients at police stations. Further reforms may follow as other sections of the Act are implemented.