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.
Most barristers are self-employed, individual practitioners who may work as a sole practitioner or, more commonly, in groups of offices known as chambers.
Many other barristers are ‘employed’ or in-house and work for organisations in the public and private sector, or as barristers in law firms alongside solicitors.
What is a KC?
A limited number of senior barristers receive 'silk' - becoming King's Counsel - as a mark of outstanding ability. They are normally instructed in very serious or complex cases. Most senior judges once practised as KCs.
Those barristers who 'took silk' during the reign of Queen Elizabeth II were Queen's Counsel (QC). Upon the death of the Queen all QCs immediately became KCs.