A barrister is a lawyer who represents a litigant (client) before a court with the appropriate jurisdiction. A barrister speaks in court and presents the litigant or client’s matter before a judge or jury. A solicitor generally meets with clients, does preparatory and administrative work and provides legal advice. In this role, he or she may draft and review legal documents, interact with the client as necessary, prepare evidence, and generally manage the day-to-day administration of a lawsuit. Barristers specialise in courtroom advocacy, drafting legal pleadings and giving expert legal opinions. Known as advocates in some parts of the world, they are not solicitors.
There are other essential differences. A barrister will usually have rights of audience in the higher courts, whereas other legal professionals will often have more limited access or will need to acquire additional qualifications to have such access. Barristers usually have particular knowledge of case law, precedent, and the skills to “build” a case. When a solicitor in general practice is confronted with an unusual point of law, they may seek the “opinion of counsel” on the issue.
In most countries, barristers operate as sole practitioners (self-employed). Barristers usually group together into Chambers to share clerks who undertake their administrative work and operating expenses. In some jurisdictions, barristers may be employed by firms of solicitors, banks, or corporations as in-house legal advisers.
By contrast, solicitors work directly with the clients and are responsible for engaging a barrister with the appropriate expertise for the case. Barristers generally have little or no direct contact with their ‘lay clients’, particularly without the presence or involvement of the solicitor. All correspondence, inquiries, invoices, and so on, will be addressed to the solicitor, who is primarily responsible for the barrister’s fees.
Barristers are regulated by the Bar for the jurisdiction where they practice, and in some countries, by the Inn of Court to which they belong. In some countries, there is external regulation. Simply put, a Bar collectively describes the members of the profession within a given jurisdiction. While as a minimum the Bar is an association embracing all its members, it is usually the case that the Bar has regulatory powers over the manner in which barristers practice. Inns of Court, where they exist, regulate admission to the profession. Inns of Court are independent societies that are have responsibility for the training, admission (calling) and discipline of barristers
Barristers in England and Wales are regulated by the Bar Standards Board, a division of the General Council of the Bar. A barrister must be a member of one of the Inns of Court, which traditionally educated and regulated barristers. There are four Inns of Court: The Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn, The Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn, The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple and The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple. All are situated in central London, near the Royal Courts of Justice.
Certain barristers in England and Wales can now be instructed directly by members of the public. This means that the public may engage the services of the barrister directly; a solicitor is not involved at any stage. Barristers undertaking public access work can provide legal advice and representation in court in almost all areas of law and are entitled to represent clients in any court or tribunal in England and Wales. Once instructions from a client are accepted, it is the barrister (rather than the solicitor) who advises and guides the client through the relevant legal procedure or litigation.
Before a barrister can undertake Public Access work, he must have completed a special course. The ability of barristers to accept such instructions is a recent development; it results from a change in the rules set down by the General Council of the Bar in July 2004. The Public Access Scheme was introduced as part of the drive to open up the legal system to the public and to make it easier and cheaper to obtain access to legal advice. It further reduces the distinction between solicitors and barristers. The distinction remains however because there are certain aspects of a solicitor’s role that a barrister is not yet able to undertake.
Although the term “barrister-at-law” is sometimes seen, and was once very common, it has never been formally correct in England and Wales. “Barrister” is the only correct nomenclature.
Middleton Chambers Barristers (whether fulltime members or door tenants) will handle all legal matters. Our Barristers take instruction from solicitors unless they are instructed on an public (direct) access basis.
The Clerking team plays a vital roles in supporting barristers in the development and successful management of their practices.
Junior Clerks typically:
- prepare papers and taking books, documents and robes to and from court
- undertake messenger work (collecting and delivering documents by hand)
- undertake photocopying, filing and dealing with letters, e-mails and phone calls
- handle accounts, invoices and petty cash
- collect fees
- organise the law library
- manage barristers’ daily diaries and keep their case information up to date
- co-ordinate communication between solicitors, clients and their barristers
Senior Clerks are responsible for:
- recruiting, training and supervising junior clerks
- bringing business into chambers
- allocating cases to barristers
- negotiating fees
Our Chambers Director is Velda Middleton. Velda’s role is more strategic and she typically oversees:
- Co-ordination at all levels including financial
- Setting Chambers’ policy
- Dispute resolution
- Code of Conduct compliance
- Financial management of Chambers.