We're building a new service – your feedback will help us to improve it.

Barrister

Barristers give specialist legal advice, advising solicitors and representing people in court and at tribunals and public inquiries.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £12,000 to £250,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: Variable per week

1. Entry requirements

You'll need an approved law degree, or a degree in another subject followed by the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL)/Common Professional Examination (CPE).

You'll then need to pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) before applying for the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).

Following this, you'll need to complete practical training called 'pupillage'.

The Bar Council and the Bar Standards Board have more information on becoming a barrister.

2. Skills required

You'll need:

  • the ability to research, analyse and retain large amounts of information
  • writing skills with an excellent standard of English
  • a logical approach and a high level of attention to detail
  • the ability to work well under pressure
  • confident public speaking skills
  • the ability to organise your own workload and meet deadlines

3. What you'll do

You'll either be self-employed and work from chambers in private practice, or be employed by one organisation like the Government Legal Service, Crown Prosecution Service, armed forces or a human rights organisation.

You'll spend most of your time preparing for cases and presenting in court. Your work will focus on one particular area, like criminal or family law.

Your day-to-day duties could include:

  • having meetings with clients and taking on cases (briefs)
  • researching the law relating to previous similar cases
  • reading witness statements and reports
  • offering advice and providing written legal opinion
  • negotiating settlements out of court
  • preparing legal arguments and getting briefs ready for court
  • cross-examining witnesses and presenting the case to the judge and jury
  • summing up the case

4. Salary

Starter: £12,000 to £45,000

Experienced: £30,000 to £200,000

Highly Experienced: £250,000

Salaries will depend on what type of work you do, who you work for and where you're based. As an employed barrister, you'll generally earn less than you would in private practice where you'll have to pay your own overheads.

The most experienced practitioners working on very high-profile cases can earn considerable sums.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You'll often work more than the standard 40 hour week, as long hours are common. You may travel to courts every day, particularly if you're involved in criminal or family law.

If you're self-employed, you'll share chambers with other barristers. You'll divide your time between chambers and court.

If you're an employed barrister, you'll be office-based with occasional travel to meetings, court or tribunals.

In court, you'll wear a wig and gown. Outside of court, you'll be expected to dress in smart business clothes.

6. Career path and progression

With experience you could find employment with firms supplying legal services in commerce, finance or industry. You could lead a team or move into general management.

You could also apply to become a Queen's Counsel (QC) or a judge.

Related careers

You may be interested in:

Last updated: 11 April 2017