Barristers’ Clerks; an Overview
Barrister’s clerks are essentially administrators and managers of barristers’ chambers. Each chambers usually has a number of junior and senior clerks. This however will depend on the size of the chambers in question.
The work carried out by the clerks is essential for the successful running of the chambers. Senior clerks will have a role closer to a business leaders rather than admins. The word clerk doesn’t provide a good indication of the sort of work undertaken; the work is incredibly diverse and can include the following activities:
- Negotiating and collecting fees for the cases taken.
- Managing the diary and workload of a barrister. This could involve court dates and meetings with the client.
- Finding business and marketing the chambers.
- Being the face of the chambers when talking to a potential client / outside agency. A clerk should know all of the barristers’ in the chambers and be able to recommend the most suitable individual for a certain case. They may also liaise with court staff and other chambers.
- Keep up to date with the legal areas that the chambers specialise in. This ties in with the above point as it is crucial that a clerk understands at least the basic legalities of what the client requires.
- Helping junior barristers’ with their career path and specialities.
- Delivering important documents.
- Other administrative tasks such as dealing with mail, filing, making sure barristers’ have all the tools they need (books, stationary, online resources) and making accommodation arrangements when needed.
The exact types of task which will be undertaken depend on the seniority of the clerk. Juniors will focus more on the administrative tasks, where as senior clerks will be dealing with fee negotiations and business management.
Qualification & skill requirements
Although there aren’t any minimum requirements (beyond decent GCSEs) to be a clerk it would be beneficial, especially at the moment, to have A levels or a degree. Failing this experience with legal administration or business would be beneficial. Clerks should have the following skills and knowledge:
- Be commercially aware (see below)
- Have a high level of IT skill & knowledge – this is becoming increasingly important with the need for online promotion. Knowledge of IT can also make the job easier through software use.
- Have great written and oral communication skills.
- Possess very good organisational and time management skills.
- The ability to work under pressure.
- A decent overall understanding of the area of law the chambers specialise in.
- Strong multi tasking skills and attention to detail.
- Ability to work as part of a team.
Training is usually done on the job. Although there are training and development courses available. A clerk must keep up to date with current legal issues and legislation which could have an impact on the work coming into the chambers.
Salary of a barristers’ clerk
As with all salaries in the legal profession, the salaries for barristers’ clerks can differ substantially depending on a number of factors. These factors could be the size of the chambers, the area of law they specialise in and where in the UK the chambers is located.
Starting salaries will be quite low – from £12,000 to £15,000. Once you become a more experienced clerk you can expect a much higher salary of £30,000 to £100,000+. Depending on the chambers in question a clerk my get a commission based on the fees barristers’ take. This fee can be anywhere between 2-10%, so if you work at a chambers specialising in a high paying area such as commercial or tax law then you can earn a massive amount of money. However along with that sort of role will long hours and a high pressure environment. Especially when deadlines are approaching.