What Does A Barrister Do?
There are many misconceptions about the actual work a barrister does (as there is about the work of solicitors). Most people think 99% of their time is spent arguing in court.
While this is a big part of the job, it’s only one of many potential tasks a barrister can complete in a typical day.
We also need to remember that there are many different kinds of barrister specialising in a variety of legal areas. Let’s look at some of the main parts of the job and some differences between solicitors and barristers.
The drafting of documents
Barristers may need to draft documents to be used in court at a later date, and they may also draft letters on a clients behalf. For example barristers may draft documents which propose a settlement or some other form of negotiation. A well worded letter can even eliminate the need to go to court. Some barristers may specialise in drafting certain specialist documents; therefore it may be more inexpensive for firm to employ a barrister for complicated legal drafting.
Going to court is expensive. Especially in the current economic climate, Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) is becoming more popular. Not all forms of negotiation are over a dispute, sometimes a barrister will play a part in the negotiation of a deal. The sort of negotiation will depend on the area of law the barrister deals with. Barristers are suited to this sort of work because of its similarity with advocating in court – the ability to think their feet and adapt to changing circumstances is essential.
While solicitors are usually the ones who deal with the entire case from start to finish, barristers are the ones who are called on for specialist parts of the case. As with solicitors a barrister may specialise in a certain legal area. So why bring in a specialist barrister in commercial law if there is already a solicitors who deals with commercial law?
Well the barrister will have a greater knowledge of a commercial legal matter when it goes in front of a judge. So he or she will be able to speculate about the chances of success a certain legal argument will have. We need to remember that most of the time the work a solicitor does has no need to go to court. There is no dispute or argument. The relevant documents and formalities are simply completed. Barristers work on the other hand is all about the disputed and unclear areas of the law.
Of course there is a lot of time spent preparing for court too. Barristers don’t just turn up in court and hope for the best! They produce their skeleton argument, research & review the key facts of the case and decide on questions they could ask a potential witness. The key points of law also need to be remembered – it’s not going to look very good if the barrister keep needing to refer to notes and look up key case details!
Barristers will also be completing continuous research and reading up on the state of the law. Judgements which are relevant to their area of practice may be frequently released. They need to adapt to this change and understand how the new case law or legislation has an impact on their work.
Day to day activities
Since most barristers are self employed (unless they work directly for a firm or government institution), a good deal of time will be spent managing their own affairs. All barristers must join a chambers for which there will be a number of clerks who will take care of of administrative duties for the barrister.
They may also help with marketing and the acquisition of clients. They can’t do everything though; a good reputation needs to be built up by the barrister so they can obtain higher profile cases.
Find out how much a barrister can earn.