The Bar – Why?

 

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People have different motives for entering every profession but below are what we think are the main things to consider when deciding if the Bar is right for you.

1. Advocacy?

Advocacy is the ability to form articulate arguments, improve communication skills and think on your feet when presenting cases to courts. It is one of the most attractive features of the profession, and certainly one of the most sought after skills. However, if advocacy is what you are looking for, then it is important to note that a career at the commercial Bar may not necessarily be so well suited for you, as a commercial Barrister is much more likely to be found researching and formulating arguments. A criminal barrister is much more likely to be in court on a regular basis. It is also worth noting that solicitors on the whole do not have at all as much exposure to advocacy as barristers do; in fact, neither does any other profession.

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2. Autonomy?

As a self-employed barrister you will have a lot freedom and flexibility in certain aspects of your work. For example, you can decide what time you start or leave work, organise your own workload and finances, and work on a case independently for maximum focus. To a certain extent, you can even decide what type of work you do and whether to take up particular cases or not. Furthermore, your success is measured by how well you perform your job and not how well you get on in an office. It must be noted that it is not as lonely a profession as many seem to think: you will need to cooperate well with the solicitors who instruct you and also with clients. It may be an autonomous job but it is designed to fulfil a function of great public importance.

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3. Challenging?

A career at the Bar is not easy. If you are not looking to achieve at least a good 2:1 in your degree, then entering the profession may prove very difficult. The Bar consists of highly intelligent individuals who use their analytical skills and quick thinking to solve complex problems. Aside from these intellectual requirements, the Bar also demands much in terms of the ability to digest large volumes of information, being able to handle stressful hours and work commitments, meeting strict deadlines, and coping with harrowing cases. However, it is just as rewarding as it is challenging!

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4. Interesting?

A barrister’s job can be as varied and interesting as the law itself. For those in doubt, that means very interesting. Barristers do not only sit in chambers working on cases, but also have the opportunity to meet a range of different people, have a dynamic workload and question their own viewpoints on a range of legal issues. Of course, if you are committed to a specific area of law, you will often be working on similar cases. However, barrister Simon Myerson says, ‘Even though the issues may repeat themselves, they do so in unlimited permutations of different facts and personalities.’ Every case is different and the case itself can change daily. Barristers conduct research, formulate arguments, use clever tactics and rhetorical skills in order to represent their clients and persuade judges. Furthermore, since the law is constantly developing, you will continue learning about it throughout your career. This is definitely a job for the intellectually curious.

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5. Justice? 

For many, practising at the Bar provides an opportunity to ‘make a difference’, which is true – as a barrister you have the opportunity to stand up and argue for unpopular cases, ensure that the beliefs and rights of everyone are protected and fight for new and interesting areas of the law. In fact, some may say that it is more of a vocation than a profession. Barristers uphold one of the most fundamental tenets of English law: that everyone deserves the right to a fair trial. The law should be the same for everyone and barristers help to ensure that it is, in a procedural sense – after all, that is why our legal system is based on the common law. However, having an important job does not necessarily mean that you will be considered an important individual. We all know what society thinks of lawyers.

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6. Money?

A career at the Bar can be financially rewarding, though earnings in the self-employed Bar vary tremendously, and can fluctuate in accordance to the amount of cases you have on a year-to-year basis. In addition, it is important to note that from the gross earnings received (as a self-employed barrister you do not earn a salary) you will be expected to cater in practice overheads – clerk fees, chamber rent, professional insurance, sick leave, etc. However, it is not advisable to practise at the Bar merely for financial reasons; it requires a greater commitment. If the other five points mentioned above have not even crossed your mind, then you may want to think about them very carefully.

Here is a table to illustrate the possible gross earnings in the different branches of the self-employed bar (2005-06 figures):

Practice Area

Earnings (Year One) £

Earnings (Year Five) £

Crime

10,000 – 30,000

40,000 – 90,000

Public

20,000 – 40,000

40,000 – 90,000

Family

20,000 – 40,000

40,000 – 90,000

General Civil

20,000 – 50,000

40,000 – 120,000

Chancery/Commercial

40,000 – 90,000

70,000 – 200,000

Here is a table to illustrate the possible gross earnings in different areas of the law of the employed bar (2005-06 figures):

Practice Area

Salary (Year One) £

Salary (Year Five) £

CPS

25,000 – 30,000

35,000 – 60,000

Public Sector

25,000 – 50,000

35,000 – 60,000

Commerce/Finance/Industry

35,000 – 70,000

60,000 – 100,000

In-house

25,000 – 75,000

40,000 – 130,000

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