How to Become a Barrister in 6 Steps (With Skills and FAQs)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Published 13 October 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
Barristers are specialised legal experts who undergo additional legal training to handle cases before courts or tribunals. They offer advocacy, litigation and dispute resolution-related advice to one or more parties to impact a case's outcome. Knowing the different steps that you can take to become a barrister can help you make appropriate educational and career choices to prepare you for a successful career in the field. In this article, we outline six steps on how to become a barrister and answer some frequently asked questions about the profession.
How to become a barrister in 6 steps
If you want to know how to become a barrister, consider taking the following steps:
1. Complete a legal degree
Completing a bachelor's degree in law is the first step you can take toward becoming a barrister. This degree helps you develop important advocacy, ethics, research and negotiation skills. You can typically complete this degree in three or four years, depending on whether you study full time or part-time. A high Australian Tertiary Admission Rank (ATAR) can make your application more competitive to employers. If your ATAR isn't favourable or you've already completed an undergraduate degree in another subject, you can complete a two-year Juris Doctor degree instead of an undergraduate law degree.
2. Complete practical training
After completing your undergraduate degree, you can complete supervised workplace training or practical legal training. This type of training can take several months to a year to complete through an approved training provider. This training builds upon the theory you learnt during your degree and complements it with practical legal skills. It can also expose you to specific practice areas that interest you, such as family, criminal, environmental or consumer law. Some forms of training can give you moot court or mock trial experience, which involves barristers and judges coaching you about courtroom procedures.
3. Apply for admission
When your training is complete, you can apply for admission to practise law in the state or territory where you work. After you submit the required documents, file your application before the provided date. If the board approves your submission, they can provide you with a notice of hearing, where you can sign the Roll of Practitioners to enrol yourself as a solicitor and barrister of the court. The board also issues you a practising certificate to prove that you can practise law in your area.
4. Take the bar exam
Once admitted, you can then apply to become a member of the bar, which enables you to practise as a barrister in your state or territory. State or territory admission automatically includes admission to the Australian Bar Association, meaning you can appear before any Australian court once you pass. The Bar Reader's Entrance Exam tests your knowledge in areas including civil and criminal procedure, ethics and evidence. The minimum passing grade is 75%. You can take the exam multiple times until you pass.
5. Complete the Bar Readers' Course and mentorship
Once admitted to the bar, complete the Bar Readers' Course to learn about the practical aspects of being a barrister. This helps you develop the skills required to run, market and build a sole practice. It may also involve completing a reading period with a senior barrister who operates in your area of interest. After this, you can work as a self-employed barrister and secure office space or chambers in a building with other barristers.
6. Become a King's or Senior Counsel
Once you've gained experience working as a barrister and can demonstrate outstanding abilities or accomplishments, you can become a King's Counsel or Senior Counsel, also known as a silk. Both a King's Counsel and a Senior Counsel might work on challenging or unusual court cases. Only a Supreme Court can appoint you to this position. Once you've gained enough experience, you can become a magistrate or a judge. Depending on your experience and area of interest, you can then progress from working in state and territory courts to working in the High, Federal or Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia.
Frequently asked questions about becoming a barrister
The following are answers to some commonly asked questions regarding the barrister profession:
What's the difference between a barrister, lawyer, attorney and solicitor?
A lawyer has a legal qualification and provides legal advice. Lawyers that have completed a law degree, hold a practising certificate and can offer generalised legal advice can call themselves solicitors. If a legal matter is complex or involves appearing before the court, a barrister can assist with this, as they have admission into the bar in their state or territory. Barristers often work alongside solicitors to assist a client or resolve a case. In Australia, attorneys or attorneys-at-law spend less time in court than solicitors and can focus on trademarks, patents or legal administrative tasks.
Who can barristers represent?
If someone requests representation from a barrister, the barrister typically accepts the case under certain circumstances. They accept cases if it's in their area of expertise, if the client can pay their fees and if the barrister has the capacity to represent the client. They accept cases that fit these conditions to ensure that every person can access legal representation regardless of their reputation.
What's the job outlook for barristers?
The following is information about working as a barrister to help you decide whether this career is right for you:
Prospects: According to Job Outlook, the number of barristers has grown from 9,000 in 2021 and is to reach 11,100 by 2026.
Hours: Full-time barristers spend an average of 50 hours per week, working six hours more than the average of all jobs.
What are a barrister's job responsibilities?
A barrister may complete the following daily tasks:
Meeting with lawyers, solicitors and clients to offer advice on cases
Conducting legal research into case laws, precedents and regulations involved in a case
Interpreting legal briefs and creating a course of action for them
Preparing legal opinions, evidence or documents for the court
Facilitating and advising on case negotiations, pleas and settlements
Appearing in court on behalf of clients to cross-examine individuals and present arguments
What are important barrister skills?
The following skills are beneficial when working as a barrister:
Analytical: Having analytical skills can help barristers manage their cases using a logical and methodical approach. This ensures that they don't miss any details or make simple errors and that they approach every case consistently.
Impartial: As a barrister, you may encounter moral conflicts or conflicting information. Being impartial can help you approach a case and its facts without bias or prejudice about what has taken place.
Self-disciplined: Working as a barrister may involve spending a significant amount of time alone or in chambers working on a legal matter. Having self-motivation can help you meet your commitments and responsibilities without the assistance of others.
Determined: Becoming a barrister may involve more studying and training than becoming another type of lawyer. Determination can help you commit to your career, even if you take longer than anticipated to reach your goals.
Flexible: Court cases may involve assessing large volumes of information, and the details of a case can change as the law changes and adapts to new research and market changes. Being flexible helps you adapt to these changes and make the best decision for your client.
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