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A barrister is a lawyer found in most common law jurisdictions who principally, but not exclusively, represents litigants as their advocate before the courts of that jurisdiction. In this regard, the profession of barrister corresponds to that part of the role of legal professionals found in the civil law jurisdictions relating to appearing in trials or pleading cases before the courts. However, barristers, as a profession, are also known for specialising in certain areas of the law, and for giving advice in relation thereto to clients referred to them.
 Common law division
In the common law tradition, the respective roles of a lawyer - that is as legal adviser and advocate - were formally split into two separate, regulated sub-professions, the other being the office of solicitor. A often-used (but not entirely accurate) parallel is the medical profession, in that a solicitor, like a general practitioner is the regular point of contact for a client, who will only be referred to a barrister (or, to continue the metaphor, a consultant) for specialist advisory or advocacy services. There is no difference in the level of complexity in the practice of law by the different branches of the profession.
Historically, the distinction was absolute, but in the modern legal age, some countries which had a split legal profession are now characterised by having a fused profession; all persons entitled to practice as a barrister are also entitled to practice as a solicitor, and vice versa. In practice, the distinction may be non-existent, minor, or marked, depending on the jurisdiction. And in others, Scotland and Ireland, there is little overlap.
Where the profession is split, then it is the solicitor who works directly with the client, and who is responsible for engaging a qualified and experienced barrister appropriate to the budget of the client and the nature of his or her case. Conventionally, barristers will have little or no direct contact with their "lay clients", and almost none without the presence or involvement of their the solicitor or "professional client" that has engaged them. All correspondence, enquiries, invoices, etc. will be addressed to the solicitor, who is primarily responsible for the barristers' fees.
Inns of Court, where they exist, regulate admission to the profession. Inns of Court are independent societies that are titularly responsible for the training, admission (calling) and discipline of barristers. Where they exist, a person may only be called to the Bar by an Inn, of which he must first become a member. In fact, historically, call to and success at the Bar to some extent depended upon the introductions that you made during these formative years.
A Bar collectively describes all members of the profession of barrister within a given jurisdiction. Whilst as a minimum the Bar is a association embracing all its members, it is usually the case, either de facto or de jure, that the Bar will be invested with regulatory powers in relation into the manner in which barristers conduct practice.
 Barristers in England and Wales
England and Wales, whilst in some areas of government separate from each other within the devolved political structure of the United Kingdom, comprise a single legal jurisdiction, and accordingly they are together served by a single Bar.
The profession of barrister in England and Wales is separate profession from that of solicitor, although there is some overlap in respective roles. It is not possible carry on in practice as both, at the same time. Barristers are regulated by the Bar Council.
There are four Inns of Court: The Honourable Society of Gray's Inn, The Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn, The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple, and The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple (Each is usually referred to in short form, e.g. Inner Temple, or "Inner"). All are situated in central London, near to the Royal Courts of Justice.
In the 1850's, efforts were made to unify the education of a barrister which had differed between the then four Inns. A Council of Legal Education was established in 1852 - which is now known as the Inns of Court School of Law. The Inns of Court are still involved in the education of prospective barristers because a prospective barrister must be a member of one of the Inns in order to commence the Bar Vocational Course (BVC) and it is the Inn of Court that calls its members to the Bar. Most of the education is carried out by one of the institutions authorised by the Bar Council to offer the BVC.
Barristers obtain the qualification of "Barrister" on successful completion of the BVC and "call" to the bar. However, before they can practice independently they must first undertake twelve-months of pupillage.
In December 2004 there were just over 11,500 barristers in independent practice, of whom about ten percent are QCs. Many barristers (about 2,800) are employed in companies as ‘in-house’ counsel, or by local or national government or in academic institutions.
 Barristers in Northern Ireland
In April 2003 there were 555 barristers in independent practice in Northern Ireland. Sixty-six were Queen’s Counsel (Q. C. s), barristers who have earned a high reputation and are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Lord Chancellor as senior advocates and advisers.
Those barristers who are not Q. C. s are called Junior Counsel and are styled "BL" or "Barrister-at-Law". The term "junior" is misleading since many members of the Junior Bar are experienced barristers with considerable expertise.
Benchers are, and have been for centuries, the governing bodies of the four Inns of Court in London and King’s Inns, Dublin. The Benchers of the Inn of Court of Northern Ireland governed the Inn until the enactment of the Constitution of the Inn in 1983, which provides that the government of the Inn is shared between the Benchers, the Executive Council of the Inn and members of the Inn assembled in General Meeting.
The Executive Council (through its Education Committee) is responsible for considering Memorials submitted by applicants for admission as students of the Inn and by Bar students of the Inn for admission to the degree of Barrister-at-Law and making recommendations to the Benchers. The final decisions on these Memorials are taken by the Benchers. The Benchers also have the exclusive power of expelling or suspending a Bar student and of disbarring a barrister or suspending a barrister from practice.
The Executive Council is also involved with: education; fees of students; calling counsel to the Bar, although call to the Bar is performed by the Lord Chief Justice on the invitation of the Benchers; administration of the Bar Library (to which all practising members of the Bar belong); and liaising with corresponding bodies in other countries.
The Bar Council is responsible for the maintenance of the standards, honour and independence of the Bar and, through its Professional Conduct Committee, receives and investigates complaints against members of the Bar in their professional capacity.
All barristers and solicitors in Northern Ireland have passed exams at the Institute of Professional Legal Studies, of Queen's University of Belfast. The exams there are different from the rest of the UK, but on the possession of a qualifiying law degree (especially from Queen's University), the teaching can be missed and the exam sat directly. Those with a non-qualifying degree can still do the exams, on completion of the relevant course. After a pupillage with an experienced barrister at the Bar Library, one is then qualified.
Acquiring work as a barrister is, bizarrely, much more secretive than in England. One needs personal contacts with barristers to get a pupillage, and with solicitors to be given paid work. 2-3 years of basically voluntary work needs to be done first, to prove one's potential as a barrister.
Barristers in Northern Ireland do not dine formally, as is done in England.
 Advocates in Scotland and the Channel Islands
An Advocate is in all respects except name a barrister, but there are significant differences in professional practice.
In Scotland, admission to and the conduct of the profession is regulated by Faculty of Advocates (as opposed to an Inn).
In Canada (except Quebec), the professions of barrister and solicitor are fused, and many lawyers refer to themselves with both names, even if they do not practise in both areas. In colloquial parlance within the Canadian legal profession, lawyers often term themselves as "litigators" (or "barristers"), or as "solicitors", depending on the nature of their law practice though some may in effect practise as both litigators and solicitors. However, "litigators" would generally perform all litigation functions traditionally performed by barristers and solicitors; in contrast, those terming themselves "solicitors" would generally limit themselves to legal work not involving practice before the courts (not even in a preparatory manner as performed by solicitors in England), though some might practise before chambers judges in non-contentious (and sometimes contentious) matters.
However, in Quebec, which has a civil law tradition, the situation resembles the rest of Canada. Advocates (avocats) practice before the courts, whereas civil law notaries (notaires) limit themselves to most of the functions of solicitors. However, many aspects of non-contentious legal matters are the concurrent domain of both advocates and notaries; with the result that advocates often specialize either as pleading advocates (i.e. litigators) or as non-pleading advocates (i.e. solicitor). The only exception is that advocates cannot perform notarial acts (i.e., essentially, certifications and authentifications of documents and the keeping of contracts and other legal records, en minute (in minute form) ). Most of the large law firms in Quebec are firms of advocates (pleading and non-pleading) who perform the full range of legal services like those performed by law firms in the common law provinces, the only exception being notarial acts.
 Barristers in other jurisdictions
Barristers are also found in the Republic of Ireland, Hong Kong (where the Chinese name da lu shi, 大律師 is also used), and Australia (in the states without a fused profession, namely New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland).
In Ireland, the official qualification is that of Barrister-at-Law (abbreviated to "B.L."). Senior members of the profession may be selected for elevation to the Inner Bar, when they may describe themselves as Senior Counsel ("S.C.") There is a single Inn that has retained (or at least has not delegated) its educational responsibilities: The Honourable Society of King's Inns, located near to the Four Courts, the premises of the High Court and Supreme Court.
In Australia, each state Bar Association has the functions of Inns of Court.
In Western Australia and South Australia, the professions of barristers and solicitors are fused, but nonetheless an independent bar is in existence, regulated by those States' Legal Practice Boards. A similar arrangement exists in New Zealand. In Tasmania (Australia) the profession is fused although a very small number of practitioners operate as an independent bar.
The United States does not draw a distinction between barristers and solicitors; all lawyers who pass the bar examination may argue in the courts of the state in which they are admitted, although some state appellate courts require attorneys to obtain a separate certificate of admission to plead and practice in the appellate court. Federal courts require specific admission to that court's bar in order to practice before it, but there is no separate examination process, and admission is usually granted as a matter of course to any licensed attorney.
Spain has a division which generally corresponds to the division in Britain between barristers/advocates and solicitors. Procuradores represent the interests of a litigant in court, while abogados is the general term for other lawyers. Procuradores are regulated by Royal Decree 2046 of 1982, which approved the General Statute of the Procuradores, and the Organic Law no.6 of 1985. The General Statute regulates the qualifications and conduct of the procuradores. Thus, obligations to act pro bono are laid down by Article 13.
 See also
 External links
- Australian Bar Association (barristers in the Commonwealth of Australia)
- Bar Council (barristers in England and Wales)
- Bar Library of Northern Ireland
- Hong Kong Bar Association (barristers in Hong Kong)
- Faculty of Advocates (advocates in Scotland)
- Further material on advocates in Scotland
- Irish Bar Council (barristers in the Republic of Ireland)
- List of Australian law links, including several bar associations
- Bar Association of New South Wales (Australia)
- Victorian Bar Association (Australia)
- Queensland Bar Association (Australia)
- South Australian Bar Association (Australia)
- Western Australian Bar Association (Australia)
- Law Society of Upper Canada
- Law Society of Hong Kongde:Barrister