Barristers are lawyers, just as solicitors are. However, while solicitors are mostly concerned with matters that occur outside the courtroom, the main focus of a barrister's work is in preparing for and participating in court or tribunal cases. They're much more likely than solicitors are to work on complex cases involving serious crimes. In addition, barristers can work on non-criminal courtroom trials.
Barristers in Civil and Criminal Law
UK law requires that when people become involved in civil legal disputes—that is, legal matters that don’t relate to a crime—they try and resolve their differences without involving the courts. It’s only when alternative methods such as mediation fail that they can involve the courts. This is typically the point at which a barrister becomes involved in a civil case. Members of the public can contact a barrister directly, in some cases. However, it’s much more common for a solicitor to retain a barrister for their client if the case warrants it.
When a solicitor works on a civil or criminal case, they have the option of retaining the services of a barrister if the case goes to court. They often do this if the case is a complicated one where expert courtroom skills are needed, particularly in criminal cases.
Many barristers specialise in one or more areas of law, but whatever area they work in, their main focus is on representing their client in court. This includes both preparing for court cases and arguing in court on behalf of clients.
The Cab Rank Rule
To ensure that everyone has access to a barrister when they need one, the cab rank rule states that a barrister can’t turn down a request to represent someone in a civil or criminal case, providing they are competent to do the work. The only exception is in situations where accepting the job would constitute a conflict of interest. The cab rank rule therefore ensures that barristers remain unbiased and impartial, and can’t refuse to represent someone without a good reason. For instance, a barrister can not refuse to represent someone for religious reasons, or if they simply dislike the client.
Barrister Related Resources
Barristers Chambers - This legal directory will allow students to search barristers' chambers in the UK.
If any students wish to contribute to this section or add relevant subsections related to barristers please do so through the university portal by updating Resource No.00032. It would be good to see more for this section as this could have a huge subsection to it.