- What is the role of a barrister?
- What are the main duties of a barrister?
- What is the difference between a barrister and a solicitor?
- What is the cost of employing a barrister?
- What is a Senior and Junior counsel?
- Where do barristers practice?
- What is a circuit and what does it mean for a barrister to practice on circuit?
- What is the relationship between a barrister and a Judge?
- How do I contact a barrister?
- When can I meet my barrister?
- How can a barrister act for a person when they know that the person is guilty of a criminal offence(s)?
- What is the role of the Bar Council?
- How can I make a complaint against a barrister?
- What is the King's Inns?
- How do I become a barrister?
Most people come before the courts only once or twice in their lives. A home, property, family, health or business venture may be under threat. The liberty of the person may be at risk. The life-events that bring people to the courts are usually significant. Individuals are frequently pitted against vastly better-resourced opponents such as a bank suing a customer or local residents suing a multinational company to stop an incinerator or the State prosecuting an individual for murder or some other crime. Barristers give all such people utterly independent and fearless representation in court.
As specialist legal advisers and courtroom advocates, barristers are trained to be independent and objective. Barristers draft the pleadings for court, prepare legal submissions in writing and/or orally, ask the questions in court of the witnesses called on behalf of their client ("examination-in-chief") and cross-examines the witnesses of the other party ("cross-examination). A good cross-examination helps the jury or judge to make their decisions.
A well-argued case can be influential in persuading the judge that your case is a good one. A barrister's training in advocacy and, above all, experience, can make a big difference to the outcome of a case.
Armed with specialist skills in court and in negotiation, a barrister is in a position to advise his or her client on the strengths and weaknesses of their case and whether to fight the case or settle it through negotiations. Sometimes you are better off to settle your case and your barrister can advise you as to the best form of settlement and do the negotiations for you.
Increasingly barristers are retained to represent their client's case outside the conventional courtroom setting such as in mediations, arbitrations, tribunals, disciplinary hearings and a broad spectrum of public and private inquiries.
(a) Duty to the court.
Barristers have an overriding duty to the court to act with independence, to act in the interests of justice and to ensure that, in the public interest, the proper and efficient administration of justice is achieved. By way of example, if a client wants a barrister to lie to the court, or to mislead the court, or to hold back damaging documents which the court has ordered to be produced, the barrister is obliged not to do this under any circumstances.
(b) Duty to promote the client's interests.
Subject only to their paramount duty to the Court and the administration of justice, barristers must promote and protect fearlessly and by all proper and lawful means the best interests of the client they represent.
(c) Duty of independence.
Every barrister is completely independent. He or she is not in partnership with anybody, will not do a case if he or she has any conflict of interest and is free of any control by the Government or any outside organisation as to how he or she advises and represents you. Ensuring barristers are and remain independent has always been a key aspect of client protection, the defence of individual rights against the State and the administration of justice.
(d) Duty to represent a client irrespective of the barrister's private views
A barrister cannot refuse to take on a case in the field in which he or she practices simply because he does not like the client or his beliefs or on the basis of any opinion which the barrister may have formed as to the character, reputation, conduct, guilt or innocence of the client or the political, religious or other cause the client may be promoting.
Every client has a right of access to the courts and to the administration of justice. Every client has a right to be represented by a barrister who is entitled to be paid for his or her work. Barristers can not pick and choose which types of clients they act for if the work is within their area of expertise. Like a taxi offered a fare, the barrister has to take the passenger (i.e. the client) if he or she is free and is offered a suitable fare. The purpose of this rule is to give every client, as far as possible, an equal right of access to barristers and to legal representation in court.
Barristers specialise in representing you in court (advocacy), giving you more detailed advice on your case and also advising you on more difficult areas where you (and possibly your solicitor) need more detailed advice e.g. about some complex business problem or medical negligence or a breach of your human rights or a serious crime with which you may be charged.
A fundamental distinction between a solicitor and a barrister is that the barrister does not and cannot hold any money, ever, on behalf of a client; does not and cannot handle your house purchase or sale; and does not and cannot bind you or your property by promises or undertakings to banks or financial institutions. A barrister is not and cannot be in partnership with another barrister. He or she is a sole practitioner and is entirely independent. When advising you or handling your case, your barrister is not under the influence of the Government or any public authority and will observe strict professional confidentiality about your business. He or she is a highly qualified professional and subject to a strict code of professional ethics. You thus get a totally independent, objective and specialist view of your particular problem.
The solicitor retains (or "instructs") the barrister on your behalf and furnishes him or her with a summary of the facts and the relevant documents. Normally you then have a meeting with the solicitor and your barrister who advises as to the best course to take. The barrister may give your solicitor written advice (an "opinion") on your case or on the legal issues arising. The solicitor and barrister both handle your case but do different aspects of the job. The solicitor takes your instructions, organises the witnesses, assists them in preparing their statements of their evidence, assembles the documents, corresponds with the solicitor on the other side, keeps any funds you give him in a separate account and so forth. The barrister gives the specialised advice on your case, how it should be handled, drafts the documents used in court to outline your case (the "pleadings"), drafts the written submissions to the court when this is required and argues the case for you in court. Thus the barrister and the solicitor work together on an individual case each doing a different but complementary aspect of the job of advising and representing you.
- The nature and amount of the work involved.
- The time involved in carrying out such work.
- The complexity, novelty or difficulty of the matter.
- The value and/or importance of the matter.
- The level of knowledge, skill and expertise required to deal with the matter.
- The level of experience and expertise of the barrister.
The Bar Council has put in place arrangements whereby a barrister is obliged to give a written estimate of fees prior to undertaking work unless this is impossible due to the urgency of the matter or the work is undertaken under the Civil or Criminal Legal Aid Schemes (under which in certain cases, the State pays a fee set by the State for the barrister to act for a client in the case). Obtaining such an estimate will allow you, and your solicitor, to shop around to ensure that you obtain the best representation in terms of quality and price. Further the barrister must update the fee estimate as necessary if circumstances change.
There is no set scale of fees charged by barristers and the fee is usually negotiated by the solicitor on your behalf. , The level of any particular fee has to be based upon the work done having regard to the factors mentioned above.
Traditionally barristers have been keen to ensure that no one is left without proper representation simply because of their means. They provide services under both the criminal and civil legal aid schemes which in some cases involves appearing for a client at less than the normal commercial rate for the work and at no cost to the client. In appropriate cases which are not covered by those schemes, a barrister may be willing to take on a case on a "no foal no fee" basis. This means that the barrister will not require the payment of fees unless his or her client is successful (in which case the fees are usually ordered by the Court to be paid by the other side).
Also the Bar Council operates a pro bono scheme, which works through certain non-governmental organisations, where some barristers volunteer to do deserving cases for no fee. Cases cannot be taken directly from members of the public. Please see the Voluntary Assistance Scheme section of this Website for further information.
Your solicitor can advise you on whether or not you need a senior counsel in your case. A client is never required to have a Senior or Junior Counsel (or indeed any barrister at all; you can represent yourself or your solicitor can represent you but solicitors do not usually do this except in relatively simple cases because of the double burden of work involved).
When retained, Senior Counsel will usually do most of the advocacy in court. Research, preparation and legal submissions are often drafted by Junior Counsel after taking instructions and guidance from Senior Counsel who will approve the final drafts. Junior Counsel tend to advocate on behalf of clients in less complex cases.
The Law Library is a central point for access to the most modern and up-to-date legal resources. Some barristers have offices, many of which are located in close proximity to the Law Library. Many other barristers practice ‘on circuit' (i.e. outside Dublin) and have access to Bar Rooms (a room in the local Court building) around the country.
The administration of justice has from the earliest times involved courts travelling the country on 'circuits'. The circuits are the Dublin, Cork, Eastern, Midland, Munster, Northern, South-eastern, South-western, Western.
It is a core and valued tradition of the legal system in Ireland that barristers should never mislead the judge and a barrister who does so risks shattering his or her reputation and career.
If you are a member of an organisation or professional body and you need legal advice (as distinct from representation in Court) you can engage a barrister directly. If your organisation wishes advice on the Direct Access Scheme, please contact Jeanne McDonagh email@example.com.
In more complex cases, it may be necessary to have a number of conferences or consultations with the barrister before the hearing. This can take place at the courts, in the barrister's office or in a solicitor's office.
If the client has confessed to the barrister to the crime of which he or she is accused, or admitted an incriminating fact, but still wishes to fight the case instead of pleading guilty, the barrister, if the client so instructs, can still defend the case by making the State prove the client committed the crime. But the barrister cannot call evidence or make submissions to the judge or jury that the client did not commit the crime. The barrister can cross-examine the prosecution witnesses with a view to showing that the State has failed to prove his or her client committed the crime and should therefore be acquitted.
People ask why a barrister should try to get a client acquitted if the barrister knows he is guilty. The reason is that in a free democratic society, nobody should lose their liberty unless the State proves through proper admissible evidence and due process of law that the accused is guilty.
The Tribunal is comprised of a majority of non-lawyers. The Tribunal will investigate your complaint and has powers to deal with barristers they find guilty of disciplinary charges. They can censure, fine or restrict the practice of the barrister. Either side can appeal the decision of the Tribunal to the Professional Conduct Appeals Board which is again made up of a majority of non-lawyers.
The Tribunal will let you know how the procedure works and how to process your complaint.
Please click here Donal O'Kelly or a guide to making complaints.
There are three stages to becoming entitled to practice as a barrister, namely the academic, vocational and pupilage stages.
Academic: You must obtain a Law Degree from a university or other approved third level institution. If you have a non-law degree, you can study for a two year Diploma in Legal Studies at King's Inns instead of a third level law degree. Students over 25 with no degree can also take the Diploma course.
Vocational: When you have your law degree or diploma, you must pass an entrance examination (usually 5 legal subjects) into the King's Inns. If you pass, you may enroll in a one year full time course or a two year part time course in the King's Inns leading to the degree of Barrister-at-Law. The emphasis in these courses is on advocacy, procedure and practical matters.
Pupilage: Having passed the Barristers-at-Law degree from the King's Inns, students are called to the Bar of Ireland by the Chief Justice of Ireland. Before being allowed to practice on their own, barristers are required to do pupilage (commonly called "devilling") (on the job training) with a suitably qualified barrister in an established practice for a period of 12 months.
Should you have an enquiry which is not dealt with above please contact the Bar Council Administration at (01) 817.5000