The Bar of Ireland
The Bar of Ireland is the term used to describe an independent referral bar that has a current membership of approximately 2,300 practising barristers. At the Irish Bar, you will find a pool of highly skilled advocates and specialists in many different areas of law. Barristers have the advantage of daily intense exposure to the litigation process as a result of which they build up considerable practical experience in cost-effective resolution of disputes while optimising the chances of a successful outcome for their clients. The services provided by the Irish Bar are available to assist whether the dispute resolution in question is located in Ireland or internationally.
What is a Barrister?
A barrister is a specialist advocate, or trial lawyer. Barristers also provide legal advice and opinions on complex areas of law. While the role of the barrister is focused primarily on court proceedings, barristers often appear as advocates in arbitration and statutory tribunals and many other forms of dispute resolution. Find out more about the profession in our FAQs.
Values of an independent Bar
The independent nature of the Bar of Ireland is a core value at the heart of the profession and has served the cause of justice over hundreds of years. Barristers may act for the State one day and against the State the next. The only restrictions on a barrister’s ability to act are the Code of Conduct for the Bar of Ireland, and availability to carry out the work. The fact that each barrister practises as a sole practitioner all but eliminates the risk of conflicts of interest arising.
The many duties to which barristers are subject require their absolute independence, free from all other influence, especially such as may arise from their personal interests or external pressure. Barristers must therefore avoid any impairment of their independence and be careful not to compromise their professional standards in order to please their client, the court or third parties. This independence is necessary in non-contentious matters as well as litigation.
An independent barrister is obliged:
to be free from any influence, especially such as may arise from their personal interests or external pressure, in the discharge of their professional duties as barristers;
to hold themselves out as willing and obliged to appear in court on behalf of any client on the instructions of a solicitor and to give legal advice and any other legal services to clients;
to have an overriding duty to the court to ensure in the public interest that the proper and efficient administration of justice is achieved and they must assist the court in the administration of justice and must not deceive or knowingly mislead the court;
to promote and protect fearlessly and by all proper and lawful means their client’s best interests and do so without regard to their own interest or to any consequences for themselves or to any other person including fellow members of the legal profession; and,
to perform their functions with due independence and in a manner which is consistent with their duty to participate in the administration of justice.
What is the difference between a Barrister and a Solicitor?
As in many other countries, the legal profession in Ireland is divided between solicitors and barristers and there is sometimes confusion as to their separate, but complementary roles. Barristers do not handle clients’ funds, provide safe custody of original documents, or provide the normal administrative services which a client would expect from a firm of solicitors. Instead, barristers are retained for specific cases, primarily as advocates. Solicitors seek the expert assistance of barristers on issues that they feel require further opinion and in the preparation and conduct of litigation. Although solicitors have a right of audience before all courts (a right to appear on behalf of a client before a judge to plead a case), they tend to call on the services of barristers to present their clients’ cases. This is mainly because advocacy requires distinct skills and expert knowledge that barristers are trained to provide.
Junior and Senior Counsel
Within the Irish Bar, there are both junior and senior counsel. A barrister at the start of his or her career is known as a junior counsel. After some years in practice, usually twelve, a junior counsel may apply to become a senior counsel, a status awarded by the Government that is normally reserved for barristers of ability and experience in a particular area of law and is commonly known as “taking silk”. There are approximately 325 senior counsel in Ireland. Senior counsel is typically instructed in more serious or complex cases. Depending on the complexity of the case, two or more senior and/or junior counsel may be retained.