Qualifying as a Barrister

Education and training of barristers

The centre for the education of barristers in Ireland is the Honorable Society of King’s Inns, founded in 1541 during the reign of Henry VIII.
 
It is the oldest institution of legal education in Ireland and was modelled on the four Inns of Court in London. Unlike the UK, there is only one Inn of Court in Ireland, and so the overwhelming majority of barristers in Ireland are products of King’s Inns. Other members of the Irish Bar have also trained abroad, either at an Inn of Court in London, or in other jurisdictions, or previously practised as solicitors and converted to practise at the Irish Bar.
 
Completion of the Kings Inns training gives rise to what is known as the Barrister-at-Law degree, usually depicted by the abbreviation BL. Upon qualification, a newly qualified barrister must work for a period of at least one year with an established barrister, commonly referred to as a ‘Master’, to become acquainted with court work, preparation of cases, legal documents and so on. This is commonly known as ‘devilling’, and the devil, or pupil, does not receive any fee for this work.
 
Further information on education and training to become a barrister is available at www.kingsinns.ie 

Specially qualified applicants

Qualified lawyers from outside Ireland and Irish solicitors who wish to practise at the Bar in Ireland (be a member of the Law Library and The Bar of Ireland and work as a barrister) should go to the ‘specially qualified applicants’ section of the King's Inns website.
For other candidates you must complete three stages to qualify as a barrister. They are the:

  • academic stage;
  • vocational stage; and
  • apprenticeship stage.

Academic stage

Students must undertake and pass an approved law degree or the King's Inns Diploma in Legal Studies. 

Vocational stage

Students must undertake the one-year full-time Degree of Barrister-at-Law at King's Inns. You can only be admitted to this degree course after you have completed the academic stage and passed an entrance examination. 

Apprenticeship stage

Once you have passed the Degree of Barrister-at-Law you will be ‘called to the Bar of Ireland’.

Entering practice

When you have completed these three stages you will be admitted to practice by the Chief Justice of Ireland and will be eligible to become a member of the Law Library.

The first year of your practice must be spent as a pupil (also known as a one-year ‘pupillage’) with an approved Dublin-based practitioner. You must complete a course of Continuing Professional Development (CPD) during this year. Undertakings must also be given in respect of certain areas of practice. You must also have professional indemnity insurance.

During the year of pupillage (also known as “devilling”) the pupil or devil must carry out their master’s instructions and learn about the nature of professional practice. During this year, the pupil is not paid.

You must apply to The Bar of Ireland to become a member of the Law Library before the 30th June of the year in which you intend to begin your practice. Once a barrister becomes a member of the Law Library they are free to take up work in their own right, and to start to build up a practice.

Competitive profession

The Bar of Ireland is a competitive profession and it usually takes many years to become sufficiently established enabling a reasonable level of income. It is estimated that more than half of those who qualify as barristers never practise in the courts and of those who do, more than half drop out within five years.