Different Types Of Barristers
SELF-EMPLOYED BAR: The majority of barristers in England and Wales are self-employed barristers. According to the Bar Council, the self-employed Bar covers 80% of the profession. Self-employed barristers have more control over their income and this will typically depend on the individual cases they take on.
Self-employed barristers are members of Chambers, the office space from which they can establish their own practice and manage their clients. The type of Chambers barristers will join will generally depend on the legal areas in which they are able to work. Specifically, some barristers intend to specialise in a variety of areas, whereas others will focus on establishing a successful practice in a single area. Once a barrister has completed Pupillage at Chambers, they may be offered tenancy. However, this in itself can be a challenge and may encourage some candidates to pursue the employed Bar.
THE EMPLOYED BAR: The employed Bar will equally have its own challenges. Employed barristers work for a single organisation and receive a salary through a range of organisations or institutions, such as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) or at Solicitors’ firms, corporates and banks. Candidates are also able to apply for the legal trainee scheme which provides access to training contracts and pupillage opportunities within government departments. Candidates who subsequently qualify will form part of the government’s principal legal advisers, working as part of the Government Legal Department (GLD). More information about the Legal trainee scheme and how you can secure pupillage with the GLD can be found online.
Working at the employed Bar does not provide the same flexibility as you might receive at the self-employed Bar, particularly, the cases and areas of work are likely to be limited by the particular organisation or institution. Working as an employed barrister may provide a better work-life balance than the independent Bar.
ARMED FORCES/NAVAL BARRISTERS: There are also options to pursue a career as an Armed Forces barrister or Naval barrister. These roles form part of the employed bar, and once a qualified barrister, solicitor or advocate you may wish to advise on legal issues across the Army. As a Legal Officer, you are required to have completed pupillage or a training contract as the Army will not offer these, and there are other physical requirements as you will also form part of the Army. Legal Officers have opportunities to deploy on operational tours abroad but also can advise from the UK on disputes abroad.
There are benefits of pursuing either the employed Bar or self-employed Bar and whilst some individuals will have different preferences, all barristers will still be required to have the necessary skills of being a legal expert and a great advocate. Barristers have the option of changing their employment type, or even combining them. The Bar Council provides further information on the different routes to the Bar and becoming a barrister.