What is the Bar?
The Bar of England and Wales is a unique legal profession
of specialist advocates and advisers. Barristers
are independent and objective and their highly
competitive training, together with their specialist
knowledge and experience in and out of court, can make a
substantial difference to the outcome of a case.
The modern Bar is committed to excellence in
advocacy, advisory services and in the way in which it carries
out and offers its service. Barristers take a flexible and
mobile approach to advising a wide range of clients using the
A majority of the profession continues to practise from
London, but about 4,400 barristers practise from major cities
and, in some cases, small towns outside of London, offering a
wide range and depth of expertise.
There are over 12,000 barristers in self-employed
practice in England and Wales. Broad areas of
specialisation include: Construction, Commercial, Company,
Criminal (including extradition), Defamation, Employment,
Environment, Family, Housing, Immigration, Insolvency,
Insurance, Personal Injury, Property, Equity, Wills and
Trusts. These can be subdivided further into more than 300
categories of expertise.
Through their grouping in chambers, or in some
cases working as sole practitioners, barristers are able to
operate with low overheads and can offer competitive rates.
Legal aid will often cover the services of a barrister, even
at the most senior level.
Employed barristers might work for the Government or in
industry and play an increasingly important role. Since the
implementation of the Access to Justice Act 1999, which
amended the Courts and Legal Services Act 1990, employed
barristers have been permitted by the Bar Council
to conduct litigation. There are around 3,000 employed
barristers registered with the Bar Council, bringing the
practising Bar to over 15,000 in number.
The Bar remains predominantly a referral profession, with
barristers usually 'instructed' by solicitors. Barristers
who have completed appropriate training are,
however, able to take instructions directly from members
of the public (the Public Access Scheme). In addition, members
of certain professional bodies, some overseas clients and
organisations with licences from the Bar Council are able to
seek advice directly from barristers and may
instruct them in non-court litigation (the Licensed
Membersof the Bar often provide their services on a pro
bono basis; for example through the Free Representation Unit
or the Bar Pro Bono Unit. For more information, visit: www.barprobono.org.uk.
Legal Services Act 2007
The Legal Services Act 2007 has precipitated further
liberalising changes to the Bar's Code of Conduct and the ways
in which barristers are permitted to practise. Since 2010,
barristers have been permitted to become managers and partners
with other lawyers and non-lawyers in Legal Disciplinary
Practices (LDPs) regulated by the Solicitors Regulation
Authority (SRA), in other 'recognised bodies' regulated by the
Council for Licensed Conveyancers (CLC) and can act in a
'dual capacity' as both self-employed and
employed simultaneously (though not in the same case),
subject to certain provisos. They may investigate or collect
evidence and take witness statements, conduct correspondence,
share premises and office facilities with any other person
(subject to certain conditions) and attend on clients at
police stations. Further reforms may follow as other
sections of the Act are implemented.