The institutions of the Bar

As a long-established profession, the institutional structure of barristers' working lives is somewhat complex.

The majority of barristers are self-employed practitioners who work in groups of offices called Chambers. Around 20% of practising barristers are employed and work in a wide variety of professional sectors, including central and local Government, the Crown Prosecution Service, law firms, industry, finance and commerce.

Key institutions

  • The Bar Council is the barristers' professional representative body

  • The Bar Standards Board is the regulatory body responsible for maintaining professional standards among barristers, and

  • Specialist Bar Associations (SBAs) are associations dedicated to the interests of particular groups of barristers. SBAs can help to promote their members' interests, for example responding to proposals for changes to the regulations.

The Circuits

For the purposes of administration and organisation of the court system, England and Wales is divided into six Circuits:

  • South Eastern

  • Midlands

  • Northern

  • North Eastern

  • Western, and

  • Wales and Chester.

Barristers in chambers from each of these areas form the Circuit, headed by a senior barrister as Circuit Leader. Circuits undertake similar functions as the Inns in respect of pupillage and training.

The Inns of Court

There are four Inns, namely:

  • Lincoln's Inn

  • Inner Temple

  • Middle Temple, and

  • Gray's Inn.

They are historic organisations that formerly control the activity of the Bar. One of the key functions of the Inns is their responsibility for calling barristers to the Bar.

Legal Services Board

The Legal Services Board (LSB) is the independent body responsible for overseeing eight approved legal regulators in England and Wales, including the Bar Council.

Legal Aid Agency

The Legal Aid Agency (LAA) runs the legal aid scheme in England and Wales.  The LAA works in partnership with solicitors and not-for-profit organisations to provide information, advice and legal representation to people in need.

Office for Legal Complaints

The Office for Legal Complaints (OLC) was established in July 2009 to provide consumers of legal services with an independent and impartial Ombudsman scheme to resolve disputes involving their lawyer.