Barristers Chambers

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Barrister

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Illustration of an early 19th-century English barrister
Occupation
Occupation typeProfession
Activity sectorsLaw
Jurisprudence
Justice
Philosophy of law
Politics
Legal history
Human rights
Intellectual property
Description
CompetenciesAdvocacy and interpersonal skills, analytical mind, critical thinking, commercial sense
Education requiredEngland and Wales:
Bar Professional Training Course with pupillage (and possibly Common Professional Examination)
Ireland: Barrister-at-Law degree with pupillage
Fields of
employment
Barristers’ chambers, government, sole trader
Related jobsPupil barristeradvocatejudgemagistrateattorneysolicitor

barrister is a type of lawyer in common law jurisdictions. Barristers mostly specialise in courtroom advocacy and litigation. Their tasks include taking cases in superior courts and tribunals, drafting legal pleadings, researching the philosophy, hypothesis and history of law, and giving expert legal opinions.

Barristers are distinguished from solicitors, who have more direct access to clients, and may do transactional-type legal work. It is mainly barristers who are appointed as judges, and they are rarely hired by clients directly. In some legal systems, including those of ScotlandSouth AfricaScandinaviaPakistanIndiaBangladesh, and the British Crown dependencies of JerseyGuernsey and the Isle of Man, the word barrister is also regarded as an honorific title.

In a few jurisdictions, barristers are usually forbidden from “conducting” litigation, and can only act on the instructions of a solicitor, who performs tasks such as corresponding with parties and the court, and drafting court documents. In England and Wales, barristers may seek authorisation from the Bar Standards Board to conduct litigation. This allows a barrister to practise in a ‘dual capacity’, fulfilling the role of both barrister and solicitor.[1]

In some countries with common law legal systems, such as New Zealand and some regions of Australialawyers are entitled to practise both as barristers and solicitors, but it remains a separate system of qualification to practise exclusively as a barrister.

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Differences between barristers and other lawyers[edit]

Differences[edit]

A barrister’s wigs, Parliament Hall, Edinburgh

A barrister, who can be considered a jurist, is a lawyer who represents a litigant as advocate before a court of appropriate jurisdiction. A barrister speaks in court and presents the case before a judge or jury. In some jurisdictions, a barrister receives additional training in evidence law, ethics, and court practice and procedure. In contrast, a solicitor generally meets with clients, does preparatory and administrative work and provides legal advice. In this role, he or she may draft and review legal documents, interact with the client as necessary, prepare evidence, and generally manage the day-to-day administration of a lawsuit. A solicitor can provide a crucial support role to a barrister when in court, such as managing large volumes of documents in the case or even negotiating a settlement outside the courtroom while the trial continues inside.

There are other essential differences. A barrister will usually have rights of audience in the higher courts, whereas other legal professionals will often have more limited access, or will need to acquire additional qualifications to have such access. As in common law countries in which there is a split between the roles of barrister and solicitor, the barrister in civil law jurisdictions is responsible for appearing in trials or pleading cases before the courts.

Barristers usually have particular knowledge of case law, precedent, and the skills to “build” a case. When a solicitor in general practice is confronted with an unusual point of law, they may seek the “opinion of counsel” on the issue.[2]

In most countries, barristers operate as sole practitioners and are prohibited from forming partnerships or from working as a barrister as part of a corporation. (In 2009, the Clementi Report recommended the abolition of this restriction in England and Wales.[3]) However, barristers normally band together into “chambers” to share clerks (administrators) and operating expenses. Some chambers grow to be large and sophisticated and have a distinctly corporate feel. In some jurisdictions, they may be employed by firms of solicitors, banks, or corporations as in-house legal advisers.

In contrast, solicitors and attorneys work directly with the clients and are responsible for engaging a barrister with the appropriate expertise for the case. Barristers generally have little or no direct contact with their ‘lay clients’, particularly without the presence or involvement of the solicitor. All correspondence, inquiries, invoices, and so on, will be addressed to the solicitor, who is primarily responsible for the barrister’s fees.

In court, barristers are often visibly distinguished from solicitors by their apparel. For example, in Ireland, England, and Wales, a barrister usually wears a horsehair wig, stiff collar, bands, and a gown. Since January 2008, solicitor advocates have also been entitled to wear wigs, but wear different gowns.[4]

In many countries the traditional divisions between barristers and solicitors are breaking down. Barristers once enjoyed a monopoly on appearances before the higher courts, but in Great Britain this has now been abolished, and solicitor advocates can generally appear for clients at trial. Increasingly, firms of solicitors are keeping even the most advanced advisory and litigation work in-house for economic and client relationship reasons. Similarly, the prohibition on barristers taking instructions directly from the public has also been widely abolished. But, in practice, direct instruction is still a rarity in most jurisdictions, partly because barristers with narrow specializations, or who are only really trained for advocacy, are not prepared to provide general advice to members of the public.

Chambers (law)

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In law, a chambers is a room or office used by barristers or a judge. A barrister’s chambers or barristers’ chambers are the rooms used by a barrister or a group of barristers. A judge’s chambers, on the other hand, is the office of a judge, where the judge may hear certain types of cases, instead of in open court.

Judge’s chambers[edit]

A judge’s chambers is the office of a judge, where certain types of matters can be heard “in chambers”, also known as in camera, rather than in open court. Generally, cases heard in chambers are cases, or parts of cases, in which the public and press are not allowed to observe the procedure.[1] Judge’s chambers are often located on upper floors of the court house, away from the courtrooms, sometimes in groupings of judge’s chambers.[2]

In some jurisdictions, a courtroom, rather than the judge’s actual chambers, are used to hear matters “in chambers”. Such courtrooms may also be called “chambers”.

Barristers’ chambers[edit]

In England and WalesNew Zealand, Australia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Hong Kong, chambers may refer to the office premises used by a barrister or to a group of barristers, especially in the Inns of Court.[3] To share costs and expenses, barristers typically operate fraternally with each other, as unincorporated associations known as “chambers”. The term “Chambers” is used to refer both to the physical premises where the Barrister’s Set conduct most of their work from, as well as the ‘set’ or unincorporated association itself. Chambers typically have office spaces for the barristers to work from, conference rooms with infrastructure to conduct video conferencing for a large audience, printing and photocopying sections, a substantially large and updated Library, as well as rooms for the Barristers’ and clients’ dining and entertainment. Most Chambers have a staff to look after administrative matters, including a full-fledged kitchen and dining hall to serve up meals and refreshments. The transactional side of chambers are administered by barristers’ clerks who receive cases from Solicitors and agree on matters such as fees on behalf of their employers; they then provide case details to the barristers and conduct office management for them.[4] Some chambers specialise in particular areas of law. Members are known as tenants, and can only be dismissed for gross misconduct.

There are chambers all over England and Wales; however, the largest concentration of them is in London.[4] A report by the General Council of the Bar in 2006, showed that of the 355 practising chambers in the United Kingdom, 210 were based in London.[5]

In Hong Kong, the 133 chambers within the special administrative region are almost exclusively located in the City of Victoria.[6] In Sri Lanka, Counsels would maintain their chambers at their residence, which serve as their office and contain their personal library.

Historically, barristers have had a major role in trial preparation, including drafting¬†pleadings¬†and reviewing evidence. In some areas of law, that is still the case. In other areas, it is relatively common for the barrister to receive the brief from the instructing solicitor to represent a client at trial only a day or two before the proceeding. Part of the reason for this is cost. A barrister is entitled to a ‘brief fee’ when a brief is delivered, and this represents the bulk of her/his fee in relation to any trial. They are then usually entitled to a ‘refresher’ for each day of the trial after the first. But if a case is settled before the trial, the barrister is not needed and the brief fee would be wasted. Some solicitors avoid this by delaying delivery of the brief until it is certain the case will go to trial.

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