Barristers have three main roles in the legal system. They represent others in court on contentious matters, and they give specialist legal advice and draft court documents.
There are over 16,000 barristers in England and Wales. They are regulated by the Bar Standards Board (BSB), which sets the standards of behaviour expected from barristers. Barristers across all areas of law are required to follow the BSB’s Handbook.
Although self-employed, barristers typically belong to a set of ‘chambers’ where they operate from. All practising barristers must have professional indemnity insurance.
In most cases, barristers are instructed by solicitors and other lawyers to represent a client in court.
Solicitors can also use the services of barristers for detailed advice (‘counsel’s opinion’) on technical legal points such as the litigation process and their ability to assess and advise on the merits and demerits of a case.
If you are using a lawyer and they recommend your case will need to involve a barrister, it is likely that they will recommend one to use.
Some barristers also operate on a ‘public access’ basis, taking instruction directly from members of the public.