Careers Ireland

Students' embarking on their career journey – Is Féidir linn

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Working as a Barrister

IRISH TIMES and THE INSTITUTE OF GUIDANCE COUNSELLORS

HIGHER OPTIONS CONFERENCE

 

WORKING AS A BARRISTER

 

SPEAKER: BARRA FAUGHNAN BL 

 

DEFINITION OF CAREER AREA: BARRISTER AT LAW

 

WHAT IS INVOLVED IN A TYPICAL DAY ?

Running cases in Court – Questioning witnesses, making legal submissions, negotiating settlements

Paperwork – Drafting legal documents in preparation for cases.

Advice – Opinions on specific problems, tactical and other advice concerning on-going cases.

Research – Trawling cases and Statutes for answers to legal problems.

Consultations – Meetings with clients, solicitors, expert witnesses

 

SKILLS USED IN THE JOB:

Advocacy – in running cases

Writing – a lot of a Barrister’s time is spent composing prose of one form or another.

Negotiation – an essential ingredient of a good career at the Bar is the ability to identify reasonable and practical compromises to disputes.

Analytical skills  – Much of law amounts to problem solving.

Thoroughness – Most cases are won with good preparation rather than a spontaneous killer question, as on T.V.  Killer punches are landed in court regularly but most result from clear thorough preparation.

Interpersonal skills  – probably the most underrated aspect of the profession, the better you get on with different types of people, the easier you will find the role of barrister.

Decision making – The unfortunate by-product of being the Advocate running a case is that parties look to you to make the important decisions.  Some times these will be in the form of considered advice, sometimes the Barrister must think on his or her feet.

 

REWARDS AND SATISIFACTION

Financial – although not in the early years as a rule, a successful career at the Bar should bring financial rewards.

Excitement – The cut and thrust of advocacy brings with it a degree of adrenaline and the satisfaction of engaging with opposition and with judges.

Personal – There are enormous rewards in dealing with people.  Barristers tend to see people at their worst, or their most stressed, or most emotional.  Part of the job is put them at their ease, as well as trying to do the best for them.

Intellectual  – Not all cases are ground breaking legal precedents but some are.  To be involved at the cutting edge of the law can be highly rewarding, if often precarious.

 

 

 

 

ROUTES OF ENTRY:

 

KINGS INNS: At present the only method for entry to profession,  is to go through the

Barrister at law degree course at Kings Inn. There are, however, a variety of routes you can follow to get into the course (see below)

Entrance Exam:  All students must now sit these exams but there remains three main routes to the Degree course

 

CAREER PATH AND TIME SCALE

To Qualify as a Barrister

Shortest – 3 yr law degree – two years Inns – qualified in 5 years

Longest – You wouldn’t believe me.

Once Qualified

1st year – “Devilling” unpaid work for established barrister – get experience and make contacts (some Barristers devil for a second year – usually a more loose arrangement.

 

Early years at the Bar can be stark because it takes a while for work to come in and money usually lags a couple of years behind that.  Some people will get established faster than others.  Patience is a key element in success.  From about year 5 onwards, a Barrister should begin to see a reasonable living but this is only an estimate.

 

DIFFERENT JOBS IN CAREER AREA

Academics – Lecturing and writing

Arbitration and alternative dispute resolution – e.g. The Insurance and Banking Ombudsmen are both Barristers.

In-house in Government Departments – e.g. Attorney General’s Office, Competition Authority.

In-house with solicitors firms (becoming more popular), Insurance Companies, Combined practices, large Companies

 

POSSIBLE TRANSFER OPTIONS

See above – You will find Barristers working in many areas of law and business outside the Bar.

 

LIMITS AND OPPORTUNITES

Barristers do not have access to the public directly.  They can neither advertise nor canvass for business.  The flow of work is, save for rare exceptions, entirely dependent upon solicitors retaining the Barrister on behalf of the client.

Many Barristers specialise in one area of practice – Criminal, Family, Personal Injury, Employment, Probate and Chancery.  While the skills and tasks of the day are the same for the different types of practice, they can represent widely different lives and lifestyles.

 

SALARY SCALES

Barristers are self-employed and do not earn salaries.

Earnings vary widely – Very High and everything in between.

Frequency of earning also varies – fee income fluctuates significantly both between the years and during the years.  A Barrister must make his or her own income tax  and VAT returns and budget for them – Financial discipline is vital.

 

ADVICE IN CHOOSING THIS AREA

Be patient and be positive.  It is a long road to the Bar and to success and solvency at the Bar.  However, it is a good career and can be a lot of fun.

 

 

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