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Barristers

Barristers are the smaller branch of the legal profession. There are currently about 7,000 practising barristers. Barristers are termed counsel when appearing in court or advising clients. They practise from chambers not offices. When they are admitted they are called to the bar. Their governing body is the General Council of the Bar (known as the Bar Council). Every practising barrister must pay a subscription (l) to the Bar Council and be a member of one of the four Inns of Court: Lincoln’s Inn, Inner Temple, Middle Temple and Gray’s Inn. The Inns of Court are voluntary unincorporated (2) societies, with the exclusive right to call to the bar (i.e. to appoint barristers).

Many barristers regard themselves as belonging to the senior branch of the legal profession (a view not shared by all solicitors!). Traditionally, it is said that barristers were drawn from (3) the upper classes in society and solicitors came from the middle classes. It takes less time to qualify as a barrister than to become a solicitor, but it takes much longer to start to earn a living wage. Barristers are not allowed to practise in partnerships. They all operate independently; barristers from the same set of chambers can appear on opposite sides in a case.

Barristers are tenants (4) of their chambers. Between them they employ clerical staff and a clerk. The clerk is the barrister’s managing agent, and is traditionally always called by his first name. He deals directly with solicitors and negotiates on fees, taking a commission (usually about 10 per cent) from the fee. It used not to be considered etiquette even for a solicitor to discuss fees with a barrister. This kind of restriction is at last disappearing.

Barristers used to be allowed to accept work only through solicitors. Now they may also deal direct with members of a number of professions approved by the Bar Council (e.g. chartered accountants, members of the Institute of Taxation, architects, engineers and actuaries (5)). This is known as “direct professional access”. Many ombudsmen (6) may also instruct barristers direct. Barristers are still not allowed to accept instructions from members of the general public.

Barristers’ work falls into two categories:

1 Court work. Barristers can appear as advocates in any court. They presently have a monopoly over appearing in the higher courts.

2 Non-court work. Not all barristers spend their working day in court. Barristers are asked to advise on difficult points of law or on how a particular case should be conducted. In addition barristers prepare formal pleadings – the documents which make up a court case.

Notes:

1. subscription – пожертвование; (подписной) взнос; 2. unincorporated – некорпоративный, не образующий корпорацию; 3. to be drawn from – собирать, отбирать; 4. tenant – наниматель, арендатор, съемщик; временный владелец; 5. actuary – статистик страхового общества, актуарий; 6. ombudsman – 1) омбудсмен (лицо, назначенное правительством для разбора жалоб частных лиц на государственные учреждения) 2) лицо, разбирающее жалобы (студентов, покупателей).