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Barrister

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Summary of occupation

Barristers provide legal advice and represent clients in negotiations and court proceedings. They research the laws and past cases (precedents) that are relevant to a particular case in order to present the strongest case for their client and add weight to their arguments. Barristers may also write legal documents, such as contracts, on behalf of their clients. Barristers work mostly on specialist legal matters in an advisory capacity, appearing in finery and representing litigants in court. Traditionally, only barristers could act as advocates in courts.

ANZSCO description: Pleads cases before civil, criminal and industrial courts and other tribunals (registration or licensing is required).
Alternative names: Attorney, Lawyer
Specialisations: Criminal Lawyer, Family Lawyer, Immigration Lawyer, Queen's Counsel, Senior Counsel (Aus)
Job prospects: Average
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A barrister needs:

  • excellent communication skills
  • the ability to work well under pressure
  • to be comfortable coming before a courtroom
  • the ability to keep client's information private and confidential
  • the ability to make decisions quickly and with flexibility
  • a high level of integrity.
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Working conditions

Barristers work in offices, and courts and tribunals throughout Western Australia - although the majority work in the Perth metropolitan area.

They generally operate as individuals, out of chambers in cities or large suburban centres. They have access to the courts and specialise in particular areas of the law e.g. Family Law. They work on extensive and complex legal issues.

A barrister’s work hours can be long and may include evenings and weekends, particularly when working to tight deadlines and preparing a case.

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Salary details

On average, barristers can expect to earn $2 000 or more per week ($104 000 or more per year), depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience. As a barrister develops their skills, their earning potential will generally increase.

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Tools and technologies

Barristers consult extensive law libraries, containing detailed records of past cases (precedents) and the resulting decisions, which can help strengthen a case. They must also be familiar with more specific legislation, unlike solicitors who deal with a wider scope of legal matters. Many of the documents that barristers refer to use very specific language and terms that may not be common in everyday usage, including some Latin phrases. In addition to this reference material, barristers also use standard office equipment, including computers, photocopiers, faxes and dictaphones.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a barrister you need to complete a degree in law.

All universities in Western Australia offer relevant courses. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.

To work as a barrister in Western Australia, you must complete Practical Legal Training as specified by the Legal Practice Board of Western Australia and then apply to the Supreme Court for admission as a lawyer. Contact the Legal Practice Board of Western Australia for more information.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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