Criminal Barristers have complex jobs. They need to have a logical and systematic mind, and pay close attention to detail. They work in demanding and challenging environments, and they are required to have good memories and to work with individuals or organisations to offer legal advice.
In most cases, barristers are hired by solicitors to represent cases when they reach the court room, and they are only involved in cases that have reached the stage where advocacy is needed.
Barristers tend to plead cases on the behalf of a client and their solicitor. It is also possible for a member of the public to miss out the solicitor and seek advice and representation directly from a barrister. The majority of barristers are self employed but there are some that work directly for the Crown Prosecution Service. The environment that a self-employed barrister works in is called their ‘chambers’.
Criminal work is just one specialisation that a barrister can work on they can also specialise in commercial, chancery, common law, entertainment law, or one of several other smaller niches. Within each niche, they have a number of roles that they are required to fulfil. They must take instruction from their clients, manage the legal brief, prepare the case for court, and advise their clients on whether or not they actually have a strong case. This part is something that is particularly important with criminal law. A client who is guilty and hoping for a reduced punishment could benefit from a barrister that knows enough about similar cases to advise them on what stance they should take, and how to negotiate a sentence.
A criminal barrister does a lot of advocacy in the courtroom, while some other types of barrister may spend more time in mediation or in out of court negotiations.
Barristers that are undertaking their pupilage are paid a relatively low wage while they study, but qualified barristers can earn substantial salaries. Their earnings, however, are offset by the unsociable hours that they are sometimes required to work. Courts do indeed tend to sit during the day, but the other work that is required during the preparation of the case can require a barrister especially a criminal one to spend time working during evenings and weekends. Early on in a person’s career they are likely to get those less desirable cases and to work longer hours.
For more advice and wisdom on the topic of criminal defence, visit the YouTube channel of renowned criminal barrister Michael Wolkind QC here.