Coming to the Bar
If you are considering a career as a barrister, start planning early. Some chambers consider applications for Readers’ rooms well in advance of the relevant intake. The New South Wales Bar has a long and proud tradition of assisting people who are considering a career at the Bar. If you already know any barristers (male or female), the open door policy means you can feel comfortable contacting them to ask them for advice. In addition there are a number of WBF members who would be happy to talk to you about how they have negotiated the path to establishing and maintaining a practice.
The Bar Association has an extensive guide for people coming to the Bar that deals with the formalities.
AM I READY TO COME TO THE BAR?
Every barrister will give you different advice on the answer to this question, but one thing is true for most people: there is no perfect time to start life as a barrister.
In NSW, it is generally a good idea to have some litigation experience, and certainly some legal experience, behind you, as well as some way to protect your financial security in case your first few bills are not paid on time. Here are some factors to take into account:
- Are you ready for a new challenge?
- Do you feel you still have more to learn in your current role?
- How much do you have saved or could you borrow?
- Do you know how much junior barristers who do the kind of work you might be doing charge?
- Have you spoken to prospective Tutors or other barristers about the likelihood of picking up paid reading work and junior briefs?
- Are you hoping to undertake overseas study or work? (It is not impossible to fit this in with a career at the Bar, but can be more difficult than when you are a solicitor.)
- Do you have a business network and know some solicitors who may provide you with work once you go to the Bar?
Once again, it is a good idea to discuss these questions, and any others you might have, with a few different barristers, including prospective Tutors.
The NSW Bar holds an annual open day for all law students and, in addition, a separate day for female law students, and there are also regular events for solicitors who are considering a career at the Bar. Twice a year, WBF and the Women Lawyers Association of NSW co-host the Janet Coombs Lunch for new women barristers.
If you are considering a career at the Bar, it is highly recommended to participate in mooting or advocacy training. For law students, there is an annual National Women’s Mooting competition which is specifically designed to increase equity for women in taking steps towards a career at the Bar.
FINDING A TUTOR
Part of the preparation for going to the Bar involves the formation of the Reader/Tutor relationship. The Reader / Tutor Guidelines provide a good starting point.
You must have one Tutor. It is highly recommended to have two Tutors. With two Tutors, you are more likely to have access to guidance when necessary, and the greater range of views, experience and areas practice is valuable.
When considering asking someone to be a Tutor, the following factors should be considered:
- Does the Tutor have a busy practice? Sometimes a barrister is so busy that they have neither the time nor the inclination to be a Tutor. Conversely, a barrister with a busy practice may be able to involve a Reader in that practice (this is, however, not a guarantee that a Reader will receive work from a Tutor).
- Does the Tutor have the kind of practice that you are interested in developing?
- Does the Tutor have the kind of practice where the clients are likely to look favourably on having a Reader assist?
- Does the Tutor have the kind of practice where you are going to be able to maintain regular contact?