A barrister, or Counsel, is a legal practitioner who primarily specialises in courtroom advocacy and litigation. Barristers are generally engaged (instructed) by solicitors who “brief” them to appear on behalf of the solicitor’s client.
Along with appearing as an advocate, barristers are frequently engaged to provide advice to solicitors on specific questions of law and advice as to the strategic components of running a court case.
Barristers are independent and are subject to what is known as the ‘cab-rank rule’. This means that a barrister must accept a brief from a solicitor if:
- the brief is within their capacity, skill and experience;
- they are available and have no conflicts;
- fee offered is acceptable; and
- they are not obliged or permitted under the Legal Profession Uniform Conduct (Barristers) Rules 2015.
In New South Wales there are two types of barristers, being, Junior or Senior Counsel (SC). Prior to 1993 in New South Wales Senior Counsel were known as Queens Counsel (QC). SC’s are the most senior of the members of the bar and have the highest degree of skill, integrity and experience. SC’s or QC’s are colloquially known as “silks” due to the nature of their silk robes that they wear in court.