Barristers' clerks run the day-to-day business in barristers' practices (known as chambers) and are responsible for every aspect of a barrister's professional life. They are diary managers, making sure the barristers are kept fully employed at all times, and have to record, negotiate, and calculate fees for the work done by the barristers. They also supervise the administration and property maintenance of the chambers.
The specific duties of a barristers' clerk vary widely depending on their experience and seniority but may include:
Clerks are also likely to use computer-based diary systems in planning workloads. These contain the names of each barrister in the chambers along with their daily appointments, the cases in which they are involved and the names of clients and their solicitors.
Junior clerks are likely to be responsible for tasks such as photocopying, dealing with the post, distributing faxes and messages, and collecting and delivering briefs (legal documents).
Senior clerks, sometimes known as chambers' directors or practice managers, have large and wide-ranging responsibilities. They manage all clerking staff and are responsible, together with the management committee, for the running and development of the chambers. One of their key roles is to bring business into the chambers. Their duties may include:
Although from time to time barristers' clerks may need to go to court buildings, it is not common for them to spend time in court.
Barristers' clerks normally work from Monday to Friday. Their hours can be long and irregular.
Barristers' clerks work mainly in barristers' chambers but they may spend some time visiting solicitors' premises, and traveling to other chambers and courts.
Smart dress is expected.
A junior barristers' clerk may start on around £12,500 to £13,000 a year. Experienced clerks may earn between £25,000 and £55,000 a year depending on their duties and responsibilities, which can vary between chambers.
Barristers' clerks work in barristers' chambers. Barristers' chambers are a group of individual barristers who all practise from the same address, sharing the same administration services.
There are approximately 12,700 practising barristers in England and Wales, operating from over 350 chambers spread across the country, with nearly 200 chambers located in London. Chambers are also found in major cities such as, Birmingham, Bristol, Cardiff, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle.
The Institute of Barristers' Clerks (IBC) advertise vacancies on their website. General and specialist recruitment agencies, such as Chambers People Ltd may also carry vacancies. The more senior jobs are sometimes advertised in the national press.
Some chambers operate their own work experience schemes, so it is worth contacting individual chambers directly to make enquiries. Entry is very competitive and it can be difficult to find a first position.
Most clerks enter after GCSE's or A levels. There are no set minimum requirements, although the IBC recommends four GCSE's (A*-C) and many chambers require a minimum of six GCSE's (A*-C) including maths and English or equivalent qualifications.
The Diploma in business, administration and finance may be relevant for this area of work.
Some graduates, including those with law degrees, join chambers in order to become barristers' clerks, sometimes as an alternative to practising law.
Chambers may recruit applicants with previous management or administrative experience. It is common for clerks to work in administrative posts in the chambers, such as office junior or office assistant, before becoming a barristers' clerk.
New barristers' clerks are trained on the job under the supervision of a senior clerk. Clerks are encouraged to join the IBC, the professional organisation for barristers' clerks.
The IBC has developed a professional qualification for junior barristers' clerks within their first three years in the job, the BTEC Advanced Award in Chambers Administration at Level 3. The course is designed for junior clerks from large or small chambers in all practice areas, and covers:
- The context of the work of a barristers' clerk
- The English legal system and legal profession
- Personal and communication skills
- Practical clerking
Study is mainly by distance learning and normally completed in a year. Each trainee on the course has a mentor who is usually a senior member of the clerk's team in the trainee's chambers and who guides them through the units of study.
On completion of the BTEC course and with five years' experience of service in chambers, barristers' clerks can apply for qualified membership of the IBC.
Clerks also attend regular training to keep up to date on legal issues, market changes and administration requirements.
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A barristers' clerk should:
With experience, barristers' clerks may progress to deputy senior clerk or senior clerk.
They may also progress to senior posts with greater responsibility such as practice manager or chambers director.
The Bar Council, 289-293 High Holborn, London WC1V 2HZ
Tel: 020 7242 0082
Institute of Barristers' Clerks (IBC),
289-293 High Holborn, London WC1 7HZ
Tel: 020 7831 7144
The Legal Practice Management Association (LPMA),
3 Raymond Buildings, Gray's Inn, London WC1R 5BH
Tel: 020 7400 6400
Skills for Justice, Centre Court, Atlas Way, Sheffield S4 7QQ
Tel: 0114 261 1499
Additional resources for job seekers and those already in a job.