What is a barrister?
In New South Wales, there are two types of legal practitioners: solicitors and barristers. Barristers are legal practitioners whose principal work involves presenting cases in courts and other formal hearings such as tribunals. They also undertake a variety of other work, providing specialist legal advice and acting as mediators, arbitrators, referees or conciliators.

Independent, sole practitioners

Barristers work in private practice as independent sole practitioners. In many cases people make contact with a solicitor first who will carry out the preliminary background work on a particular case to prepare a ‘brief’ for a barrister.

Independence is vital to our system of justice

The independence of barristers is vital to our system of justice. It ensures legal representation for everyone, without fear or favour.
Learn More >>

Read Sir Owen Dixon's views on the role of the role of the barrister >>

The cab rank rule

The full range of the Bar's expertise is available to anyone who needs it. No client is disadvantaged by being unable to brief a barrister because that barrister is in partnership with the opponent's lawyer. The 'cab-rank' rule ensures a barrister's independence. The individual barrister is available to be instructed on behalf of the clients as the need arises and to bring to bear the barrister's specialist advocacy and advisory legal skills to the client's particular and individual problems. The barrister is the 'servant of all'.

spacer Duties to the court

All barristers have a duty to their clients. In a position of trust and confidence, they must, by any legitimate means, devote themselves entirely to clients' legal needs. However, when they are admitted, barristers are sworn in as 'officers of the court'. As such, they must observe duties to the law and to the court. When acting as advocate and counsel, while pursuing a client's case by all legitimate means, a barrister must not mislead the court or an opponent and must acquaint the court with the true state of the law whether or not it favours a client's case.

    Finding & contacting the right barrister
picAnyone in need of legal advice can contact barristers directly, but only for work which barristers may undertake, according to the New South Wales Barristers' Rules.

Briefing Barristers Directly: A Guide for In-House Counsel

Any in-house lawyer with a current practising certificate can directly brief a barrister. Learn more >

    Fees and pro bono
picInquiries concerning fees should be made of individual barristers or their clerks.

Fees may be charged on a time basis, by the hour or by the day, or may be charged upon a fee for service basis as a 'brief fee'.


Factsheets for consumers
Two fact sheets for consumers:
Legal Costs your right to know
and Your right to challenge legal costs have been published by the NSW Attorney General's Department.

These describe the rights of a client dealing with a law practice directly retained by the client (usually a solicitor).