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Questions commonly asked

Admission
How do I apply to become a barrister in NSW?
Does admission as a lawyer entitle me to practise as a barrister in New South Wales?
I don't have anyone to move my admission - who do I ask?

Bar Exams and The Reading Programme
What exactly is 'The Reading Programme'?
Do I need special qualifications for entry to the Reading Programme?
Are exemptions from the Reading Programme granted?
What is the registration procedure for the Bar Practice Course?
If I fail any of the exams, can I still do the Bar Practice Course before I re-sit the exams?
Why does the Bar Association conduct its own examinations?
Can I obtain an exemption if I have already done any of those examinations at university?

Tutors
What is a tutor?
What is the role of a tutor?
Can I take direct access clients?
How do I get a tutor?
What is the 'Statutory list of tutors' and how do I use it?

Costs
What will the exams and course cost me? Are there any extra costs?
How do I arrange professional indemnity insurance?
What fees do I charge in my early years at the Bar?
How can I keep my overheads down?

Accommodation
How do I find reading accommodation (chambers)?
Do I have to have chambers?

Other FAQs
Can I continue to run my private business (or do other paid work) once I have come to the bar?
Where do I buy my robes?
How do I advertise myself as a barrister?

Admission

How do I apply to become a barrister in NSW?
Visit the Practising as a barrister in New South Wales section of this web site.

Does admission as a lawyer entitle me to practise as a barrister in New South Wales?
Visit the Practising as a barrister in New South Wales section of this web site.

I don't have anyone to move my admission - who do I ask?
The Legal Profession Admission Board should be contacted regarding admission formalities including moving admission.

Bar Exams and The Reading Programme

What exactly is 'The Reading Programme'?
Having passed the three qualifying Bar exams and commenced reading, the reader must satisfactorily complete:

  • a month-long full-time course - the Bar Practice Course
  • 12 months' reading period with one or more barristers (tutors) of not less than seven years' standing. The 12 months includes the period of the Bar Practice Course.
  • During the 11 months after completion of the course, certain other requirements are imposed: criminal reading and civil reading; participation in two advocacy workshops; attendance at 6 extension sessions.
  • the Continuing Professional Development Programme.

Do I need special qualifications for entry to the Reading Programme?
No, except that you must have been admitted by the Supreme Court of New South Wales prior to 1 July 1994 as a solicitor, barrister or as a legal practitioner, or (from 1 October 2005) as a lawyer. You must also have passed all three Bar exams. See also the Practising as a barrister in New South Wales section of this web site.

Are exemptions from the Reading Programme granted?
Generally, no. See Exemptions under Bar exams, and under Reading Programme.

What is the registration procedure for the Bar Practice Course?
Once the Bar exams are passed, the Bar Association forwards the registration forms for the Bar Practice Course to eligible candidates.

If I fail any of the exams, can I still do the Bar Practice Course before I re-sit the exams?
No. All exams must first be passed before you are offered a place in the course.

Why does the Bar Association conduct its own examinations?
 Go to Rationale of the Bar exams.

Can I obtain an exemption if I have already done any of those examinations at university?
No. The examinations have a specific practical orientation towards advocacy and the Bar, which university examinations do not have.

Tutors

What is a tutor?
A tutor must be a barrister of not less than seven years standing who is not a senior counsel. Barrister 5-7 years may apply to the Executive Director for inclusion on the list. A reader must have at least one tutor, but not more than two.  Each tutor is required to be on the Statutory List.

What is the role of a tutor?
Tutors provide a supervisory and mentoring role for new barristers. New South Wales Barristers' Rules 112 and 113 outline the tutors' duties to their readers and the Guidelines to tutors and readers explains in more detail what can and cannot be expected of the tutor/reader relationship.

Can I take direct access clients?
See Direct access under Practising Certicate conditions.

How do I get a tutor?
Prospective readers arrange their own tutors by way of approaching either a set of chambers that has a practice orientation appropriate to the experience or intentions of the reader, or a practitioner whom they know through briefing or by reputation. So you can arrange a readership directly with someone known to you, or with someone available in the chambers to which you apply. All tutors must be on the Bar Association's Statutory list of tutors.

These arrangements should be initiated at least six months before coming to the Bar. Prospective readers are strongly advised to have two tutors, rather than one.

What is the Statutory list of tutors
The list is a requirement of the Legal Profession Act 2004. It is now part of the Find a barrister database. The list is updated when members qualifying by way of attaining seven years seniority are asked if they would be prepared to undertake the duties of tutor to any new barrister. The listing includes chambers, details of areas of practice interest, and names of any previous readers.

Prospective readers should select a few names from the list, bearing in mind that new tutors, although they do not have a list of past readers, may have enthusiasm and time to give to their new role.

Having selected some names, contact the chosen barrister's clerk, provide a current curriculum vitae and arrange for an interview with the barrister. You may also like to contact previous readers. Their contact details are usually available in the barrister's directory on the Bar Association web site or on application from the Bar Association's Reception.

The tutor/reader relationship is very important in establishing the reader in the first year of practice.

Costs

What will the exams and course cost me? Are there any extra costs?
The administration fee payable upon registration for the Bar exams is $250 per exam. That fee is not refundable. Late registrations will close at a time determined by the Director of Professional Development.

The fee for the Bar Practice Course is $3,000.

There is a charge for a practising certificate. Professional indemnity insurance costs are arranged privately by individual barristers. Premiums depend upon the Insurer engaged. Expenses incurred once practice has commenced vary greatly. Applicants should discuss monthly outgoings with the clerk of the chambers at which they intend to read.

How do I arrange professional indemnity insurance?
Details are included with the practising certificate application form or are obtainable from the Bar Association's Reception. Proof of holding professional indemnity insurance must be submitted before a practising certificate can be issued. See also the Practising as a barrister in New South Wales section of this web site.

What fees do I charge in my early years at the Bar?
The answer depends on your value in the marketplace. You are advised to discuss this with your clerk and your tutor. Much will depend upon the experience you bring to the Bar and the nature of the work you are undertaking. Advice on this topic is given during the Bar Practice Course.

It is obligatory to enter into a cost's agreement with the instructing solicitor or client. This means that parameters for the level of charging can be contractually fixed before any substantial work is done.

How can I keep my overheads down?
You have no need to mortgage yourself to buy expensive chambers.  Wait to assess your library needs. Your floor will have a floor library and you will be invited to use the personal libraries of all members on your floor. There is also an excellent Bar Association library available in the sub-basement of Selborne Chambers. To use it you must be a member of the New South Wales Bar Association.

Become proficient enough to do your own word processing or share word processing services with other members of the floor or invest in a voice recognition programme.

Accommodation

How do I find reading accommodation (chambers)?
Frequently, accommodation is available on the same floor as the tutor's chambers. However, this is not always possible. The Bar Association website contains ChamberSpace, a register of rooms available to be licensed or which are otherwise available to readers. Many floors have a reader's room that is made available at no cost or at a low cost to one or two readers each year.

Some tutors will share accommodation for a period. This possibility is generally noted in the statutory list and should be discussed at the initial interview.

Readers are advised not to purchase chambers immediately. It is very important to keep overheads as low as possible in the first year or two and it often happens that practice interests change or develop in the first year so that a change of chambers may become desirable. Options to explore include:

(a) Sharing
With the consent of the floor, persons may share a room: the person who owns, leases or licences the room allows another person to share it for a relatively low monthly charge.

(b) Floating
Again, with the consent of the floor, a new barrister may 'float'. Floaters take a chance that at any moment of time, one or other room on the floor will be vacant. On a floor where the members go on circuit or do a lot of work in suburban courts, 'floating' can be less disruptive than it sounds.

Do I have to have chambers?
The question is often put: 'May I practise from home?' or 'I can't afford chambers. Why do I need to go to such expense?'

There is no rule prohibiting practise from home. However, new barristers are strongly advised to obtain accommodation within chambers. It is important for barristers to be part of a community of counsel and to be close to the courts in which they practise. Another important aspect is that there is no limit to the help that is given by one barrister to another. A new barrister cannot afford to let this valuable, indeed essential (yet free) help pass by. The philosophy of the reading period is based on a close tutor/reader relationship, which is greatly facilitated by the proximity of chambers to courts. Barristers continually assist one another at all stages of their careers.

Other FAQs

Can I continue to run my private business (or do other paid work) once I have come to the bar?
It depends upon the nature of the work and the time it will require. It is envisaged that practice at the private Bar will be a full-time profession: see conditions 1 and 3 in and New South Wales Barristers' Rules 74-75. If in doubt, you should clarify your position with the Director of the Professional Conduct Department.

Where do I buy my robes?
There are several firms where gowns, bar jackets, shirts and wing collars can be purchased.

How do I advertise myself as a barrister?
The Bar Association on request will provide its practising members' contact and admission details on the Find a barrister database and will notify the Law Society of NSW for the Law Society Diary.