A Day in the Life of a Barrister
A typical day starts early, as I will be travelling to court with the aim of beating the metal detector queues and being ready to meet my client in good time for our conference. As a mixed common law barrister, I am in court most days, fitting in drafting and advisory work around my court practice.
Having found my client, we will work through the final instructions I need, and I will advise them on the procedure for the hearing and the merits of their case. This is an important (and often short) time to understand the client’s concerns, and to make them feel as settled and well-prepared as possible. It’s not typical to have my solicitor present at court, but if they are attending it certainly helps.
Next up will be talking to my opponent, who is usually a lawyer, but increasingly – in the family courts in particular – may be a litigant in person. We will try to narrow the issues and understand one another’s sticking points and priorities. This is also the time to raise procedural problems that need ironing out, and to give my opponent fair warning if I’m going to take an unusual or hard-line approach before the judge.
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Once this period of conference and negotiation has finished, there will almost always be a wait before we get into court. Sometimes I will spend hours with my client at this stage if there’s a busy list. It’s another good opportunity to build rapport and manage nerves (mostly, but not entirely, the client’s).
When we are called into court, what comes next varies hugely depending on the type of case and hearing. It might be a trial on liability for a road traffic accident, or a day of judicial input and negotiation between the parties to settle a matrimonial finance dispute, an application for relief from sanctions, or sentencing in the Crown Court. Whatever the venue and the hearing, some things will always impact the outcome to a huge extent: preparation, engagement with the judge, and how the parties come across in the positions they take and the evidence they give. My job will be to present my client’s stance in the best possible light, and to deal with all the challenges thrown up by my opponent and the judge. Some days are easier than others!
Afterwards comes the debrief with the client. We’ll talk through the outcome and what this means in practical terms. This might also be the time to draft orders and agree them with the other side, before submitting them to the court.
Once all is said and done, and the client and I have parted ways, it is time to update my solicitor. I usually do this by telephone immediately after my hearing, and I then write a full attendance note to send in later that day.
By late afternoon or early evening, I’ll be focusing on the all-important preparation for the next day. I might need to ask for some clarification or further documents from my solicitor, and liaise with the clerks to check which court I will be in and at what time. Then I need to get the case finally ready… and set the alarm clock!
The unpredictable travelling and working hours at the Bar can make it difficult to liaise with our instructing solicitors, so you can see we are always very appreciative of being briefed in good time to review the papers and get in touch about any concerns arising.
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