Working as a barrister is a challenging job. Especially if you are a barrister that is specialising in criminal law. Barristers need to show both academic ability in the form of research skills, as well as a good awareness of case law, and the ability to communicate both orally and in writing. Criminal barristers spend a lot of time advocating for their clients in the courtroom, which means that they need strong interpersonal skills and the ability to communicate with many different kinds of people their clients, other legal professionals, judges, etc.
Criminal barristers work long and sometimes unsociable hours because they aren’t only at work when the courts are sitting. There is a lot of preparatory work to do, and this means that they need good time management skills and good project management skills. It is a high pressure job, and not all cases will be easy or guaranteed successes. Working as a self employed barrister (Something that around 80 percent of barristers do) is a huge challenge, and working for the CPS directly can mean taking on hard cases, so you will need a sense of responsibility and a lot of determination.
Getting qualified takes several years. Graduates who do not have a law degree will need to do a top-up before they take the Bar Preparation Training Course, and then from there go on to do a year-long pupillage, which includes six months non practicing and then six months of supervised practice. Throughout the qualification period they should do some work experience and shadow a barrister. Think of this as like a mini pupillage. To even get on this, a student would need to pass a criminal record check.
A lot of work experience is in the form of pro-bono work, or volunteer work with the Citizens Advice Bureau. There are limited options for paid work experience, such as working as a paralegal, and some people opt to get experience that will help them with the advocacy side of things, by taking on public speaking work.
Once employed as a barrister, there is a requirement for ongoing CPD, and barristers must stay up to date with the latest case law and complete refreshers on legal procedures. CPD can be in the form of webinars, courses, reading, attending conferences, or earning new qualifications and studying additional specialisms.
Watch barrister Michael Wolkind QC discuss the life and duties of a criminal trial lawyer in his videos.