Barristers’ clerks provide essential support for barristers and are responsible for the smooth running of administration and business in a set of chambers.
Although a degree isn’t usually necessary to become a barristers’ clerk, it could improve your employment prospects. As a junior, you will usually start doing administrative tasks and will gradually be given more responsibility as you gain experience and knowledge of life in chambers. Work experience in areas such as business and administration are usually more important than qualifications.
If you progress to a senior clerk position you will have built up an impressive skillset that includes administration, marketing, negotiation, sales and management. These are all transferable skills that would be useful in many professions should you wish to change career or even train for another role within the legal sector. There is potential for career progression as a barristers’ clerk and senior clerks who work for top barristers usually earn a large salary. If you reach this stage, you could take on a role as a chambers director or practice manager.
If you have an interest in law, are highly organised and have the ability to work as part of a team, you might be well suited to a career as a barristers’ clerk.
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Day-to-day responsibilities might include:
- Managing the diaries of barristers.
- Helping to maintain the supply of work by marketing and developing the business.
- Managing finances by collecting fees and maintaining accounts
- Making arrangements for barristers to get to and from court, as well as making sure they have the necessary books and robes.
- Communicating between solicitors, clients, and barristers and keeping all parties up to date with the progress of the case.
- Arranging meetings on behalf of barristers.
- Matching the needs of clients with the most appropriate barrister in terms of specialisation and experience.
- Carrying out any required research.
- With experience, you could become involved in recruiting junior clerks.
- General administration tasks to keep chambers running smoothly.
At the very least, the Institute of Barristers’ Clerks recommends that you’ll need 4 GCSE’s (including maths and English) at grades A* to C (9-4). Progressing to A-levels or a degree will help your prospects for employment. Work experience in administration, in legal offices or even in chambers will help to prove that you are committed.
Interpersonal skills: As a barristers’ clerk you will be dealing with all sorts of people from barristers to clients to court officials. It’s important that you leave a good impression for the barristers and set of chambers you work in.
An awareness of etiquette: Being aware of the basic rules of court etiquette is essential. These range from simple things like being on time, to knowing the appropriate dress and how to talk to a judge.
Organisation skills: You will often be responsible for barristers’ diaries so good organisation skills are key with this.
Administration skills: Barristers’ clerks deal with much of the administration in a set of chambers so experience here would help your employment prospects.
Written communication skills: You will often be given tasks such as letter writing for which you will need good writing skills and an awareness of the appropriate language to use.
A respect for confidential information: It is essential that you can manage confidential information on behalf of clients.
Negotiating skills: When you reach a more senior level you might be tasked with negotiating fees for barristers.
The ability to work under pressure: The pace of work can be fast and you will have to be highly organised to manage each of your responsibilities.
An eye for detail: This is essential for tasks such as diary and workload management. You will need to avoid any clashes in timetables and ensure that barristers will be able to deliver work on time.
Knowledge of the law: In particular you will need to keep up with the areas of law that your chambers specialises in.
Starting salary: £15,000 to £20,000
Junior clerk: £24,000 to £35,000
Senior clerk: £40,000 to £80,000
These figures are intended as a guide and senior clerks negotiating for top barristers can earn six-figure sums. Some clerks are offered bonuses which correspond with what the barristers earn.
Those clerks who have gained sufficient experience and have proved themselves throughout their careers can hope to progress to the position of senior clerk. The usual route to becoming a senior clerk is to start working as a junior clerk and work towards promotion. The route of progression is usually junior clerk to first-junior clerk, followed by deputy-senior clerk and eventually senior clerk. With each promotion comes added responsibility and by the time you have reached the level of senior clerk you can expect to be negotiating fees for barristers. The majority of opportunities for progression and working for top barristers are in London. You will also find that salaries tend to be higher in the big cities.
An alternative to this route is to progress to the position of practice or chamber manager where you will be responsible for managing a team of barristers’ clerks.
Those barristers’ clerks who wish to change to another career within the legal sector can do so with some excellent experience to back up their application. However, this is not a shortcut to gaining any of the necessary qualifications for other legal careers.