A barrister is an independent lawyer with specialist skills in dispute resolution, litigation strategy and advice and in advocacy before the court.
In Victoria, a person qualified and admitted to practice as "an Australian lawyer" who wishes to practise as a barrister will generally do so by becoming a member of the Victorian Bar. This requires their taking the Bar Readers' Course - a 2 month full-time course in advocacy and barristers' practice and skills, ethics and rules - as well as serving pupillage or reading (a sort of apprenticeship) for 9 months with a barrister of at least 10 years' standing.
Most importantly, for this relates to their independence and specialisation, members of the Victorian Bar undertake not to practise otherwise than exclusively as a barrister, and undertake to comply with the Constitution, practice rules and regulations. These rules and regulations are designed (amongst other things) to maintain the highest standards of professionalism and integrity amongst members of the Bar.
Many barristers specialise in particular jurisdictions and areas of law. Our Bar Associations further and support that specialisation in particular ares of practice; for example, the Commercial Bar Association, the Criminal Bar Association, the Family Law Bar Association and Common Law Bar Association.
Each barrister practises alone as an individual. A barrister is not permitted to practise in partnership or as an employee, and is not permitted to practise as the employer of any legal practitioner in active practice.
A barrister is bound by the “cab-rank” principle. This principle means that if a barrister is requested to act for a client then the barrister must accept the brief and act for the client if: