Building and managing a practice at the employed Bar

How to develop advocacy skills at the Employed Bar

All barristers are subject to the same rules on compulsory training during pupillage and in the early years of practice. See the ongoing training section on the How to Conduct Yourself as a Pupil page of the Toolkit.

Employed barristers are also required to comply with the mandatory continuing professional development requirements set out at rQ132-135 of the BSB Handbook. See generally

One of the main differences between employed and self-employed barristers is that with the principal exception of those employed by the Crown Prosecution Service, employed barristers tend not to undertake courtroom advocacy as part of their everyday job as often as their self-employed counterparts.

Partly as a result of this, there has been an increasing focus in recent years on how advocacy training can be better geared towards barristers employed in law firms, industry and government.  These barristers, whilst rarely ‘on their feet’ in court, are nevertheless called upon to present oral arguments persuasively in a variety of contexts, from speaking at board meetings to briefing Ministers and conducting advocacy before internal decision-making bodies.

Employed barristers who are due to undertake their New Practitioners’ Programme should check whether their Inn offers advocacy training specifically for the employed Bar.  If it does not, then it may be possible to be added to a reserve list at one of the Inns that does. Currently, such training is offered jointly by Middle Temple and Gray’s Inn (contact Middle Temple at the address below). Inner Temple do not do so at present, but may reintroduce it. Lincoln’s offer exercises applicable to all, including a session on tribunal advocacy.

See generally:

Promotion within a corporate structure

Rather than rising through the ranks of pupil, junior and QC, employed barristers tend to be bound by the promotion rules of the organisation they work in (although see the section on how the Queen’s Counsel system applies to the employed Bar, below).

In law firms, this will generally mean that employed barristers are on a par with their solicitor colleagues, rising through the usual succession of roles such as associate, senior associate, partner, etc.  Similar arrangements will apply in industry.  All will depend on the particular workplace policies of the entity in question, which employed barristers should consult for specific information.

The Government Legal Service (GLS) employs both barristers and solicitors and does not distinguish between them in terms of their role or for the purposes of career progression. The specific corporate structure within which GLS lawyers operate varies from department to department; however most departments generally adopt the same system of “grades” as does the rest of the Civil Service. The numbers of lawyers working at a particular grade and their specific roles will depend upon the size and function of the department concerned, as will the criteria for promotion.

Finally, in the Crown Prosecution Service, the first level entry point for a fully qualified solicitor or barrister is the Crown Prosecutor role.  The next level is Senior Crown Prosecutor with further succession to the more specialised roles of Crown Advocate (or Specialist Prosecutor), Senior Crown Advocate and Principal Crown Advocate. Senior Crown Prosecutor, Crown Advocate and Specialist Prosecutor are on a par in terms of their job weight.

How does the Queen’s Counsel system apply to the employed Bar?

Historically, due to the extent to which applications for Queen’s Counsel (QC) were based on courtroom advocacy experience, non-CPS employed barristers have tended not to fall within the scope of the eligibility criteria.

In recent years, however, the QC application criteria have been broadened to cover more than just typical self-employed barristers, and the QC Appointments Panel Guidance makes it clear that the advocacy undertaken need not have been solely traditional courtroom advocacy:

“Advocacy includes both written and oral advocacy before the higher courts, arbitrations and tribunals and equivalent bodies. The advocacy may be in written or oral form but must relate to developing and advancing a client’s or employer’s case to secure the best outcome for the client in a dispute. That outcome may, for example, be secured through arbitration, court determination or a settlement agreement. Oral advocacy includes advocacy in a court or tribunal, mediation, arbitration or in negotiation. There is no specific requirement as to the amount of written or in-court advocacy, so long as there is sufficient evidence for the Panel to reach a conclusion as to excellence in respect of each aspect of advocacy.”


With this in mind, employed barristers who feel they might meet the criteria for applying to become a QC should consult with their employer to see whether an application might be supported.

See, generally,

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