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The Bar Council of England and Wales

updated on 31 January 2024


This information was supplied by the Bar Council.

The Bar Council represents almost 18,000 barristers in England and Wales. We promote:

  • the Bar’s high-quality specialist advocacy and advisory services;
  • fair access to justice for all;
  • the highest standards of ethics, equality, and diversity across the profession; and
  • the development of business opportunities for barristers at home and abroad.  

A strong and independent Bar exists to serve the public and is crucial to the administration of justice. As specialist independent legal advocates, barristers enable people to exercise and uphold their legal rights and duties, often acting on behalf of the most vulnerable in society.

The Bar makes a vital contribution to the efficient operation of courts and tribunals in England and Wales. It provides a pool of talented individuals from increasingly diverse backgrounds, from which a significant proportion of the judiciary is drawn, on whose independence the rule of law and our democratic way of life depend. 

What does the Bar Council do?

The Bar Council exists to act in the interests of the Bar on all matters relating to the profession.


We support barristers from the start of their careers, through their professional development and even after they retire. Barristers can always turn to the Bar Council for help at any point in their careers. They can access support and assistance on a range of issues, including professional ethics, wellbeing, career development and mentoring.

We provide a confidential equality and diversity helpline as well as an ethical enquiries service for barristers. These resources help barristers with any problems they may encounter, offering information and advice about best practice on topics ranging from anti-money laundering to social media. As well as practice-focused support, we provide access to a range of services, such as accountancy, financial planning, insurance, and healthcare that’s often tailored to barristers’ needs and offered at competitive rates.


We’re a representative body that remains at the forefront of many campaigns in the public interest: defending the rule of law, supporting access to justice, and promoting the legal services sector. The Bar Council also campaigns on a range of issues linked to conditions at work, including earnings, the allocation of work, and bullying and harassment.


We offer a range of training courses and events for barristers, including meetings and networking opportunities at a range of locations in England, Wales, and other jurisdictions. This helps to assist barristers in developing a list of contacts and clients while helping to strengthen and extend international work and networking opportunities.

The Bar Standards Board

The General Council of the Bar is the approved regulator for the Bar of England and Wales. It discharges its regulatory functions through the independent Bar Standards Board (BSB). The BSB regulates barristers in England and Wales and is responsible for setting standards of conduct for barristers and authorising barristers to practise, monitoring the service provided by barristers to assure quality. The BSB’s remit also includes the education and training requirements for becoming a barrister as well as setting continuing training requirements to ensure that barristers’ skills are maintained throughout their careers, and the organisation handles complaints.

What's the role of a barrister?

Barristers exist to serve the public. As independent and specialist advocates, barristers help people uphold their legal rights and obligations, often acting on behalf of the most vulnerable members of society.

The ‘cab rank’ rule

Barristers in England and Wales are mostly self-employed and operate independently under the ‘cab rank’ rule. This rule requires barristers to accept work otherwise known as instructions in any field in which they’re an expert, the area of law they practise. Barristers are paid a fee to do the work.

The cab rank rule means a barrister must take a case that’s within their knowledge and expertise provided they’re free to do so, no matter how unpalatable the case. The cab rank rule exists regardless of the barrister’s personal views or opinions about the client or the case.

The rule is highly regarded and a fundamental part of the rule of law. In its simplest form, the rule of law means that “no one is above the law”. For the rule of law to be effective, there must be equality under the law, transparency of law, an independent judiciary and access to legal remedy and representation.

The employed Bar

While many barristers are self-employed and work in chambers, approximately 3,000 are currently employed and work in-house. Employed barristers practise in various organisations and sectors, varying from business and government to social and health services. Employed barristers work across a range of areas of law and remain independent but only accept instructions from, and provide legal services to, their employer.

The Bar Council has an Employed Barristers’ Committee that represents and promotes the interests of the employed Bar on everything from career development opportunities and building practice to ensuring a diverse and dynamic profession. Check out our blog series all about undertaking pupillage at the employed Bar

A note from Sam Townend KC, Bar Council chair

“Being a barrister is a fantastically varied and hugely rewarding career where no two days are the same. As a barrister, you deploy and develop a vast range of skills from oral advocacy and persuasion to factual analysis. You frequently meet all sorts of different people, even in specialist fields like construction, my area of expertise.

“If you are bright, hard-working, and dedicated, this is the career for you. While the work can be intellectually challenging, in exchange, it offers real fulfilment, helping people understand, exercise, and defend their legal rights.

“I would urge anyone to pursue a career at the Bar, irrespective of background. I myself went to a state school and had no lawyers in my family or friends. I am now a KC (or ‘Silk’) and chair of the Bar Council, an organisation that is recognised and respected in the legal sector and around the world.

"Pupillage (training) provides aspiring barristers with the practical skills and experience needed to become a barrister. Vocational training and pupillages equip barristers for success in the profession, and barristers continually develop and maintain the skills they need to sustain and advance their practice for the duration of a life at the Bar. For more advice and guidance, read our Becoming a barrister guide, co-produced with the Inns of Court and have a look at the Bar Council’s Pupillage Gateway Report for an overview of the data available about the application process.

“Good luck to all of you who are applying for pupillage. I hope you’ll enjoy a career in this wonderful profession, as I have and continue to do.” 

Deciding whether you want to become a barrister

The Bar is a diverse profession, which welcomes individuality and seeks to recruit the brightest talent, irrespective of background. The below schemes, sponsored by the Bar Council, are just some of the ways to get first-hand experience and see whether you’re interested in pursuing a career as a barrister.

Bar mock trials

The annual Bar mock trials involves those aged 15 to 18 taking on the main roles in a criminal trial – such as prosecutor, defendant and witness – with the case examples written by legal experts. Students compete against opposing teams from other schools, in real courtrooms, supported by judges and practising barristers.

The competition is the largest and longest running of its kind, involving hundreds of schools and thousands of students each year.

Bar Placement Scheme

The Bar Placement Scheme is one of the Bar Council’s initiatives that’s designed to provide insight into the profession for talented sixth-form students who’ve shown an interest in a career at the Bar.

The scheme enables students to spend up to four days shadowing a barrister in chambers and in court. Participants receive training from the Inns of Court College of Advocacy and the scheme is an excellent opportunity to build up your skills and CV, and to work out whether a career at the Bar would be suitable for you.

The 2024 dates will be announced early this year.

Pupillage Fair

The Pupillage Fair is the annual free-to-attend exhibition and networking event that offers all the essentials to kickstart a career at the Bar. It’s the only recruitment event run by the Bar for the Bar of the future.

It’s a great chance to find out everything you need to know about a career at the Bar. At the fair, you can:  

  • meet pupillage providers and hundreds of barristers from different chambers;
  • get advice on everything from CVs and applications to funding and support; and
  • meet practising barristers from every area of the law, find out about their work and gain real insight into life as a barrister.

The fair is organised and run with support from the Inns of Court and the Specialist Bar Associations to make sure it covers all angles. Hundreds of volunteers at different stages of their careers are on hand to answer questions and offer advice and guidance.

It’s a huge event and a fun day so it’s worth planning before attending to make sure you get the most out of it. Find out more about the annual fair via the Bar Council website.

Supporting the Young Bar

Young Barristers’ Committee

Junior barristers can gain access to the Bar Council’s Young Barristers’ Committee (YBC), which represents barristers in all areas of legal practice who are in their first seven years at the Bar. The YBC provides a collective, representative voice for young barristers at the Bar and helps to identify and resolve key challenges.

Volunteering at the Bar

Many barristers commit to doing voluntary legal work. They’re involved in this ‘pro bono’ work as members of Advocate, the Bar's national pro bono charity or the Free Representation Unit, a charity that provides legal advice, case preparation and advocacy. These organisations facilitate legal assistance between barristers and members of the public who otherwise would have no access to legal representation or support.

Follow the Bar Council

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Facebook: TheBarCouncil


More information

For more information on a career at the Bar, please visit the Bar Council website and LawCareers.Net’s Barristers hub. If you have any questions, email: [email protected].