Guide To Becoming A Barrister In New South Wales - NSW Bar

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Guide to becominga barrister inNew South Wales1

New South Bar Association 2017This publication is published under aCreative Commons ‘free advertising’license. You are free to share, copy andredistribute the material in any medium orformat. You must give appropriate creditto the New South Wales Bar Association,provide a link to the license and indicateif changes were made. You may do so inany reasonable manner, but not in any waythat suggests the licensor endorses you oryour use. You may not use the materialfor commercial purposes. If you remix,transform or build upon the material, youmay not distribute the modified material.where otherwise indicated.This publication can be found in electronicformat on the New South Wales BarAssociation website at further information about the NewSouth Wales Bar Association or copyrightof this publication, please contact:New South Wales Bar AssociationSelborne ChambersB/174 Phillip StreetSYDNEY NSW 2000Telephone: (02) 9232 4055Email: reception@nswbar.asn.auDesign and Layout: hartrick’s design officePrinting: No Time To LoseCover Image: Murray Harris Photography2Becoming a Barrister in New South Wales

Guide to becominga barrister inNew South WalesNEW SOUTH WALES BAR ASSOCIATION 20173

4Becoming a Barrister in New South Wales

CONTENTSWelcome61.6 What is a barrister?72.6 Eligibility to be a barrister83.6 The New South Wales Bar exam83.1 Registering for the Bar exam83.2 The exam process93.3 Preparing for the Bar exam94.6 Bar Practice Course104.1 Registering for the Bar Practice Course104.2 Attendance during the Bar Practice Course114.3 Bar Practice Course material115.6 Reading125.1 The reading program125.2 Reading with a tutor125.3 Criminal and civil law reading136.6 Practising certificate6.1 Period of the initial (reader’s) practising certificate14146.2 Certificate of fitness to practise under anunrestricted practising certificate6.3 Failure to complete all requirements within 12 months7.6 Barrister’s chambers1414157.1 How did I find chambers?157.2 Do I have to have chambers?155

WelcomeWelcome to the New South Wales Bar Association’s Guide tobecoming a barrister in NSW.I hope you will find this Guide practical and informative so that itmay assist you in taking the first steps in finding out whether theBar is a career path for you and how you may go about joining theNew South Wales Bar, should you choose to join after some yearspractising as a solicitor or straight after graduation from law school.There are no set rules as to when is the ‘right’ time to join the Bar.Some decide to join straight after law school. Some have joined aftercoming to law as a second career, having had previous careers such asactors, journalists or historians. Most join after some years as practiceas a solicitor. No matter when you decide to embark on a career at theBar, you will find that the New South Wales Bar has a membershipwhich is diverse and varied in areas and type of practice. The Baris a group of legal practitioners in NSW who pride themselves inpromoting the public good, being fair and honourable while doingso and upholding and advocating for justice for all at all levels of ourlegal system.Barristers are predominantly specialist advocates skilled in oralpresentation and argument with a duty first to the court. Additionally,barristers are at times called upon to provide advice on particularpoints of law for clients, solicitors, businesses and government. Allthe while, remaining entirely independent.If you have a passion for advocacy and court work, have a sustainedability to work independently to a high standard of excellence withthe opportunity to work flexibly alongside likeminded and learnedfriends, the Bar is the place for you. I would encourage you to takethe leap and join a challenging and rewarding profession.I hope you find this Guide useful in your decision to join the Bar. Ifyou would like more information about coming to the Bar it can befound on our website at wishes,Greg TolhurstExecutive DirectorNew South Wales Bar Association6Becoming a Barrister in New South Wales

1 What is a barrister?In New South Wales, there are two types of legalpractitioners: solicitors and barristers. Both have acritical role to play in the proper administrationof justice.Barristers specialise in advocacy work in courtsand tribunals and provide legal advice. Theirindependence is vital to our system of justice. Itensures legal representation for everyone, withoutfear or favour. Barristers cannot form businessassociations with any other person which mightcompromise, or even appear to compromise, thatindependence.While barristers are sole practitioners, theyare commonly clustered together in chamberscomprising barristers with a range of experiencefrom reader level through to senior counsel.Chambers commonly have a head of chambers(who is normally a very senior barrister) and theday to day management of chambers is conductedby a clerk with the assistance of staff. The clerk’srole varies within chambers but typically involvesdiary management, help in obtaining briefs andassisting barristers in their relationships withsolicitors.As barristers are sole practitioners, theyare responsible for seeking their own work(commonly referred to as briefs) and managingtheir own income and expenses. Junior barristersmay receive the benefit of receiving work frommore senior barristers who are too busy or requirea junior to assist them on a case but usually abarrister must seek out his or her own work.This requires barristers to manage their ownmarketing and relationships with stakeholderssuch as solicitors and clients. It is important tonote that although some barristers may receivedirect briefs from clients, the vast majority ofwork a barrister receives is from an instructingsolicitor. It is therefore necessary for a barristerto know and be respected by solicitors to obtainwork. It is therefore imperative that a barristerestablish reasonably strong networks in their first12 months at the Bar.Some barristers work for the government full time,including crown prosecutors and public defenders.These barristers have statutory independencewhich means that parliament has passed a lawthat enables them to provide their services to thegovernment of the day, no matter which politicalparty is in office.2 Eligibility to be a barristerTo be eligible to become a barrister in New SouthWales you must: be admitted as a lawyer in an Australianjurisdiction. The Legal Profession AdmissionBoard is the admitting authority in NSW; sit and pass the Bar exam to the requiredstandard; and complete the reading program whichincludes registration and satisfactoryparticipation in the Bar Practice Course andone year of readership under the supervisionof a tutor.7

3 The New South Wales Bar examThe New South Wales Bar Association requirespersons who wish to be admitted to practise as abarrister in NSW to sit the Bar exam. The examassists in ensuring that a high standard of legalskill and knowledge is maintained within theprofession.In particular, the NSW Bar exam ensures that allpersons admitted to practise as a barrister in NSW: have the ability to navigate sensitive ethicalissues they may encounter in practice andthat they are familiar with legislation,Barristers Rules and other relevant authoritythat assist in ensuring barristers can fulfiltheir professional obligations and respondappropriately; are familiar with rules of evidence andpractice and procedure that are reasonablyexpected to be the general and basicknowledge and skill required a barrister (thisis distinct from matters that the Bar acceptsthat a barrister may need to ‘to look it up’from time to time).You do not have to be admitted as a practitionerto the Supreme Court of NSW before you sit theBar exam.8Becoming a Barrister in New South Wales3.1 Registering for the Bar examTo register to sit for the Bar exam, you mustcomplete the online application form and paythe associated fee. The online application form isavailable on the New South Wales Bar Association’swebsite. The registration fee is non-transferableand non-refundable and once registered, you arenot able to transfer your registration to anotherexamination period. Candidates should familiarisethemselves with the Bar exam and Bar PracticeCourse policies located on the Bar Association’swebsite before completing registration.You are considered registered when you havereceived confirmation to undertake the Bar exam.

3.2 The exam process3.3 Preparing for the Bar examThe Bar exam takes place twice a year; in Februaryand June each year.Upon registering for the Bar exam, you will beprovided with exam study materials includingreading lists and a permitted materials list.The Bar exam comprises of two exam papers.Candidates will have two hours to complete eachexam paper with a break between the first andsecond paper.The subjects examined are: practice and procedure for barristers;To further assist candidates in preparing for theBar exam the Bar Association will hold tutorialsand lectures in the weeks prior to the examination.The Bar Association does not endorse coursesprovided by other bodies. aspects of evidence; and legal ethics for barristers.In order to pass the Bar exam, you must attain amark of 75%. If you pass the Bar exam you willthen be eligible to register and participate in theBar Practice Course. You will be invited to expressyour preference to be registered in one of the threeupcoming Bar Practice Courses.Exam results are emailed to candidates.If you pass, your ‘pass’ will be valid for 15 monthsafter the date you have received notification ofyour exam result.If you fail the exam you can register to sit theexam again. There is no limit to how many timesa person can sit the exam and there is no exclusionperiod.If you are employed when you sit the Bar exam,it is recommended that you do not give notice ofyour resignation to employers until you receiveyour exam results and we have confirmed yourplace in the Bar Practice Course.If you are overseas or interstate, you may makearrangements with the Bar Association to sit theexam in the relevant city. The exam will typicallytake place before the scheduled Bar exam inSydney.9

4 Bar Practice CourseThe Bar Practice Course is run twice a year – inMay and September - for four weeks (includingtwo Saturdays).Participants in the Bar Practice Course can expectto: develop advanced advocacy, mediation, andother barrister skills; gain practical insights into life and practiceat the New South Wales Bar; and form a strong spirit of professional supportamong new members.The course is delivered through lectures,workshops, court practice sessions and informaldiscussions. All methods strive to illuminate therole and responsibilities of barristers and theirimportant place and role in the community in theadministration of justice and the maintenance ofthe rule of law.The Bar Practice Course aims to be practical andas close to real life experiences as far as possible.Some advocacy exercises are presided over byjudicial officers and involve witnesses drawnfrom relevant professional fields. Participants canexpect contributions from judges, magistrates,senior counsel, experienced barristers and someprofessionals from disciplines other than thelaw. Their contribution make the course an idealintroduction to practise as a new barrister in NSW.10Becoming a Barrister in New South Wales4.1 Registering for the Bar Practice CourseIf you pass the Bar exam and you will then beeligible to register for the Bar Practice Course.Information on how to register for the course willbe provided to you when you receive notificationthat you ‘pass’ the Bar exam.Unlike the Bar exam, you must be admitted as alawyer in an Australian jurisdiction to be able toregister for the Bar Practice Course and commencethe reading year.You will have been accepted and confirmed intothe Bar Practice Course once you have submittedyour ‘Registration to attend the NSW Bar PracticeCourse’ form and associated fee. To complete theregistration form, you will be required to provideinformation confirming your admission, detailsof arranged tutors and chambers, a response to anadvocacy experience questionnaire and a currentcurriculum vitae.

4.2 Attendance during the Bar Practice Course4.3 Bar Practice Course MaterialOnce you are registered and commence the BarPractice Course you are called a reader. You willbe referred to as a reader during your first year atthe Bar.Once you have successfully registered in yourpreferred course you will be directed to the BarPractice Course timetable on the New SouthWales Bar Association website. A comprehensivereading list for the course will also be included.Additional course material will be distributedduring the course and will, in most cases, be madeavailable online.It is expected that readers attend all sessions duringthe Bar Practice Course punctually, and performsatisfactorily in the course. It is expected thatreaders give their complete professional attentionto course work to facilitate this, it is a condition ofa reader’s practising certificate that readers will notpractice during the period of the course.The course runs for 4 weeks. Attendance at thecourse is generally required between 9.00am and6.30pm. Readers can expect to devote a furtherfew hours in the evening in preparation for thefollowing day.The timetable highlights the material that will beused each day. It is expected that readers read therelevant papers for the day beforehand. In addition,video recordings of practical performances iscompulsory and are reviewed by group leaders.In addition to attending each session of the coursepunctually readers must satisfactorily: present applications before the court foreach of the practical sessions; perform an opening address, examination inchief of a witness, and cross examination ofan expert witness in the advocacy sessions; conduct a series of discrete mini hearings; conduct conferences with witnesses for thepurposes of the final trial; prepare an advice in a matter set for trial;and prepare and present a case for hearing at thefinal trial.Readers are progressively assessed through thecourse. Failure to attend all sessions punctuallyand perform satisfactorily constitutes a breach ofpractising certificate conditions.11

5 Reading5.1 The reading programThe period of reading commences when yourpractising certificate is issued. A readers’ practisingcertificate will have the following conditionsattached: a month-long full time course – the BarPractice Course; and 12 months’ reading period with one or morebarristers (tutors) of not less than sevenyears’ standing. The 12 months includes theperiod of the Bar Practice Course.After you complete the Bar Practice Course butbefore the end of your 12 month reading period,the following requirements are also imposed onreaders: Criminal and civil reading requirements;and Continuing Professional DevelopmentProgram (CPD).12Becoming a Barrister in New South Wales

5.2 Reading with a tutor5.3 Criminal and civil law readingDuring your reading year you will remain underthe supervision of at least one experiencedbarrister, who is called a tutor. Tutors provide asupervisory and mentoring role for new barristers.The guidelines to tutors and readers explains inmore detail what can and cannot be expected ofthe tutor/reader relationship. This can be foundon the Bar Association’s website.Readers must, in the first six months of practice,satisfactorily complete ten days of civil and ten daysof criminal law reading. At the discretion of thesupervising barrister, the reader must participateas fully as possible in the case, including readingof the brief, discussion of issues, preparationof submissions, interviews with witnesses andattendance at court.A tutor must be a barrister of not less than sevenyears standing who is not a senior counsel and heor she must be on the Statutory List of Tutors. Areader must have at least one tutor, but not morethan two.A supervising barrister is defined as a barrister whois senior counsel or who has more than five years’experience as a barrister and holds an unrestrictedpractising certificate.You can arrange your own tutors by way ofapproaching either a set of chambers that has apractice orientation appropriate to the experienceor intentions of where you want to practise ora practitioner whom you may know throughbriefing or by reputation, who is on the StatutoryList of Tutors.Arrangements for seeking a tutor should beinitiated at least six months to a year beforecoming to the Bar. Readers are strongly advisedto have two tutors, rather than one.Criminal reading may be undertaken with a tutor,crown prosecutor/public defender, senior counselor junior counsel practising in criminal law.Civil reading may be undertaken with a tutor,crown prosecutor/public defender, senior counselor junior counsel practising in civil law.At the end of the reading year, readers will applyfor an unconditional practicing certificate bywhich readers will be required to provide the BarAssociation with verification from counsel withwhom they have read of their compliance with thecriminal and civil reading requirements.13

6 Practising certificate6.1 Period of the initial (reader’s)practising certificate6.3 Failure to complete allrequirements within 12 monthsIn most cases, the initial reader’s restrictedpractising certificate will not cover a full practisingcertificate year period.1 Accordingly, before30 June of the current practice year, most readerswill be applying for a further readers’ practisingcertificate.If you are not able to complete all of the readingrequirements within 12 months of your readerspractising certificate being issued you may begranted a further conditional practising certificateat the discretion of the Bar Association.6.2 Certificate of fitness to practise underan unrestricted practising certificateFor most readers, at the end of their 12 monthreading period, their tutors will have completedand returned to the Bar Association the‘Satisfactory completion of Reading’ form so thatthe reader will be entitled to a practising certificatethat does not have readers conditions attachedto it.Once a ‘Satisfactory completion of Reading’ formis received from your tutor/s the Bar Associationcan issue a new practising certificate to you. Youwill not be charged an additional fee for thispractising certificate which should run for theremainder of the current practising year. At theend of that practice year, you will be in a positionto apply for a further practising certificate,provided that your CPD and relevant statutoryrequirements have been met.14Becoming a Barrister in New South WalesThere may be situations where the New SouthWales Bar Association Bar Council considersthat the reader requires particular assistance. Insuch cases, Bar Council may choose to extend theduration of the practising certificate with attachedreader conditions for the individual.1 A practising certificate year is from 1 July to 30 June each year.

7 Barrister’s chambersWhile barristers are sole practitioners, theyare commonly clustered together in chamberscomprising barristers with a range of experiencefrom reader level through to senior counsel.Chambers commonly have a head of chambers(who is normally a very senior barrister) and the dayto day management of chambers is conducted bya clerk with the assistance of staff. The clerk’s rolevaries within chambers but typically involves diarymanagement, help in obtaining briefs and assistingbarristers in their relationships with solicitors.7.1 How did I find chambers?Frequently, chambers are available on the same flooras your tutor’s chambers. However, this is not alwaysthe case. The New South Wales Bar Association’swebsite contains a register of rooms available tobe licensed or which are otherwise available toreaders. Many floors have a reader’s room that ismade available at no cost or at a low cost to oneor two readers a year. The register contains thecontact details for the clerk or floor secretary, andit is advisable that you contact them for furtherinformation.7.2 Do I have to have chambers?The question is often put: ‘May I practise fromhome?’ or ‘I can’t afford chambers. Why do I needto go to such an expense?’.There is no rule prohibiting practise from home.However, new barristers are strongly advised toobtain chambers. It is important for new barristersto be part of the community of counsel and to beclose to the courts in which they practice. Anotherimportant aspect is that there is no limit to the helpthat is given by one barrister to another. A newbarrister cannot afford to let this valuable, indeedessential (yet free) help pass by. The philosophyof the reading period is based on the close tutor/reader relationship, which is greatly facilitated bythe proximity of chambers to courts. Barristerscontinually assist one another at all stages of theircareer.It is recommended to readers not to purchasechambers immediately. It is very important tokeep overheads as low as possible in the first yearor two and it often happens that practice interestschange or develop in the first year so that a changeof chambers may become desirable.In deciding to come to the Bar you may wish toexplore ‘sharing’ or ‘floating’. It may be that theperson who owns, leases or licences the roomallows another person to share it for a relatively lowmonthly charge. Floating, involves taking a chancethat at any moment of time, one or more roomson the floor will be vacant. In both instances theconsent of the floor to share or float must be sought.15

Becoming a Barrister in New South Wales

1. What is a barrister? 7 2. Eligibility to be a barrister 8 3. The New South Wales Bar exam 8 3.1 Registering for the Bar exam 8 3.2 The exam process 9 3.3 Preparing for the Bar exam 9 4. Bar Practice Course 10 4.1 Registering for the Bar Practice Course 10 4.2 Attendance during the Bar Practice Course 11 4.3 Bar Practice Course material 11 5.

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