Barristers usually specialise in advising on and bringing cases before the higher Courts. Barristers will usually appear to represent clients in the High Court, Circuit Court and Supreme Court. Barristers frequently appear in the District Court. However, most District Court cases will be pleaded and dealt with by solicitors.
Barristers must operate as sole traders. They may not enter partnerships with other barristers nor may they incorporate.
A barrister must be available to take work from any solicitor who instructs him. The so-called taxi system is designed to secure that any barrister may in principle be available to any instructing solicitor regardless of the size or resources of the firm concerned.
Barristers may only be instructed through a solicitor except in a number of limited cases where direct access to the public is allowed. Therefore in a dispute above District Court level, a solicitor and barrister are likely to be employed. The barrister is retained by the solicitor and not by the client directly.
Barristers’ fees are agreed between the solicitor and barrister in consultation with the client. Bar Council professional practice rulings require fee estimates to be issued to solicitors and clients as soon as practicable. However, the client’s relationship is not with the barrister but with the solicitor.
Regulation and Admission
Barristers are regulated by the Bar Council of Ireland. Legal education is administered and provided by the Honourable Society of Kings Inns. Members of the Bar are usually members of the Law Library.
The Honourable Society of Kings Inns operates as a society and is controlled by the benchers of the Honourable Society of Kings Inns. The benchers comprise a number of Judges and senior barristers.
The benches control the courses of education provided at Kings Inn. The Kings Inns’ cause awards a B. L. Bachelor of Law Degree.
Entrance to Kings Inns is by an entrance examination. It is examined in core subjects similar to those in respect of the Incorporated Law Society. Holders of approved law degrees or legal studies diplomas are eligible to sit the examinations.
The B.L. course is available as a full-time and part-time course. Upon completion of the B.L. degree, a successful student is called to the Bar. The barrister signs the roles of members in the Four Courts.
Before commencing practice, the barrister must engage in a pupilage with an established barrister. After being admitted to the Bar, a barrister must enter a pupilage with a barrister of at least seven years standing.
Pupilage was formerly 12 months but is now more commonly 24 months. This effectively involves practical training in the skills of the barrister.
On being called to the Bar a barrister becomes Junior Counsel or Barrister at Law. Practising barristers are required to be members of the Law Library.
Until relatively most barristers in the Dublin High Court were based in the Law Library. The Law Library comprises a library, deskspace and a certain amount of backup facilities. It is is situate in the Four Courts. Additional accommodation referred to as the new Law Library is provided in adjoining buildings adjoining the Four Courts.
Over the last 20 years have many barristers had moved out of the Law Library as such and have set up offices in buildings in the vicinity of the Four Courts. Many barristers share office facilities and secretarial and other services in such offices.
Barristers who practice outside Dublin, may not necessarily be based at the Law Library. Barristers who practise on circuit in the Circuit Court work or in the High Court on circuit, commonly operate from their own home or an office.. There is a Bar Library in Cork.
Disscipline and Conduct
The Bar Council of Island is responsible for discipline and conduct matters. It publishes a professional code of conduct with which barristers must comply. Barristers have duties to the Court which in some respects rank ahead of their duties to clients. They must not mislead a Court.
Barristers who breach disciplinary codes may be cautioned. In a serious case, they may be suspended or expelled from the Law Library.
The professional practice commitee of the Bar Council comprises a number of lay members. They may impose fines, caution, suspend or exclude a member from the Law Library. They may recommend that a barrister be disbarred.
Senior barristers may become Senior Counsel. Senior Counsel are members of the so-called inner bar.
A barrister need not necessarily become Senior Counsel. The role is slightly different to that of Junior Counsel. Appointment to the Senior Bar is made by the government on the advice of the Attorney General in liaison with the Bar Council.
In more important High Court cases there may be a Senior Counsel accompanied by Junior Counsel as well as instructing solicitor. The Junior Counsel may draft and prepare Court documents which the Senior Counsel may approve and settle.
Senior Counsel will tend to appear and plead in the more complex and difficult legal cases in the High Court and Supreme Court. In practice, in many important cases, both a Senior and Junior Counsel are retained.
Barristers are instructed by solicitors. The codes of conduct permit direct instruction by members of the public in a limited number of cases only.
The barrister may not sue for his fees. However, it would generally be unethical for a solicitor not to pay barristers’ fees. Direct access is permitted by accountants and certain other bodies such as architects, surveyors, tax consultants and certain financial industry bodies.
Formerly barristers were immune from being sued in respect of their advocacy in Court. This rule was reversed by the House of Lords approximately ten years ago and is likely to be reversed in Ireland.
Bar members are entitled to engage in advertising on similar terms to solicitors. However, the nature of their profession is that they do not provide services directly to the public but rather to instructing solicitors.
Barristers must have professional indemnity insurance.
The subject of regulation of barristers and solicitors has been a source of controversy. The Law Reform Commission has examined the profession and made certain reports and recommendations. Some changes have been made on foot of these recommendations.
Certain changes were made on foot of the Competition Authority’s 2006 report into the legal profession. These included measures to ensure that it was easier to transfer from being a barrister to a solicitor and vice versa.
The Legal Services Ombudsman Act was passed but supervened by the Legal Services Regulation Act.
A criticism made of the Bar Council and the Incorporated Law Society was that they were both the professional representative body and the regulator. There are independent non-lawyers on the relevant regulatory and disciplinary panels and bodies.
The Ireland / IMF EU memorandum of understanding contemplated further more wide-ranging reform of the regulation of the legal profession. The The Legal Service Regulation Act was passed in response. It provides for a single independent regulator. It is due to commence full regulatory responsiblilty from 2019.
Legal Services Regulatory Authority I
The Legal Services Regulatory Authority, in accordance with the provisions of the Legal Services Regulation Act 2015, will regulate the provision of legal services by legal practitioners and will ensure the maintenance and improvement of standards in the provision of such services in the State.
The Authority shall be independent in the performance of its functions. The Authority will undertake its functions in accordance with the following objectives:
- protecting and promoting the public interest,
- supporting the proper and effective administration of justice,
- protecting and promoting the interests of consumers relating to the provision of legal services,
- promoting competition in the provision of legal services in the State,
- encouraging an independent, strong and effective legal profession, and
- promoting and maintaining adherence to professional principles specified in the Act.
Legal Services Regulatory Authority II
In regulating the provision of legal services by legal practitioners and ensuring the maintenance and improvement of standards in the provision of such services in the State, the Authority shall keep under review and make recommendations to the Minister and disseminate information in respect of:
- admission requirements of Law Society, Bar Council, Kings Inn
- availability and quality of education and training incl. ongoing training for the two professions
- LS/BC/HSKI policies in relation to admission/entitlement to practise
- professional codes
- the organisation of the provision of legal services in the State.
The Authority shall
- specify the nature and minimum of professional indemnity insurance
- establish and administer a system of inspection of legal practitioners for purposes of Act
- receive and investigate complaints
- maintain a Roll of Practising Barristers
- promote public awareness, disseminate information in respect of legal services including their cost
- keep Minister informed of developments in respect of the provision of legal services and make recommendations in coordinating and developing policy
- undertake research on the provision of legal services which may promote an improvement in standards for their provision and public awareness, make recommendations to Minister
- perform any other functions conferred by the Act or by regulations made under it.