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 Benchers 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.
The Kings Inns’ cause awards a B. L. Bachelor of Law Degree. 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.
Calling to Bar
After being admitted to the Bar at 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. Barristers are required to be members of the Law Library. The Law Library is situated in the Four Courts. Additional accommodation referred to as the new Law Library is provided in adjoining buildings adjoining the Four Courts.
In the case of barristers who practice outside Dublin, they may not necessarily be based at the Law Library. Some barristers have their own chambers and officers in Cork. There is a Bar Library in Cork.
Barristers must operate as sole traders. They may not enter partnerships with other barristers nor may they incorporate. 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.
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 practices of the Bar Council comprise 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 may be disbarred.
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.
The Law Society and Bar Council of Ireland provide that solicitors and barristers respectively must engage in a certain amount of continuing legal education in each practice year. This is a condition of maintaining a practising certificate and good standing. Failure to do so is a disciplinary offence.
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.
Senior barristers may become Senior Counsel. Senior Counsels 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.
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