Why Use a Barrister?
A barrister is a specialist advocate with distinctive competencies. Barristers combine a deep understanding of the law and the rules of the courts - developed and honed from frequent appearances in courts and tribunals to argue the legal case on behalf of clients - with deep expertise of legal strategy and dispute resolution, whether in a court or mediation setting.
Their role is to:
- act as the legal representative of a client in Australian states and territories in which they are accredited (for example Victorian courts and tribunals)
- provide advice and opinions in complex legal matters, particularly in the development of legal strategy
- to act as a mediator and/or arbitrator
Most people who wish to initiate (or respond to) a legal action in court will first engage a solicitor ('instructing solicitor') for initial advice who will in turn engage ('brief') a barrister. This situation is very similar to obtaining expert medical advice, where individuals are first referred to a medical specialist via their general practitioner. Your 'instructing solicitor' will advise you if a barrister should also be engaged. Similar to the medical analogy, early briefing of a barrister is often of distinct advantage to an early/favourable resolution.
In some circumstances a barrister may accept instructions from a client or approved professional organisation directly (without also needing to engage an instructing solicitor). These circumstances can be found under 'direct briefing'.
If you are a plaintiff or respondent in a legal case, your solicitor will obtain all relevant details from you ('take instructions'), assess the case, and in circumstances where litigation is considered probable or possible, in consultation, select a barrister with appropriate skills and experience in the area of law involved. A 'brief' is then prepared, containing relevant documents and instructions concerning the facts, the issues, and in some instances, a summary of relevant legislation and other legal decisions.
Once the case is underway, the barrister and instructing solicitor will work in consultation. The instructing solicitor is responsible for communicating details and developments to the client, as well as collecting and collating any further evidence that has to be obtained, corresponding with the solicitors acting for other parties and preparing, serving and filing all necessary and relevant documents in the court or tribunal for the case to proceed correctly.
In summary, the barrister is a specialist advocate who is able to provide an objective and independent view of the arguments in a matter/case, advise the client and instructing solicitor on legal strategy, and argue on behalf of the client with specialist skills developed and honed from frequent appearances in the testing court environment.