The General Council of the Bar of Northern Ireland
Royal Courts of Justice
Belfast BT1 3JP
Telephone: (01232) 562349
Fax: (01232) 562350
Number of Members: 440
The Legal Profession in Northern Ireland
The solicitor is usually the first point of contact for any member of the public seeking legal advice. In the normal course of events the solicitor is often the only point of contact as he or she is qualified to see many matters through from beginning to end. For example in conveyancing, debt collecting, making and dealing with wills and matrimonial cases.
The practising barrister is essentially a consultant offering specialist services as an adviser and advocate in all matters involving the law. In the first instance the barrister does not meet the lay client, namely the person who may require advice or representation, but if it is necessary the solicitor takes instructions from the client and approaches the barrister to advise or to represent the client in court. The distancing of the barrister from the client is seen to be advantageous in that it helps maintain impartiality.
Where a case proceeds the solicitor carries out some of the preparatory work. Barristers, with their intimate knowledge of litigation, of the ways of the court and of the judiciary, concentrate on the presentation of the case. Meetings between barrister and client take place according to needs and circumstances. Often things go no further if the claim or defence is unlikely to succeed.
The Composition of the Bar
There are 54 Queen's Counsel, barristers who have earned a high reputation and are appointed by the Queen on the recommendation of the Lord Chief Justice as senior advocates and advisers. The title does not imply an association with the State.
Those barristers who are not Queen's Counsel are called Junior Counsel. This term is misleading since many members of the Junior Bar are experienced barristers with considerable expertise.
The role of the Benchers, the Executive Council and the Bar Council
The Executive Council (through its Education Committee) is responsible for considering Memorials submitted by applicants for admission as students of the Inn and by Bar students of the Inn for admission to the degree of Barrister-at-Law and making recommendations to the Benchers. The Benchers also have the exclusive power of expelling or suspending a Bar student and of disbarring a barrister or suspending a barrister from practice.
The Executive Council is also involved with the education fees of students, calling counsel to the Bar (although call to the Bar is performed by the Lord Chief Justice on the invitation of the Benchers), administration of the Bar Library (to which all practicing members belong), and liaising with corresponding bodies in other countries.
The Bar Council is responsible for the maintenance of the standards, honour and independence of the Bar and, through its Professional Conduct Committee, receives and investigates complaints against members of the Bar in their professional capacity.
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Continuing Legal Education Requirements
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Practice by Foreign Lawyers
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