What exactly is… a barrister’s clerk

455px-Office_1719“Barristers’ clerks are one of the more unusual occupational groups in the UK today. They can be employed or self-employed and they even have their own tax office. […]

Why is this group different? Who are they? What do they do? And, why are they?”

The above comes from a paper by John Flood entitled “The Fall and Rise of Barristers’ Clerks” (refs. below).

Some basic definitions for those outside the UK

  • a barrister: advocate called to the Bar
  • a silk: leading counsel, barristers appointed as Queen’s Counsel (QC), or King’s Counsel (KC) during the reign of a King
  • taking silk: being appointed as a QC/KC
  • chambers or set: office bringing together several junior and senior barristers, run by clerks.
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Let’s start with some preliminary explanations. 😉

A clerk said: “My barristers think they employ me. They don’t: I employ them.”

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One barrister said to another, “My clerk lives in Essex.” The other replied, “My clerk owns Essex.”

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I have actually had this post on ice for many months, pending a promised interview that didn’t happen. But thanks to Jonathan Goldberg, a good friend of this blog (see his guest post here), I discovered that a very detailed feature on the profession has just been published by Bloomberg Business Week – it also includes some great photos. You can read the article here.

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Further reading

Flood, J. (2007). ‘The Fall and Rise of Barristers’ Clerks’, Counsel, 14-16. Available here.

Professor John Flood’s website, where he makes available his 1983 book on barristers’ clerks ‘The Law’s middlemen’.

Here is how Prospects, a UK careers organisation owned by the registered charity Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HECSU), describes the job.

The Institute of Barristers’ Clerks’ website.

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