Introduction to the Bar
The Bar is the specialist profession of barristers, who have been providing expert legal advice and using advocacy skills to represent clients in court since the 13th century. Although some solicitors may now qualify for rights of audience in the Courts of England and Wales, the quality of expertise and advocacy provided by the Bar remains pre-eminent.
There are two ranks of barristers. The majority are ‘Juniors’ (although they might be far from junior in the profession). When barristers have achieved sufficient experience and eminence in the profession, they may apply to become appointed to the ranks of Queen's Counsel, also known as ‘QCs’ or ‘Silks’. Barristers having achieved this rank of distinction are permitted to exchange the gowns made of wool traditionally worn by Juniors for gowns made of silk, hence the name.
The representative body of the profession is the General Council of the Bar, composed almost entirely of practising barristers and largely elected by the Bar itself.
The regulatory arm of the Bar Council is the Bar Standards Board.
Lying behind the formal training requirements of the Bar Professional Training Course, which all student barristers must take as part of their qualification for practice, is a very considerable degree of financial, pastoral, educational and training support which is provided by the four Inns of Court.
The Council of the Inns of Court (COIC) is the representative body of the four Inns, through which they work collectively on strategic and policy matters relating to the Inn’s support for the profession of the Bar. COIC also serves as the co-ordinating body between all the Inns.