A barrister is a legal professional with special responsibility for representing clients in court, as opposed to providing general legal advice and services. A barrister may also be engaged by a solicitor to provide expert advice on narrow points of law. Whereas a solicitor is directly consulted by a client on some legal matter, a barrister generally only becomes involved in a case once advocacy before a court is required. At that point, the solicitor will instruct the barrister on behalf of the client regarding the legal issue. The barrister himself is rarely instructed by a client directly, although this can happen in tax cases.
In England and Wales, barristers are bound by a number of important traditions and conventions. Foremost among these is that to be a barrister, one must be 'called to the Bar' by one of the four Inns of Court. Barristers are regulated by the Bar Standards Board, a division of the General Council of the Bar. (A Bar collectively describes all members of the barristerial profession within a given jurisdiction.) Unlike solicitors, barristers operate as sole practitioners and are prohibited from forming partnerships. However, barristers normally band together into 'chambers' to share clerks (or administrators) and operating expenses. Some chambers are quite large and sophisticated, with an appearance easily mistaken for corporate-style law firms. A small percentage of barristers are employed by such firms, as well as by banks and corporations, in the capacity of in-house legal advisers.
A barrister is eligible to be appointed a circuit judge after 7 years' service, a stipendiary magistrate after 7 years' service, a recorder after 10 years' service, and a High court judge after 10 years' service.