Law in good order

PUBLISHED: 12:51 09 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:20 06 May 2010

OCCUPATION: Barristers Clerk NAME: Candace Fox AGE: 26 PERSONAL: Candace studied law at Manchester University, but while she enjoyed the theory she didn t feel she would be comfortable as a practising lawyer and wondered whether there was a different rol

OCCUPATION: Barristers' Clerk

NAME: Candace Fox

AGE: 26

PERSONAL: Candace studied law at Manchester University, but while she enjoyed the theory she didn't feel she would be comfortable as a practising lawyer and wondered whether there was a different role to which she could apply her knowledge.

After leaving university, Candace found a position as a junior clerk with a small barristers' chambers in the same city where she spent a year learning the basics of the role. She had been particularly interested in family law during her studies so moved to a larger chambers in Birmingham which had a dedicated family law department.

Candace has now completed the Institute of Barristers' Clerks (IBC) BTEC course and is studying to further expand her knowledge of the practice's commercial side. She hopes to gain promotion to senior clerk within the next two years but realises it may mean moving chambers yet again.

JOB DESCRIPTION

Barristers' clerks are attached to a chambers (a company of barristers) where they handle the business affairs and administration of the practice. Clerks are responsible for fielding calls from potential clients, dividing the work between barristers, arranging meetings between lawyers and clients, ensuring counsel has enough time to handle the case adequately and supplying materials they may need for research or while in court.

The number of chambers outstrips the demand for work and it is an increasingly important aspect of clerks' work to draw attention to their practice's skills and drum up work for the barristers they support. They watch out for details of upcoming cases that might suit the firm and maintain contact with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to ensure counsel has been allocated to criminal cases.

SKILLS & PERSONALITY

Clerks deal with a huge variety of different people on a daily basis: barristers in their own and other chambers, solicitors, court officials, judges and clients. It is vital they are articulate communicators who can establish solid working relationships quickly. This includes having a good telephone manner and impressive written communication skills. As a large part of the job is about attracting customers and agreeing fees, a talent for negotiation is also essential.

With an average of one clerk to five barristers in any chambers, they will always be handling more than one case at a time so they need to be able to organise large amounts of information quickly and efficiently. Planning ahead is also key as clerks need to know which barristers are available to take on work and whether workloads can be shifted so the most appropriate lawyer is assigned to a case.

TRAINING & ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

Traditionally, it has not been necessary to have a degree to become a barristers' clerk - the minimum requirement is four GCSEs at grade C or above. However, as the profession becomes more focused on management of chambers and finding work for its members, it's desirable to hire graduates. A law degree will obviously be helpful, as will business studies.

Training takes place on the job, usually under the supervision of an experienced clerk. Duties will usually start off general and administrative - finding research materials, taking books and papers to court, making travel arrangements for barristers and so on - with more responsibility added as experience increases.

The Institute of Barristers' Clerks (IBC) also offers a two-year BTEC course aimed specifically at junior clerks which covers general skills as well as giving a grounding in business and management. Studies are made up of a combination of assignments, portfolio work and exams. Passing the course certifies competence as a junior clerk.

EARNINGS & PROSPECTS

Junior clerks work their way up to first juniors before they can consider promotion to senior clerk level. Once they have attained the rank of senior clerk, their job title won't change much but their responsibilities (such as taking on the negotiation of fees, or overseeing a particular department) will vary as they gain experience.

As with every competitive industry, starting salaries for clerks are often frighteningly low, with non-degree-level juniors on as little as £10,000. Graduates can expect to earn more, but working as a junior won't bring you limitless riches overnight.

Depending on their experience, responsibilities and skills portfolio, senior clerks can earn anything between £30,000 and £100,000.

MAIN MOAN

"It's difficult to plan my social life ahead of time as my evenings and weekends can be swallowed up without notice by complex cases."

MAIN SATISFACTION

"Working so closely with the barristers on the front line - I know my work is helping them win cases and making a difference to others."

MORE INFORMATION

The Institute of Barristers' Clerks: http://www.barristersclerks.com/

The Law Careers Advice Network: http://www.lcan.org.uk

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