10 things every aspiring barrister should know

Dermot Ryan SC
Dermot Ryan SC has 36 years at the Bar including 21 years as Senior Counsel.

Are you considering going to the Bar in the future? Want to get the inside scoop on what is involved? Look no further then these top 10 tips from ANU College of Law alumnus Dermot Ryan (BA/LLB (Hons) '75, LLM '80), who has more than 30 years' experience as a commercial barrister.

  1. Be a solicitor first

It is highly recommended that you become a solicitor first. This gives you experience and allows you to grow your networks. You’ll learn that time is precious as you become more disciplined and (hopefully) more empathic. As a solicitor, you need stamina and should always be polite.

  1. Don’t let anything hold you back

Your economic, demographic or social positioning within society doesn’t determine whether you go to the Bar – your ambition does. At the state and territory level you’ll find diversity and inclusion promoted at the Bar so that barristers better reflect society.  

  1. Take that step

Stop delaying or wishing you did and follow your dreams. It has been said there is never a right time to go. You need to decide if it is the right time.

Associate Professor Anthony Hopkins is a barrister with a decade of experience at the Bar.

  1. Age is not a factor

It doesn’t matter how young or old you are – as long as you look the part, you can be the part. The average age of a barrister is 46, proving it’s never too late to make your mark as a “silk”.

  1. Children won’t stop you

Even if you have children you can still do it. You are allowed to be flexible in your schedule.

  1. Have a financial plan

It is important to save up money. You need to pay to get through the Bar course and you need to live until feeing starts coming in.

  1. Reading is important

“Reading” in a legal sense is when a lawyer is issued an initial practising certificate and undertakes a program for at least 12 months. It remains a “fundamentally important” component of success at the bar, having economic, professional and sociological phenomena attached to it.

  1. Get a tutor or two

The reading program requires the tutor, or more senior barrister, to take their reader to court, undertake chamber work and give other “hands-on” training necessary to becoming a barrister. Don’t be afraid to ask to be tutored. It will get your foot in the door and open up your networks.

  1. Bar exams and courses are compulsory

You will complete a one-day Bar exam, which consists of writing two papers. You must also attend a four-week Bar course. It is full time and intense! During this time you cannot charge or earn money as a lawyer.

  1. Be affable, available and able

By following the three As you will succeed.

Updated:  10 August 2015/Responsible Officer:  College General Manager, ANU College of Law/Page Contact:  Law Marketing Team