A ‘barrister’ is an independent specialist advocate and advisor. As a general rule, members of the public cannot brief a barrister directly through a solicitor.  A simplistic analogy is to see the solicitor as a General Practitioner and the barrister as a specialist.  You would need a referral to a specialist from the GP.

What do Barristers do?

A barrister is best known for their advocacy before the Courts but it is true to say that their strength lies in Dispute Resolution, both judicial (before Courts or tribunals) and non-judicial (through negotiation, mediation or arbitration).

A barrister has the training and experience to anticipate the range of likely outcomes and to work with the solicitor and their client to choose the most appropriate path, so it is helpful to involve a barrister at the outset.

A barrister’s advice at this time can help to clarify the management of the entire dispute resolution process and empower clients to make informed decisions.

Advice and Opinions

Because of a barrister’s intimate knowledge of the Courts, their specialisation in advocacy and litigation and their ability to quickly identify the crucial points of a case, barristers are also valued for their advice and opinion work and they are often called upon to assist in this regard as soon as a dispute is indicated.

Early advice and skillful negotiations can obviate the need for costly litigation and a barrister can weigh up all considerations before advising on a course of action which involves litigation.


If the case does proceed to trial, a barrister can provide effective representation and advocacy, with:

  • Specialised knowledge of their area of law
  • Detailed knowledge of the rules of evidence and their application
  • Full understanding of litigation tactics
  • The skills to identify the most appropriate case preparation
  • The ability to persuade the client’s adversary or the Court of the merits of the case.

Alternative Dispute Resolution (‘ADR’)

A growing number of barristers specialise in arbitration and alternative dispute resolution (ADR).

Arbitration is widely accepted as an alternative form of resolving commercial disputes, particularly in the context of international commercial transactions.

Increasingly, Australian barristers have expertise in domestic and international commercial arbitrations with many approved as arbitrators with national and international bodies.  Other forms of ADR include mediation, expert determination and hybrid dispute resolution processes.