22 September 2019

When might I need a barrister?

There are all kinds of situations when you may need the help of a barrister. They do a wide range of work and help a wide range of people. If you are unsure whether a barrister can help you, it is best to talk to him or her. They can give you advice on whether your problem is one that they can help with. A barrister may or may not charge for giving you this advice - it is up to the barrister whether they do or not. You should always ask the barrister if they will charge you for their advice, and if they do, to agree a price in advance.

What is a legal problem?

What kind of problems do barristers help with?

Are you looking for immigration advice?

What is the difference between a barrister and a solicitor, and which one do I need?

What can I ask a barrister to do for me?

What can't a barrister do for me?


Sometimes it will be obvious that you need legal advice or help - if someone sues you, you are arrested or you are charged with committing a crime. But there are times when it is more difficult to know.

Some common situations where you may need legal help or advice include:

  • An accident involving personal injury or property damage;
  • A family problem such as a divorce or child custody dispute;
  • Discrimination or harassment at work;
  • Starting a new business;
  • The drafting of a will;
  • An arrest or questioning by police;
  • An immigration issue.

Sometimes you may not have a problem yet, but if you think a legal problem may arise you can seek advice on how to prevent it from occurring.


What kind of problems do barristers help with?

A barrister can help with problems where you need advice on your legal rights, draft legal documents for you and represent you in a court or tribunal.


Are you looking for immigration advice?


We have developed specific guidance, in collaboration with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) and the Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner (OISC), on how to access advice and legal services for immigration and asylum issues

The guidance explains:

  • The different types of people and organisations that can assist with immigration and asylum issues;
  • How to choose the best provider;
  • What to expect from providers; and
  • What to do if something goes wrong.

The guidance is available below:

Guidance for the public seeking help for immigration and asylum issues.

We have also produced translations of the guidance. Please follow the link below to view the translations:

Translations of guidance.


What is the difference between a barrister and a solicitor, and which one do I need?


There are two main types of lawyers in England and Wales - barristers and solicitors. Neither type is "better" or more senior than the other, but they are trained differently and do different kinds of work.

Your first port of call will usually be a solicitor. They will work directly with you to help you resolve your legal problems. This means they will meet with you, work out what the case is, sort out necessary paperwork, and communicate with others involved in your case. If the case needs to go to court, a solicitor will often instruct a barrister to advise about the law, or to go to court and represent you.

However, it is also possible for you to go straight to a barrister if you are sure this is the type of lawyer you need. Some barristers are specially registered to work directly for members of the public. These barristers are known as "public access" barristers.

See section"How do I find a barrister?"to find out when and why you might want to go directly to a barrister.

What can I ask a barrister to do for me?


There are a number of different activities or types of work a barrister can do for you. Here are some examples:

  • A barrister may represent you in a court or tribunal;
  • A barrister may give you legal advice;
  • A barrister may draft legal documents for you, such as a will;
  • A barrister may advise you on the formal steps which need to be taken in court proceedings, and draft formal documents for use in those proceedings;
  • A barrister may draft and send letters for you;
  • If a witness statement from you is required in court proceedings, a barrister may prepare that statement from what you tell them;
  • Barristers can negotiate on your behalf and can attend employment, police or investigative hearings where appropriate.


What can't a barrister do for me?


Some barristers are unable to undertake the formal process of taking your case to court. However, some barristers are authorised to do this.  This process is known as "conducting litigation".

Conducting litigation includes such things as filing documents at court and serving documents on others. "Serving documents" on another person means an official handing over of those documents to them.

These kinds of tasks are usually done by a solicitor. However, if you are using a public access barrister you may need to do these things yourself. Your barrister can explain what you would need to do and what they can do for you.

For more information on public access barristers and what they can and cannot do, see the guidance on our website.