A Barrister's Role and Their Titles

A barrister is an independent legal practitioner who acts as an advisor in law and is a specialist advocate. With their experience and knowledge of the law, they make a great difference to the outcome of cases.

Barristers’ strengths are found within their Dispute Resolution in judicial and non-judicial contexts as they have gone through training that has equipped them with the knowledge and experience to navigate the variety of outcomes in a case. They work hand in hand with Solicitors and their clients to advise and choose the most appropriate path. Barristers are equipped with and provide specialised knowledge of their area of law, a full understanding of litigation tactics, the ability to persuade the client’s opponent or the Court of the merits of the case, detailed knowledge of the rules of evidence and their matter, and the skills to identify the most appropriate case preparation.

Many of us have heard the terms ‘QC’ ‘KC’, ‘Silk’, ‘Senior Counsel, and ‘Junior Counsel’ used in reference to barristers – but what do those terms mean? ‘QC’ and ‘KC’ are abbreviations for the terms ‘Queen’s Counsel’ and ‘King’s Counsel’, respectively. Both these titles are known to apply to those barristers who are considered ‘Senior Counsel’. While Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II reigned, those who are now known as ‘KC’ were titled Queen’s Counsel. After the passing of Her Majesty and the accession of His Majesty King Charles III, Queen’s Counsel became King’s Counsel. These were used to reflect Australia’s British heritage and how our legal system was derived primarily from the Westminster system from the United Kingdom. Since 1993 and to the present, those who reaches seniority in the area who would have otherwise been afforded the title “QC’ or ‘KC’ are instead titled with Senior Counsel only.  However, barristers who were given then title now being ‘KC’ are able to retain it and as such there are very few barristers who are KCs in Australia left.

‘Senior Counsel’ are barristers who are of high seniority and eminence in that within the legal profession they have a high standing and whose achievements result in the assumption that they will provide outstanding advocacy services and advice. Barristers who are considered Senior Counsel will have the title ‘SC’ after their name and must have an exceptional degree of integrity, honesty, independence, diligence, skill and experience. Senior Counsel are nicknamed and colloquially known as ‘Silks’ as the robes they are required to wear in Court are made of silk material compared to that of Junior Counsel whose robes are made of cotton.

Junior Counsel is a barrister who has yet to attain the term of Senior Counsel. Junior Counsel is often briefed by their ‘leader’, who is Senior Counsel. What is required of them will depend on the given matter, however their primary function is to assist Senior Counsel.

If you or someone you know wish to discuss this issue further, then please do not hesitate to contact us on 02 8999 9809.

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