Barristers give legal advice and appear on behalf of clients in civil, family and criminal cases in courts and tribunals.
Graduate barristers usually earn
$40K-$45K per year
Barristers with more than three years' experience usually earn
$70K-$250K per year
Source: Robert Walters, 'Global Salary Survey', 2017.
Pay for barristers varies depending on their experience, what firm or agency they work for, and the region they work in.
- Graduate barristers usually earn $40,000 to $45,000 a year.
- Barristers with two to four years' experience usually earn $45,000 to $70,000.
- Barristers with more than three years' experience usually earn $70,000 to $250,000.
Source: Robert Walters, 'Global Salary Survey', 2017.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Barristers may do some or all of the following:
- give legal advice to solicitors and solicitors' clients
- give legal opinions
- prepare and conduct civil, criminal and family cases in court
- prepare and present cases to tribunals and committees.
Skills and knowledge
Barristers need to have:
- knowledge of New Zealand laws and the legal system
- knowledge of courthouse procedure
- ability to present evidence in court
- legal research skills.
- usually work regular business hours, but may need to work evenings and weekends doing research
- work in offices and courts
- may travel to attend court, talk to witnesses or view scenes relevant to a case.
What's the job really like?
Variation keeps the job interesting
Nicolette Levy advises people on how to deal with the court process. "Some people just want me to give them an opinion, some want me to issue proceedings, and others want me to try mediation, so it varies.
"One of the things that I like about being a barrister is that a really interesting issue can arise, whether it's a $20,000 case or a $2 million case."
What kind of person do you need to be?
Nicolette says the hardest aspect of being a barrister is seeing things from an impartial point of view. "You need to be able to be objective – you need to be able to bring a sort of calm, unbiased mind to a person's problems. It's good if you can be quite a lateral thinker.
"When I decided I wanted to be a lawyer, I enjoyed the speaking part of the law degree and the mock court. You need to have confidence to speak in court, but that is something that very much comes with practice and time."
To become a barrister you need to:
- complete a Bachelor of Laws degree (LLB)
- complete a Professional Legal Studies Course
- get a completion certificate from the New Zealand Council of Legal Education
- get a certificate of character from the Law Society
- be admitted to the roll of Barristers and Solicitors of the High Court of New Zealand
- hold a current practising certificate issued by the Law Society.
- College of Law New Zealand website - information on the professional legal studies course
- Institute of Professional Legal Studies website - information on the professional legal studies course
- New Zealand Council of Legal Education website - information on the completion certificate
- New Zealand Law Society website - information on becoming a barrister
A tertiary entrance qualification is required to enter further training. Useful subjects include English, history and classical studies, social studies and te reo Māori.
Barristers need to be:
- able to think on their feet
- good at working under pressure
- ethical, responsible and able to keep information private
- good at public speaking.
Useful experience for barristers includes:
- general legal work
- solicitor work
- public speaking.
Barristers need to be registered with the New Zealand Law Society and hold a current practising certificate.
Find out more about training
- NZ Law Society
- (04) 472 7837 - firstname.lastname@example.org - www.lawsociety.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Strong competition for barrister jobs
Competition for barrister positions is high due to a falling number of jobs.
Your chances of securing work are best if you:
- have at least five years of experience as a solicitor
- look for work in the main cities of Auckland and Wellington.
According to the Census, 1,116 barristers worked in New Zealand in 2018.
Retirement may increase opportunities
The barrister workforce is ageing, with more than half of barristers over 45 years old. More vacancies will arise as they retire.
Small range of employers
Most barristers start out as junior barristers working for a senior barrister at a law firm. Once they gain experience they usually become self-employed.
- Adlam, G, 'Robots Could Replace Lawyers, claims Massey Researcher', 23 June 2016, (www.lawsociety.org.nz).
- Adlam, G, 'Similarities Between New Zealand and Australian Solicitor Demographics', 20 July 2017, (www.lawsociety.org.nz).
- Bolza, M, 'Robots Replacing Lawyers a Near Certainty', 22 February 2016, (www.nzlawyermagazine.co.nz).
- The Law Foundation, 'Research Reveals Changes are Needed to Retain Young Lawyers in this Profession', June 2016, (www.lawfoundation.org.nz).
- New Zealand Law Society, 'Artificial Intelligence and the Law', 20 January 2017, (www.lawsociety.org.nz).
- New Zealand Law Society, 'Snapshot of the Profession 2016', 04 May 2016, (www.lawsociety.org.nz).
- Robert Walters, 'Global Salary Survey', 2017, (www.robertwalters.co.nz).
- Stats NZ, '2018 Census Data', 2019.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Barristers usually progress to set up their own practice.
Barristers may specialise in an area of law such as:
- family law
- criminal law
- environmental law
- commercial law
- human rights.
Last updated 14 September 2020