Who Are You Calling a Paralegal?

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The title of non-practising barrister needs to be given more weight to reflect Bar school graduates’ educational achievements, argues OccupyTheInns

In his Legal Cheek article last week Simon Myerson QC referred to me as an “anonymous paralegal”. This was saddening because Mr Myerson – whose work I had hitherto regarded with the upmost respect – should know that those who have been called to the Bar (as I was fortunate enough to have been last summer) receive the title of ‘barrister’. If a renowned QC cannot get such detail correct, what hope is there for humbler members of the legal profession and legal support staff?

One of the most frustrating aspects of my present predicament, which involves me performing solicitor-level tasks professionally, is the insistence of many in referring to me as a paralegal despite my being a barrister – albeit a non-practising one until I obtain pupillage. My barrister friends currently engaged in the fiendishly difficult hunt for a pupillage have had similar experiences.

An elite path

It is a shame we must face this. I, and those like me, have four to five years of educational and legal training behind us, delivered at some of the best universities in the country, and we have been deemed sufficiently talented to follow the elite path to the Bar.

While some untrained paralegals may have the capability to develop first class legal skills after completing the aforementioned training, they do not without it. Accordingly, for the good of the profession, a distinction must be drawn between non-practising barristers and support workers.

At this point of my writing I can already imagine some of the small-minded commenters who seem attracted to this site sharpening their pencils to attack me.

“You can call yourself a barrister when you obtain pupillage,” they will predictably write, or some other such similar trite statement.

To which I say the following. Pupillage numbers are lower than ever yet the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), for which entry to is considerably oversubscribed, continues to produce barristers. If the Bar Council is to remain indifferent to this situation, it should support those of us presently stranded without pupillage by formalising the non-practising barrister title.

By making it clear to law firms and others involved in legal services provision that we are barristers, not paralegals, BPTC graduates would at least be afforded some protection during a difficult period. It is the very least the Bar Council could do.

OccupyTheInns graduated from the BPTC last summer, and was called to the Bar in July 2011. There’s more from OccupyTheInns here.


James Vine

I’ve not heard before of a called member of the bar who has yet to complete pupillage, being called a “paralegal.” Personally I can’t see anything wrong with you describing yourself as a barrister, so long as you do not hold yourself out as being competent to practise, until such a time as you have completed pupillage. (I’m not suggesting you are incompetent, just not in possession of a practising certificate.)
To suggest that places on BPTC should be restricted smacks of pulling up the drawbridge, but there is an argument for saying that students should not be encouraged to splash out thousands of pounds on a qualification that they have no chance of pursuing in practice.



Seriously? In that case, I’m going to start describing myself as a non-practising astronaut, or a non-flying pilot. Technically I’ve not gone to medical school, so maybe I’m a non-practising surgeon?

“We have been deemed sufficiently talented to follow the elite path to the Bar” – See, the thing is – YOU haven’t. Nobody has thus far deemed you sufficiently talented to offer you a pupillage. So whilst that might sound harsh, it’s not really for you to moan that you don’t get to use the title.

The solution is to follow the (eminently sensible) path of solicitors, who don’t get the call themselves solicitors until they’ve actually completed a training contract. But I suspect you would be annoyed if the BSB tried to take away your shiny (yet worthless) bauble.

You have a well-established sense of self-entitlement (see previous posts passim), but I really fail to see any evidence to explain where you’ve got it from. I’m rapidly coming to the conclusion that your posts are little more than trolling.



The title that your employers give you is up to them. If they want to call you a “non-practising barrister” and expose themselves to (at best) having to explain your position to people not familiar with the stages of legal professional training and (at worst) having to respond to criticisms by clients and/or regulatory bodies for holding out an employee as a legal professional, when in fact he has no privileges beyond that of a person with no legal qualification whatsoever, then that’s up to them.

Perhaps even more so than other professions, the words “barrister” and “solicitor” carry with them a hell of a lot of weight with the public, who will be inclined to make all sorts of assumptions about what you can and can’t do. You have two issues there- first, that you create confusion in the minds of members of the public, and second that you get to enjoy some of the cache that actually qualified barristers have, as a profession, earned. The fact that you blew a load of cash on a course which, frankly, leaves you pretty ill-prepared for legal practice anyway, is not a sufficient reason to force these issues on two professions already struggling to maintain trust with the public.

As a related point- I think there was a guy who recently got struck off for giving out legal advice while handing a card to people that said “non-practising barrister” at the
bottom. Presumably he went further than that and did in fact hold himself out to be qualified, but it illustrates to an extent my point about the risks of using a meaningless title.

As an unrelated point- stop. whingeing. about. everything.



What a disgustingly arrogant opinion to hold. Many solicitors to be undertake paralegal work before securing or starting a training contract – they have completed training of identical length but I have never, ever heard of a future solicitor complaining about having the “title” paralegal.

You may have a few years of education under your belt but in the workplace, unless you already have work experience, you are nothing. You’ve passed a few exams? Whoop dee do! Many legal support workers have legal qualifications similar, if not identical, to your own. I’m sure most people are happy to have a legal job and be in a position where they could potentially learn a lot from those they are working with. You might even learn a thing or two from the “humbler” members of the legal profession who will always be there in the future to ensure you are able to do your job.

I agree with “Barrister” above when he says that only *you* have deemed your path to the bar as elite – the reality is that pretty much anyone with a law degree or GDL can get onto the BPTC. Recognition of your talent is securing a pupillage which you have failed to do so far. If your perception of the work you do hinges on the status of your job title then you’re clearly not in the profession to promote justice. Nobody cares if you’re a paralegal, you’re making a positive contribution to a case, isn’t that enough?

If you really believe that you deserve recognition above that of a paralegal, please develop your argument a little and demonstrate exactly how, with examples, your contribution to the work you do is more sophisticated than a mere paralegal. I look forward to your response.



What I do think is interesting, is that OccupyTheInns never gets involved replying to the “small-minded commenters” – I think you’d get a lot more respect if you actually engaged with the counter-arguments being put forward, rather than churning out more of the same self-pitying dross.



I’m actually a bit shocked and surprised that you can even call yourself a non-practising barrister. To be accurate you should be a “not entitled to practice barrister”. Having spent most of my career as a barrister in employed practice (yes I have completed pupillage) I don’t see why you should get an upgrade in title from the paralegal that you actually are to parity with me. 😉

Use the badge when you’ve earned it. Its value comes from its relative scarcity. Perhaps there’s an argument for following the accountancy profession in allowing people to describe themselves as part-qualified, but you’ve already got that in contrast to those who have completed the lpc but no training contract as you have at least been called to the bar.


Adam Wagner

The Bar Code of Conduct states that you cannot hold yourself out as a barrister, defined as “supplies legal services and in connection with the supply of such services” unless (amongst other things) you have a practising certificate, which means you need to have done a pupillage – see

I’m fairly sure holding yourself out as non-practising barrister whilst doing your paralegal job may land you in trouble, but perhaps speak to the BSB.

This Institute of Paralegals page is useful and clear:

It says:

“Bar students who have successfully completed the Bar Professional Training Course (formerly the Bar Vocational Course or BVC) and who have been “called” to the Bar, but who have not yet done pupillage (pupillage is equivalent to the two-year training contract undertaken by trainee solicitors). These individuals are entitled to call themselves barristers as long as they do not do so in connection with the delivery of legal services (The Bar Council tells us that without pupillage, the term “barrister” is effectively akin to an academic title). So barristers without pupillage practising as paralegals are not entitled to refer to themselves as barristers – although they can socially.”

I think that reflects the fair position, to be honest. I speak as a current practising barrister and former paralegal. You’re right that paralegals often carry out similar tasks to more senior lawyers, but that is a separate issue to the question of whether people should be able to hold themselves out as barristers for professional benefit (or the confusing “non-practising barrister”, which to the public could mean anything. What is a non-practising doctor? etc) without having completed their training.

An accurate reflection of your qualification would be to put “BPTC” in your web C.V.

I personally think that the BSB / Bar Council should share some of the blame for this confusion, as people shouldn’t be referred to as barristers (in my opinion) after they are called to the Bar. When I was called I remember hearing that was changing, but it appears to have continued.


Adam Wagner

PS are you being 100% serious, by the way? I do wonder with some of your articles which appear to be perfectly pitched to wind up barristers and solicitors…


Benjamin Gray

Following on from what Adam just said, the BSB is much more explicit on this point:

Barristers without Pupillage

If you have not yet secured pupillage or do not intend to apply for it but still wish to provide legal services then you must be careful not to describe yourself as a barrister in connection with the provision of such services. Remember that the Code defines legal services as the provision of legal advice, representation, drafting, settling of any affidavit, statement of claim or other legal document. If you do any of this you should not hold yourself out as a barrister or use any other terms or expressions which would suggest that you are a barrister such as counsel, member of the Bar or member of an Inn, barrister-at-law or barrister (non-practising) This applies equally to any printed material used in connection with advertising of any legal services.

You may describe yourself as a barrister on a CV or when applying for jobs through recruitment agencies but it is not acceptable for you to do so when providing legal services. Descriptions such as Legal Adviser, Caseworker, Legal Assistant or Para-Legal are all acceptable and may be used instead.”

The clear implication being that you should not, if you work as a paralegal, call yourself a non-practising barrister.


Adam Wagner

Thanks Ben. That is a bit clearer – although, I find this sentence difficult to stomach , in terms of the public face of the profession:

“You may describe yourself as a barrister on a CV or when applying for jobs through recruitment agencies ”

That surely demonstrates the unwieldy and unnecessary distinction between calling yourself a barrister when “providing legal services” and when not doing so. For example, would the firm which employed you as a “barrister” then be able to put a news item on their website referring to you as a barrister? It’s all unnecessarily confusing and I think the term should be exclusive to those who have done the full training.

None of this detracts from the fact that OccupytheInns (who I am increasingly suspecting may be a hoax / troll, but apologies if I am wrong) shouldn’t be saying they are a non-practising barrister, full stop.


Adam Wagner

PPS @OccupytheInns – if you promise you are not a hoax/troll ( I’ll stop calling you one!


Benjamin Gray

I think it’s to do with wider recruitment, but I agree there’s not much logic to having certain categories where it’s allowed. Botzarelli’s suggestion of using the term “part qualified” makes much more sense.


Adam Wagner

I don’t like “part-qualified”. I think it should be a binary thing, i.e. you are or you are not. You wouldn’t want a medical student to hold themselves out as “part-qualified doctor”. The key is public understanding, and for me that puts clarity over the dubious professional benefits to those mid-qualification of calling themselves half-barristers.


Antonin I. Pribetic

Potato, potawto, tomato, tomawto.

Please stop making it difficult for unqualified (or yet to be qualified) barristers to represent themselves to the public as qualified by the Bar Standards Board. How else is someone who never stepped into a courtroom, except to fight a traffic ticket, going to secure a pupillage or become a social media law guru?

Seriously, in Canada, (except Quebec), the Bar has been been fused for over a century and all lawyers held the title of “barrister and solicitor”. The fact that most solicitors were transactional lawyers and had neither any litigation experience (i.e. drafting pleadings) nor any trial advocacy experience, did not prohibit them from acting in both capacities to argue a case in court from start to finish. Any judge can tell when someone is out of their depth the moment they start asking for the witness’ last statement to be “stricken from the record.”

Of course, all of this is now rendered moot (at least in the province of Ontario where I practice) as both lawyers (formerly barristers and solicitors) and paralegals- both licensed and regulated by the Law Society of Upper Canada— are termed “Licensees”. This is an unfortunate development, in my opinion, since it may cause confusion in the public’s mind that usually associates licensing with street vendors, building contractors and, ahem, therapeutic massage parlours.

The title “non-practicing barrister” is an oxymoron. The standard definition of “Barrister” is a lawyer admitted to plead at the bar in the superior courts. The comments by Adam Wagner and Benjamin Gray above regarding the completion of pupillage is the key point; but even if this condition is met, if someone chooses never to practice in the courts, then the title of”non-practicing barrister” is a redundancy. It’s better to just call oneself a “barrista” instead and work at Starbucks.


Adam Wagner

The BSB have helpfully tweeted the link to their webpage on the topic:

The following is prohibited (amongst other things):

“Describing oneself to clients or prospective clients as a non-practising barrister or barrister-at-law (titles which have been allowed in the past but not in recent years).”


Benjamin Gray

It’s an odd anomaly that’s getting progressively smoothed out. You’re a qualified (albeit NP) barrister from call. Until a couple of years ago, that allowed you to do the BVC, get called and, if you didn’t get pupillage (or just fancied becoming a solicitor), entitled you to do the QLTT because you were a qualified lawyer, just without a practising certificate. By contrast solicitors aren’t “solicitors” until the end of their TC.

For all its advantages, that had an air of unreality, but being called is a significant enough occasion (and perhaps a consolation prize?) that the “holding out” requirements appear to be a compromise. You can call yourself a barrister, just not where it would make a difference.

The neat solution would be to defer call until the completion of the First Six, to allow for getting the relevant rights of audience. If then, at the end, you decide (or are forced) to do something else, then you can call yourself a NP Barrister. It would also have the advantage of meaning something because you would have been inside court.


Benjamin Gray

In any event I would not put “non-practising barrister” on my CV. To legal recruiters it’s obvious that you mean “didn’t get pupillage”. To everyone else I suspect it means you end up having a damaging conversation where you have to explain the reality of your situation.

Oh, and the condescending attitude towards paralegals, ILEx etc. is pretty abysmal. I hate to think how you’d act in the Clerks’ Room.



I’m one of the NP barristers who took the QLTT a few years ago. People tend to forget that one had to pass the QLTT and work for a solicitors firm showing the SRA evidence of varied training-contract esq experience.

I did that route for a couple of reasons. 1. Because Simon Myerson said if pupillage were a horse, he wouldn’t bet on it; and, my job needed me to have rights of audience (and as we know, NP barristers cannot exercise any rights).

I was very careful never to call myself a barrister. And it still irritates me when NPs run around saying “I’m a barrister, you know”.

If you want the kudos of a professional title, you have to get the A4 bit of paper- which you don’t have.

I used to think the BSB were a bit harsh with the rule. But come to my East end pro Bono clinic and you’ll see punters rocking up with phoney “commissioner for oaths” by “barristers at law” for which they’ve been charged a fortune and have been rejected by the Home Office. So you can blame these idiots for spoiling it for us all.

Anyway kid, if you did have a practising certificate, you’d be even more careful about bragging to the world and it’s wife you’re a barrister.

Finally, let me disabuse you of your misunderstanding of “solicitors work”. You may be sat in a solicitors office filling out forms or running a learner file, but I doubt you’re called upon to exercise judgment – and in case nobody’s told you, judgment is the service we offer.


Jeremy Hopkins

The Director of the BSB today made specific reference to the requirement of the “non-registered” barrister to fall under the regulatory umbrella, in anticipation of there being a valuable space in the market for those falling into this category. In my view, this also seems a pretty foregone conlcusion from a comemrcial point of view.



Wow. Just, wow.

Your false sense of superiority is really quite staggering. You’re among a vast number of graduates of the BPTC who are fighting for less than 200 pupillage places, which you evidently, have not so far, been deemed good enough for. Hardly proof of the elitist image you hold for yourself. Perhaps, your lack of research into the qualifications and training you need under your belt, to actually be called a “barrister” doesn’t say a lot for how much you really deserve to be one of those few pupillage holders. It’s not just a nickname.

Okay, congratulations, you’ve passed the BPTC. Now get on with doing your job and think of the bigger picture. Your job is helping people in court, you’re just a tiny little cog in the works of the justice system. So get over yourself, and God help you when you have to work with those solicitors you so eloquently despise.


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