The First Couple of Years of Practice


  • Where will my instructions come from? 

Instructions may come from a combination of sources, including:


  • Your stable: agents or other clerks often contact your clerk looking for junior advocates. Your clerk will regularly send emails around the junior advocates in your stable asking whether you would be interested in a particular opportunity. 
  • Your contacts from practice as a solicitor: this may include former colleagues in private practice or former clients who are in-house solicitors. 
  • Your devilmasters: who will often provide opportunities where they are not able to accept an instruction or where they become aware of an opportunity that may be suitable for one of their devils. 
  • New contacts: you will meet many people during devilling and after you call who may be potential instructing agents or a source of referrals. This may include other advocates. 
  • COPFS: historically, many new calls would undertake Crown Junioring with the COPFS. In 2023 there has been a reduction in the number of Crown Juniors instructed by COPFS. However, opportunities still exist to work on large or complex cases. Depending on your level of criminal law experience, there may also be opportunities in time to become an ad hoc or full-time advocate depute. 


  • How much will I earn? How quickly will I start earning money? 

An advocate willing and able to work hard, develop their practice, and make good connections with instructing agents can expect to earn a good income. It is not a job where anyone can rest on their laurels. It is hard work but it pays off.

 Those who have freshly called to the bar generally have access to three types of work: 

  • Quick paying, fixed-rate instructions for Crown Junioring, legal aid or equivalent cases.
  • Private paying, negotiable fee payable within 28 days of completion of the work.
  • Fees paid upon completion of a case. 


  • How do I manage holidays? Caring responsibilities? 

As an advocate, you will be self-employed and will not have an annual leave entitlement nor receive paid leave for sickness, caring commitments or bereavements. This is likely to mean that you can be more flexible with your working arrangements and holiday arrangements, but that there will also be times when arranging holidays and dealing with working commitments that arise whilst you’re away can be challenging. Your clerks will be able to assist with marking out your diary for periods when you are unavailable and they can also correspond with agents at times when you’re not able to answer calls or emails.


  • What are the pros/cons of self-employment? 

Self-employment gives ultimate flexibility to you in terms of organising your working day and schedules. You can set your own diary and take time off when you chose. You can also (within reason) dictate your own fees for the (non-legal aid) work that you do. 

It does come with a few administrative burdens and risks. Faculty will advise you on professional indemnity insurance. You should instruct an accountant to advise you on tax – certainly to begin with registering for VAT and quarterly VAT payments will be issues to be aware of. 

You are also your own safety net. If you die unexpectedly or are ill and cannot work, you will not earn. Consider insurance cover to protect you and your family. 


  • What happens if I get sick? What about pensions, “holiday pay”, parental leave?

As with all self-employed persons, time out of practice, whether for illness, holiday or parental leave, is funded by the individual. With holidays and parental leave, the individual advocate is generally able to plan for these periods and fund them through their work at other points in the year(s) preceding or following them. For illness, as with many self-employed persons, advocates may consider taking out insurance for critical illness cover. This comes at a cost but may offer some comfort to individuals considering becoming self-employed. 


  • What about tax, VAT and accounts? 

Advocates are subject to the same accounting and VAT requirements as other self-employed people and there is a lot of information and support available at Faculty to ensure you know the accounting and tax obligations you need to adhere to.


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