On the job as a barrister

Sarah Warren studied Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws and now work as a barrister.
Jaymes Carr
Jaymes Carr
Team GradAustralia
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What is your role?

I am a barrister. I graduated from a Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws in 2007.

Can you tell us about your academic and professional history?

I grew up in Condobolin which is a small town in Central West New South Wales. I went to the local primary school and high school before moving away to Armidale for university when I was 17. I worked in retail whilst in high school and in hospitality whilst at university.

In the final year of my degree I got a job as a paralegal for a local sole practitioner. It was a fantastic experience that set me on my way to obtain my first role as a graduate lawyer in Sydney. I first worked in a boutique firm in North Sydney practicing in the commercial division of the firm. I had matters in wills and estates, property law, insolvency and bankruptcy. I eventually moved into personal injury law and worked in plaintiff private practice, defendant private practice and in-house for a national insurer prior to being called to the bar.

How did you get to your current job position and for how long have you had it?

I was called to the bar in 2015 after being admitted for 7 years. I am into my third year at the bar and I have a varied practice in common law and equity. My work involves briefs for plaintiffs and defendants (insurers) in personal injury matters and as well work in family provision law and probate.

Can you share a significant decision that you’ve made in your career?

One of the biggest decision that shaped my life was accepting a role in Sydney and moving within two weeks of accepting the job. It was worth the move and I love Sydney and do not foresee living anywhere else. It is important to consider stepping out of your comfort zone and being ready to be flexible in order to obtain the career you want.

Who do you work for?

I am my own employer and I am responsible for managing my  business in that respect as well as managing my workflow and appearing in court. There are times when competing priorities can be difficult to balance but it all comes with the job.

What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

My daily work varies depending on whether I am in court or not. If I am in court, then my day involves further preparation in the morning prior to court (at times could be client conference or conference with witnesses) and then appearing in court. After court, time is spent reviewing the transcript of what occurred in court (if the matter is ongoing) and preparing for any further days in court for the matter.

If I am not in court, I undertake chamber work or have conferences with instructing solicitors. Chamber work may involve providing an advice on evidence in a matter, the potential quantum of a claim or the prospects of a claim. In addition, there are days spent preparing for hearings or drafting court documents such as affidavits or chronologies.

Could somebody with a different personal background do your job?

Everyone's background contributes to who they are and as a result contributes to who they are as a solicitor/barrister. The legal world is made up of people from different backgrounds which enables clients to find the lawyer that suits them best. My advice is not to look back but look forward, your background should not hold you back from achieving what you want to achieve, it will just take a lot of work to get there.

Which attributes are most valuable in your role?

In my line of work it is important to be able to examine documents with attention to detail but at the same time be able to look at the matter as a whole to determine what issues are important and relevant. It is handy if you enjoy reading because there is a lot of reading involved.

What do you love about your job?

I love the problem solving involved in my job. I am given a problem and I need to find the solution including examining whether a court has deciding the issues before as well as advising on the evidence, the pieces of the puzzle, that are required to reach the possible solution. I enjoy putting into practice all of the preparation that has gone into a hearing and at the end of the day feeling that you have done the best and given it your all. Finding a piece of evidence that leads to concessions during cross examination is a satisfying experience.

Is there a downside toy our job?

My work can be physically demanding as well as emotionally demanding. I have to balance the needs of my clients/instructing solicitors as well as my need to sleep. The workload varies and at times it is non stop and there is a need to work long hours including weekends. It can be emotionally demanding when you are dealing with people at their most vulnerable, when their lives are falling apart around them. It may be due to a death in the family and a subsequent litigation surrounding the estate and emotions run high as does tensions between the litigants. Other times, it involves an injury and the subsequent delving into their personal lives and medical history for the assessment of the claim they have brought for compensation. 

 Learn more about working in this field, jump to Civil litigation law area of practice.