The Bar in United Kingdom

Definition of Bar

In accordance with the work A Dictionary of Law, this is a description of Bar :

1. A legal impediment.

2. An imaginary barrier in a court of law. Only Queen’s Counsel, officers of the court, and litigants in person are allowed between the bar and the *bench when the court is in session

3. A rail near the entrance to each House of Parliament beyond which nonmembers may not pass but to which they may be summoned (e.g. for reprimand).

Definition of Bar

In accordance with the work A Dictionary of Law, this is a description of Bar :

*barristers, collectively. To be called to the Bar is to be admitted to the profession by one of the Inns of Court.

In law, a word having several meanings; thus, it is the term used to signify an enclosure or fixed place in a court of justice where lawyers may plead. In Enghsh superior courts King’s counsel are admitted within the bar; other members of the bar sit or stand outside. A railed-off space within the Houses of Lords and Commons is similarly called the bar. The dock, or enclosed space, where accused persons stand or sit during their trial is also called the bar; hence the expression “prisoner at the bar.” It has also a general meaning in legal procedure, signifying something by way of stoppage or prevention. There is also a trial at bar — that is, a trial before the judges of a particular court, who sit together for that purpose in hanc. The term is used both in England and the United States as a synonym for the legal profession.


  • Bar (law), in a legal context has three possible meanings: the division of a courtroom between its working and public areas; the process of qualifying to practice law; and the legal profession
  • Bar examination, an examination conducted at regular intervals to determine whether a candidate is qualified to practice law in a given jurisdiction
  • Bar association, a professional body of lawyers. Some bar associations are responsible for the regulation of the legal profession in their jurisdiction; others are professional organizations dedicated to serving their members; in many cases, they are both.

Definition of Bar Professional Training Course

The bptc (formerly known as the bar vocational course) is intended to cover the vocational stage in a barrister’s training.

Bar in North Ireland

Barristers are ‘called to the Bar’ when they have finished their training, they are then allowed to represent clients.

The Bar is also a collective term for all barristers, represented by the Bar Council of Northern Ireland. As at 1 May 2010 there were almost 606 members of the Bar Library.


This term, as equivalent to the profession of barrister (q.v.), originated in the partition or bar dividing the English law-courts into two parts, for the purpose of separating the members and officials of the court from the prisoners or suitors, their advocates and the general public. Theoretically, this division of the court is still maintained in England, those who are entitled to sit within the bar including king’s counsel, barristers with patents of precedence, serjeants (till the order died out) and solicitors, while the other members of the bar and the general public remain without. Parties in civil suits who appear in person are allowed to stand on the floor within the bar instead of, as formerly, appearing at the bar itself.

In criminal trials the accused still stands forward at the bar. There is also a “bar” in parliament. In the House of Commons it remains literally a bar—a long brass rod hidden in a tube from which it is pulled out when required to mark the technical boundary of the House. Before it appear those who are charged with having violated the privileges of the House; below it also sit those members who have been returned at bye-elections, to await their introduction to the House and the taking of the oath of allegiance. In the House of Lords the place where Mr Speaker and the members of the House of Commons stand when summoned by Black Rod is called “the bar.”

The “call to the bar” in England, by which a law student at one of the Inns of Court is converted into a barrister, is dealt with under Inns of Court. The exclusive privilege of calling to the bar belongs to those bodies, which also exercise disciplinary power over their members; but it was widely felt by members of the bar in recent years that the benchers or governing body with their self-elected members did not keep a sufficiently watchful eye on the minutiae of the profession.

Consequently, in 1883, a bar committee was formed for the purpose of dealing with all matters relating to the profession, such as the criticizing of proposed legal reforms, and the expression of opinions on matters of professional etiquette, conduct and practice. In 1894 the committee was dissolved, and succeeded by the general council of the bar, elected on a somewhat wider basis. It is composed of a due proportion of king’s counsel and outer barristers elected by voting-papers sent to all barristers having an address in the Law List within the United Kingdom. Its expenses are paid by contributions from the four Inns of Court. Its powers are not disciplinary, but it would draw the attention of the benchers to any gross violation of the professional etiquette of the bar.

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica (1911)


See Also

  • Law Society
  • Bar examination
  • Bar association


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