Barristers are sole practitioners. By the time they first arrive at the Victorian Bar as readers, they have most likely applied to and been accepted by a barrister group known as a List. All Lists at the Victorian Bar are operated by a Barristers’ Clerk.
Barristers’ Lists are unique to Victoria. Barristers come together in groups, called Lists, and engage a person, called the Clerk, to provide the List with various services.
Barristers’ Clerks are the link by which barristers and solicitors come together.
The Clerk and their staff are the interface between the barristers and the solicitors who engage the barristers to represent their clients. Clerks deal with solicitors to assist them with queries about the expertise and availability of barristers and take bookings for cases, on behalf of barristers, from the solicitors.
The Barrister's Clerk is essentially the conduit between the two sides of the legal profession. The Barrister's Clerk is the intermediary, or mediator, between the diverse interests of the legal system, namely, barristers, solicitors, judges and occasionally the client upon whom the system depends for its stimulus. Although these groups are discrete, they are interdependent. But their interdependence does not prevent them from pressing divergent demands that somehow must be resolved into a common aim in order for the legal process to function reasonably smoothly. The Clerk assists these groups to achieve that ultimate resolution and in so doing they assume different roles to satisfy the demands of all parties.
Clerking as a business has multiple arms, but for many clerks the primary drivers are the administrative arm which provided the barristers with back office services and the marketing arm which represents the barristers to the solicitors of the legal profession.
Broadly, there are three roles for a Clerk that encompass their relationship both with their barristers and with their clients (being solicitors, corporates and clients generally): counsellor, negotiator, and fixer.
The role of fixer is central of the character that a Clerk must encapsulate to best achieve their goal of assisting the legal market. Whether that means, for example, recommending counsel to a solicitor for a particular case, or, in the case of their barristers, providing a myriad of services, suggestions or recommendations for the various professional hurdles they face on a daily basis.
A Clerk is autonomous in representing and recommending their barristers. The connotations of autonomy are achieved in their relationship to their List; the Clerk is driven to provide best available counsel options to solicitors and other interested parties because they want those parties to engage the Clerk for future work. The commission basis of the Clerks’ fees also encourage autonomy in representing their list. Meritocracy therefore becomes the driving force behind the Clerks’ attitude to their barristers’ abilities, which assists in eliminating any potential bias.