These are general questions. I have some solicitor-specific information here.
What is a barrister?
Barristers specialise in court work and advice. Their independence is vital to our system of justice. It ensures legal representation for everyone, without fear or favour. Barristers cannot form any business association with partners which might compromise, or even appear to compromise, that independence. Nor are they tied to any particular client. A barrister can appear for a company or the government one day and against it the next.
Sir Owen Dixon on his swearing in as Chief Justice of the High Court of Australia made some remarks which I think are important in understanding the work of a barrister:
The Bar has traditionally been, over the centuries, one of the four original learned professions. It occupied that position in tradition because it formed part of the use and the services of the Crown in the administration of justice. But because it is the duty of the barrister to stand between the subject and the Crown, and between the rich and the poor, the powerful and the weak, it is necessary that, while the Bar occupies an essential part in the administration of justice, the barrister should be completely independent and work entirely as an individual, drawing on his own resources of learning, ability and intelligence, and owing allegiance to none.
You could also look at the Wikipedia entry for a more general description about barristers around the world.
What kind of work do you do?
Click on About Me for a list of my current areas of work.
What are your qualifications?
BA(Hons), LLB(Hons), DIpEd, DIpLegPrac.
(Or, in longhand, I have a Bachelor of Arts (Honours), with class 2/1 Honours in English, a Bachelor of Laws with First Class Honours, a Diploma in Education (awarded with merit), and a Diploma in Legal Practice.)
I hold an unrestricted practicing certificate issued by the NSW Bar Association.
You can find out more about the requirements necessary to practice as a barrister in NSW here.
What is the square thing on your letterhead / business card / email / etc?
It’s a QR code, a kind of barcode. It contains my contact information, like an electronic business card. Scanning it with your phone or mobile device should insert my contact details into your list of contacts (it asks first, of course, unless you’ve set your phone not to).
To read QR codes, you will need a QR scanner app on your phone (which needs to be a smartphone with a camera. iPhones are perfect for this). Some smartphones have them built in, others (like the iPhone) have to download a scanner app from the App Store. There are many apps to choose from, and most are free. Weirdly, they don’t all scan the code exactly the same way. I’ve tested four different scanners on my iPhone, and they all pick up the same information, but they each present it slightly differently.
I heard you use a lot of technology – is that right?
I am very interested in all forms of technology, particularly those which might be of use and interest to the legal profession. I confess to being a gadget geek, and often look for interesting and new ways to incorporate new ideas and technologies into my practise.
The current work-from-home climate has me looking at a great deal of videoconferencing and audio technology lately.
What is your fax number? The one I have doesn’t work.
I don’t have one any more (notwithstanding my old stationary). If you have absolutely no way to send me a document other than by fax, please tell me and I’ll give you a number you can use to send via fax (which I will receive by email).
I live in [country]. I am a lawyer/law student and I want to move to Australia and practice law. Can I?
I live in New South Wales (NSW), so some of my comments are really specific to this state. You will find, however, that there will be similar processes in other states of Australia. The place to start looking is the state law society for wherever you are intending to live. The NSW Law Society is a good place to start, and you should be able to find links to the others from there.
You can get some basic information about immigrating to Australia and applying for visas from here. You should probably also consult a registered migration agent in Australia or an immigration lawyer in your own jurisdiction.
It is possible to become admitted to practice in NSW/Australia with an overseas qualification. You should find the relevant information here.
The key thing you should realise is that wherever you get your qualification from, you need to be admitted to practice HERE before you will be able to work as a solicitor or barrister here. Here and here is some information on admission to practice in NSW.
It would pay you to have a look at the NSW Legal Profession Act 2004 for the legislative detail of being admitted and working as a lawyer in NSW.
Once you are admitted to practice, there is no limitation on which field you practice in. It will be largely determined by your skills and experience, and what sort of employment you’re able to obtain.
I have a legal problem – will you help?
Usually, the first thing you need to do is talk to a solicitor. You can visit the Law Society of NSW (if you are in NSW) or your local Law Society or Bar Association if you are elsewhere to find a solicitor who lives near you.
If you are in or near the Newcastle / Lake Macquarie / Maitland / Hunter Region / Central or North Coast of NSW areas, I can recommend several solicitors, but I cannot choose one for you.
When you have spoken to that solicitor, if my help is needed, that solicitor will send me a brief of instructions about your case. By all means mention my name to them – please! – but the person I usually take instructions from in the first instance should be a solicitor or an appropriately qualified and licensed legal professional.
You are really hard to get hold of / speak to on the phone.
Yes. I am often very busy.
I am also not a fan of blocked caller IDs. If you are calling from a number that does not give a valid caller ID (unfortunately that includes some people I really want/need to speak to, like Legal Aid), you have a better than average chance of going straight to voicemail.
Emailing me is a good way to make contact, however I return phone calls as soon as possible.