Clerks form part of the tradition of the legal profession in the UK and have been equally relied upon in other common law jurisdictions, such as Australia. In Scotland, the equivalent role is advocate's clerk.
There are about 1,200 barristers' clerks in England and Wales. Around 350 are senior clerks. They work in barristers' chambers. A group of 20 barristers normally employs one senior clerk and one or two junior clerks. More than half the clerks are in London, with the remainder being in large towns and cities. In the UK, the profession is regulated by the Institute of Barristers Clerks.
Barristers employ clerks to organise their bookings and provide messaging, telephone and accounting services.
Clerks have detailed knowledge about the barristers on their list. They provide solicitors and others with information about the availability of counsel and advise on the choice of barrister.
Clerks manage their time through diary management (eg. when they have to be in court); clerks negotiate their fees; and clerks counsel them on how their careers should be structured (eg. what kind of law to specialize in, when to become a Queen's Counsel). At one time clerks would receive a percentage of the barrister's fees for this work.
A barrister's clerk is responsible for running the business activities and administration of a barrister's chambers. The role is integral to the success of a set of chambers as a business and as a practice. Barristers' clerks must be familiar with court procedures and etiquette. They will also develop an expertise in the type of law undertaken by their chambers.
This demanding but rewarding role requires a combination of commercial acumen, legal knowledge and strong interpersonal skills. The term 'clerk' is historical and does not accurately reflect the co-ordination of workload, marketing and financial management undertaken.