For the vast majority of criminal cases, an experienced criminal lawyer will be able to handle your case from start to finish.
However if your case is heading towards a lengthy District or Supreme Court trial, you may need to think about also engaging a criminal barrister as a part of your criminal defence team.
A ‘barrister at the bar’ is one of those people who wear a ‘wig and gown’ when they’re in court.
If you have determined that you do need a barrister, the next step is to find one.
Even if you live outside of Sydney, you may still end up finding that engaging a specialist criminal barrister in Sydney is your best option due to the very high quality of barristers practising from the Sydney CBD.
Searching for a criminal barrister in Sydney may be challenging due to the sheer number of barristers out there. You may not know where to start.
Make sure you leave yourself enough time to secure the services of a barrister as the best ones are often very busy and simply may not be available at the time you need them.
The NSW Bar Association has a ‘Find a Barrister’ tool which will help you to locate the barristers in NSW who are members of their association.
If you have engaged a criminal lawyer, it is likely they have regular barristers that they brief. They will also know which barristers are the best for a specific type of case; for examples, a particular barrister may be excellent at defending drug cases but may not be so good in sexual assault or proceeds of crime cases.
Of course, you may select your own barrister independently of what your lawyer recommends, but in general it is likely that your lawyer has a better idea of what kind of barrister is appropriate for your case.
Keep in mind that, like with a lawyer, you are best off looking for a barrister that you get along with.
Your barrister obviously does not need to become your new best friend, but it is a good idea to meet and make sure that you feel comfortable with, and confident in, the person who could make a great deal of difference in your life. Your lawyer can set up this conference on your behalf and will normally also attend.
Not everyone can afford an expensive barrister, such as a Senior Counsel or Queen’s Counsel. You may also have a budget that you need to stick to.
Fortunately, there are vast differences between barristers’ daily fees and they must tell you how they will calculate their fees. Barristers will normally charge by the day, and they are certainly not cheap.
The daily rate for a barrister might be anywhere from $1,500 plus GST per day up to $14,000 per day for the highest priced Senior Counsel or Queen’s Counsel.
However, there are many barristers who are very experienced and highly capable that charge between $2000 and $3,000 plus GST per day.
If your case is heading towards a trial, the barrister might charge a number of days to prepare the case, perhaps two or three days, plus their daily fee for each day they appear in court, or part thereof.
If money is an issue for you, you may wish to look into whether you are eligible to apply for Legal Aid grants. Depending on your financial circumstances, Legal Aid may be able to provide you with a barrister for free.
If you are refused Legal Aid, you may be able to get help under the NSW Law Society’s pro bono scheme. This means you may be able to get legal advice for little or no cost.
Skills in the courtroom
It is also important to remember that a barrister speaks differently when in conference with you as opposed to inside the courtroom.
The last thing you want is to be impressed with your barrister leading up to trial and disappointed by a poor performance in court.
Imagine if your seemingly impressive barrister was not persuasive in front of the judge and didn’t do your case justice.
Performing well in court is a completely different skill to negotiation, research and court preparation – and one that may not be apparent before you step into the courtroom.
In order to get a better idea of how a barrister has performed in the past, a good indicator is to speak with your lawyer and do your own research. Reading testimonials by people who have actually used the services of a barrister are all good places to start.
As touched on earlier, the expertise of your barrister in your particular case-type can be crucial to the success of your trial.
If you have a matter coming up before the courts, selecting a barrister with a great deal of experience in defending the type of case you are charged with is very important.
Particular knowledge and skills may be needed depending on the type of case, especially in highly technical cases such as fraud or areas where the law is ever-changing such as sexual assault.
Style is also very important – for example, it may not be the best idea to have a barrister with a very aggressive style for a sexual assault case involving a child, whereas certain murder trials may require just that.
Don’t make your choice hastily.
If you are coming up before a NSW court soon, a good barrister will be able to maximise your chances of getting the optimal outcome in your case.
So speak with your lawyer and do your research to ensure that you are best represented for what might be the most serious event in your life.