Profile of barristers
All lawyers in the state of New South Wales are admitted to practice as "Australian lawyers". Australian lawyers have a right of audience before all Australian courts. Historically certain lawyers seeking to work as trial lawyers have chosen to work on a referral basis as sole practitioners. They do not form partnerships. They are referred to variously by the terms "counsel" and "barristers" and also offer specialist advice services.
The advantage of barristers operating in this way is that conflicts of interest arising through partnership connections are eliminated, the available pool of counsel experienced in any particular area is maximised, solicitors can obtain advice in areas where they lack expertise and solicitors who have expertise can test their views in discussion with a colleague working in a different professional environment.
It is usual for a barrister to have first worked in a law firm before working as a barrister.
There are about 2200 barristers practising in New South Wales. A system is in place whereby certain of those barristers, presently numbering about 370, are recognised as "senior counsel" or "silk" (so named because they wear silk robes in court). Senior counsel use the letters "QC" or "SC", meaning Queen's Counsel or Senior Counsel. Until 1992, senior counsel received a state commission, but since 1993 senior counsel have been appointed by the Bar Association. It is this change which has resulted in the change of letters used, and the new letters used are the same as those used in the Republic of South Africa and the Irish Republic. Appointments are made after consultation (by a committee of senior counsel drawn from the major areas of specialty presided over by the President of the Bar Association) with judges, existing senior counsel and leading litigation solicitors. The Chief Justice of New South Wales has a power of veto over any proposed appointment.
Profile of Chambers
Barristers congregate in rooms which are referred to as "chambers". Groups of chambers are gathered together on "floors" and certain floors have over time acquired higher reputations. Tenth Floor Chambers is one such floor, comprising the tenth floor of Wentworth and Selborne chambers, in the heart of the Sydney legal district. The floor has a long history of service to the public and the profession.
The floor comprises some 30 members, who work in various areas of expertise. The floor was established in 1957 and boasts a proud history. New membership of the floor is by election by current floor members.