John Toohey Chambers

The Charter of Australian Independent Bars


The essence of the independent Bar is service – to the community, the institutions of Justice and the law itself.

The Australian Bar Association now, for the first time, formulates the previously unstated – but widely understood – principles by which this goal of service is to be achieved. It is these principles which the unique structure and features of an independent Bar seek to embody.

The principles are:


Barristers should maintain the highest standards of integrity and straight dealing with clients, solicitors and colleagues. There is also the primary duty owed to the court itself of truthfulness and frankness. It covers the obligations which are cast upon a barrister by reason of access to clients’ confidential information.


That the quality of the representation and other work performed by barristers should be maintained at the highest possible levels is of course fundamental, and has always been one of the cornerstones of the independent Bars.


Independence is perhaps the most striking feature of practice as a barrister at a separate Bar. Barristers should be, and by virtue of their membership of the Australian Independent Bars are, independent of each other, of the courts, of Government and (save for such dependence as is required by a particular professional engagement) of solicitors and their clients.


Barristers should be accessible to all members of the community who have legal problems, particularly those requiring representation in the courts. Access to a competent barrister of their choice is in most cases the means by which members of the community may achieve “access to justice”.


The community, particularly the solicitors by whom barristers are briefed, should be well-informed of the range of barristers available to perform work within the various fields of practice.


As far as possible the range of choice of barristers available to solicitor and client for the performance of a particular brief should be maximized. Diversity in this sense will increase the likelihood that the barrister best suited to the problem in question will be available for the brief.


This principle is no more than a statement of the reality that barristers are in competition with each other (and in many cases with other providers of the relevant legal services) for the work which is available. The existence of this competitive framework enhances the standard of service provided by barristers.

These principles, no one of which is taken in isolation, are those by which the independent Bars set their standards, maintain their rules and justify their existence. The Australian Bar Association and its constituent bodies pledge themselves to support measures which will promote the practical expression of these principles.

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