What Does "Call to the Bar" Mean?

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  • Written By: Daphne Mallory
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 10 July 2019
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"Call to the bar" refers to any attorney who has completed the licensing process and is admitted to practice law in a given jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions, the legal term is admission to the bar. The bar refers to the railing in the court room that separates the attorneys, jurors, and judges from the courtroom audience. To appear on the other side of the bar as a lawyer, candidates have to complete certain educational and licensing requirements. It often requires the lawyer to obtain a law degree and pass a bar examination. There are often moral and character qualifications that attorneys must meet before they receive a call to the bar, as well as citizenship, competency, and age requirements.

A lawyer who receives a call to the bar is permitted to argue cases in the court systems within the jurisdiction. Those attorneys are often allowed to counsel clients outside of court as well. For example, a transactions attorney may decide to pursue a legal career that does not require him to litigate in court, even though he has received a call to the bar. If he decides to litigate in court, he is able to do so on behalf of clients as long as he has received the call. Otherwise, he is disqualified from arguing cases for clients and can only appear before a judge as a pro se litigant.


There are some jurisdictions that separate the role of arguing cases before the bar and providing legal counsel outside of the courts. For example, common law in England made the distinction between barristers and solicitors, with the latter having the right to counsel clients outside of court. A lawyer who has a received a call to the bar in a few jurisdictions today may not be able to represent clients in legal matters unless she has also obtained a certificate to become a solicitor.

Candidates who want to receive a call to the bar often have to complete an application to prove that they have met all the requirements necessary for the licensing process. The application often requires candidates to submit information about their educational background, job history, and other personal information. If the jurisdiction requires an apprenticeship, then information about that must also be included. Candidates often have to include references that can vouch for them as persons with good and moral character. There’s often a fee associated with the application, which is paid to the bar council, board, or bar association in charge of reviewing those applications.


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