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Come to The Bar

On Wednesday 19 June 2019 WLA ACT, Key Chambers and the ACT Bar Association hosted ‘Come to the Bar’, an informal evening event for our members and friends to hear about experiences of ACT Barristers. We were privileged to have the following barristers join us and share their experiences:


Prue Bindon – Convenor

Merrilyn Davis

Katrina Musgrove

Kristy Katavic

Beth Morrisroe

Nigel Oram

Jo Dean-Ritchie – CEO, ACT Bar Association

The relaxed nature of the panel gave attendees the opportunity to speak with current barristers and the CEO of the ACT Bar Association about training for the bar exam, life at the bar and managing work/life commitments.

The ‘right time’ to go to the Bar

While the average age for practitioners coming to the bar is 34, the panel went to the bar at various career and life stages, indicating there is no universal ‘right time’ to make the transition. Some panel members went to the bar a few years into practice, while others went after over 20 years of practicing as a practitioner. Having children before and after going to the bar presents positive and negative aspects and it is a matter for the individual to decide what is right for their circumstances.

Preparing for the Bar

The panel shared their tips for preparing for the bar. It was emphasised across the board that it is important to practice for the exams. This means practicing writing out papers by hand - and preparing to do this for a whole day. In addition, practice answering old questions. The panel emphasised the importance of knowing the rules of the relevant jurisdiction and the importance of factual recall.

The Readers’ Course

After the exams, there needs to be preparation for the Bar Readers’ Course, which means four weeks in Sydney working on practical advocacy skills. The shared experiences were that the preparation, exams and course were challenging but instil invaluable skills and connections for those going to the Bar. Once this has been completed, there is a requirement for two years working as a Reader to two Tutors. The panel encouraged those interested in going to the bar to reach out to connections or via Jo Dean-Ritchie to be put in touch with tutors. The policy is on the ACT Bar Association website.

Life at the Bar

Working as a barrister presents some fantastic career and life opportunities however it is not without its downsides. On one hand it allows the flexibility of being your own boss and being in control of your own time but on the downside is that you are flexible and accountable to yourself - down to responsibility for your BAS. It also allows practitioners to focus on advocacy and spend more time in Court.


At the conclusion of the formal event members were welcomed to stay and speak informally with barristers in attendance.

Maternity Bar Jacket

During this event we had the pleasure of announcing the launch of the maternity bar jacket which is now available for use by all women lawyers in the ACT, free of charge. The maternity bar jacket is specially sized with additional panels built into the sides and back of the jacket. This means it can be adjusted to comfortably fit over a baby bump at whatever size. If you would like to contact the jacket, please contact us at

We thank the following people for their contributions to this fantastic event:

  1. Each of the panel members who took the time to join us and share their experiences and encouragement for practitioners looking to go to the Bar;

  2. Our sponsor, Key Chambers, for their support, sponsorship and the use of their venue;

  3. Prue Bindon for organising this event and acting as Convenor on the evening; and

  4. The Act Bar Association for their support of this event.

Earlier Event: June 6
Chief Counsel Q&A
Later Event: July 9
Lunch with Magistrate Taylor