Legal Dictionary


Definition of bar


  • (UK) IPA: /bɑː/, SAMPA: /bA:/
  • (US) enPR: bär, IPA: /bɑɹ/, SAMPA: /bAr/
  • Audio (US) [?]
  • Rhymes: -ɑː(r)
  • Homophones: baa, bah (in some pronunciations)


    From Middle English barre, from Old French barre


bar (plural bars)

  1. (UK, law) The railing surrounding the part of a courtroom in which the judges, lawyers, defendants and witnesses stay

  2. (law, "the Bar") Short for the Bar exam, the legal licensing exam.

    He's studying hard to pass the Bar this time; he's failed it twice before.

  3. (law, "the Bar") A collective term for lawyers; specifically barristers in some countries but including all lawyers in others.

  4. (law, loosely, "the Bar") The legal profession of lawyers; specifically barristers in some countries but including all lawyers in others.

Further reading

Bar in a legal context has three possible meanings: the division of a courtroom between its working and public areas; the process of qualifying to practice law; and the legal profession.

Courtroom division

The origin of the term bar is from the barring furniture dividing a medieval European courtroom, similarly as the origin of the term bank for the location of financial transactions in medieval Europe. In USA and in Europe and many other countries referring to the law traditions of Europe, the area in front of the barrage is restricted to participants in the trial: the judge or judges, other court officials, the jury (if any), the lawyers for each party, the parties to the case, and witnesses giving testimony. The area behind the bar is open to the public. This restriction is enforced in nearly all courts. In most courts, the bar is represented by a physical partition: a railing or barrier that serves as a bar.

License and certification

The bar may also refer to the qualifying procedure by which a lawyer is licensed to practice law in a given jurisdiction.

U.S. procedure

In the United States, this procedure is administered by the individual U.S. states. In general, a candidate must graduate from a qualified law school and pass a written test: the "bar examination". Nearly all states use the Multistate Bar Examination, usually with additions for that state's laws. The candidate is then "admitted to the bar". A lawyer whose license to practice law is revoked is said to be "disbarred".

British procedure

In the United Kingdom, the practice of law is divided between solicitors and barristers (advocates in Scotland). It is the latter who appear in court. When a lawyer becomes a barrister, he is "called to the bar".

The legal profession

"The Bar" commonly refers to the legal profession as a whole. With a modifier, it may refer to a branch or division of the profession: as for instance, the "tort bar", lawyers who specialize in filing civil suits for damages.

In conjunction with "bench", "bar" may differentiate lawyers who represent clients ("the bar"), from judges or members of a judiciary ("the bench"). In this sense, the bar advocates and the bench adjudicates. Yet, judges commonly remain members of the bar; and lawyers are commonly referenced as "Officers of the Court".

The phrase "bench and bar" denotes all judges and lawyers collectively.


  1. Wiktionary. Published under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.


1.     landed property
2.     common stock
3.     lex situs
4.     lex causae
5.     lex fori
6.     status quo
7.     buggery
8.     conclusive presumption
9.     interlocutory
10.     writ of seizure and sale