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The Victorian Bar is the bar association for the Australian State of Victoria. Its members are barristers registered to practise in Victoria. On 2 April 2014, there were 2738 counsel practising as members of the Victorian Bar. Once a barrister has been admitted to practise by the Supreme Court of Victoria, he or she is usually eligible to join the Victorian Bar. The Victorian Bar is affiliated with the Australian Bar Association and is a member of the Law Council of Australia.
The first association of barristers in Victoria was formed in 1884, although the first barristers admitted to practise in Victoria were appointed in 1841. A group of barristers composed rules of practice and regulations for interacting with solicitors and clients. On 20 June 1900 an official Bar Council was established, and a Bar Roll was started. By 1902, all barristers practising in Melbourne had signed the Roll. To this day, new barristers sign the Roll once they are admitted to the bar.
The Victorian Bar, once almost exclusively restricted to male native Australians and those who immigrated from Britain, has in recent years also welcomed members from different backgrounds. A large percentage of the bar is now female, and numerous barrister with international backgrounds are its members. Four women have served as Chairman or Chair of the Bar including Susan Crennan AC QC, Kate McMillian SC, Melanie Sloss SC and Fiona McLeod SC.
Barristers' Chambers Limited (BCL), a company owned by the Victorian Bar Council, owns a number of complexes of barristers' chambers in Melbourne. It was established in 1959. Many barristers have their chambers in these complexes. The Owen Dixon Chambers East and West and the Douglas Menzies Chambers, both located directly opposite the Supreme Court building in William Street, are owned by BCL.
Due to changes in the Legal Profession Act introduced by the Kennett Liberal State Government many barristers at the Victorian Bar have opened their own chambers which operate independently from BCL. The leading independent chambers are Lonsdale Chambers, Chancery Chambers, Melbourne Chambers and Dawson Chambers. There are at least 11 sets of independent chambers now in Melbourne.
In 2001, the Victorian Bar launched a Legal Assistance Scheme in association with the Public Interest Law Clearing House, in order to coordinate pro bono work among barristers in Victoria. Chief Justice of Australia Murray Gleeson praised the Bar for its effort in "making access to justice not only a catch-phrase but a practical reality for many people."
- ^ "Bar Statistics - Victorian Bar". Victorian Bar. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
- ^ "Murray Gleeson - Launch of the Victorian Bar Legal Assistance Scheme". High Court of Australia. Retrieved 19 January 2006.