In law, the bar is the legal profession as an institution. The term is a metonym for the line (or "bar") that separates the parts of a courtroom reserved for spectators and those reserved for participants in a trial such as lawyers.
The origin of the term bar is from the barring furniture dividing a medieval European courtroom, similar to the origin of the term bank for the bench-like location of financial transactions in medieval Europe. In the USA, 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.
The bar may also refer to the qualifying procedure by which a lawyer is licensed to practice law in a given jurisdiction.
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. Some 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.
In the United Kingdom, the practice of law is divided between barristers (advocates in Scotland) and solicitors. It is usually the former who appear in an advocacy role before the court. When a lawyer becomes an advocate or barrister, he/she is called to the bar. In Britain the bar is differentiated between the inner bar (for Queen's counsel) and the outer bar (for Junior barristers).
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.