Law - Barrister

Barristers are legal professionals who provide specialist advocacy and legal advice to solicitors and other clients, as well as represent individuals or organisations in court.

Many barristers work on a self-employed basis in offices called chambers, where you could have your own office or share one with other barristers. Others work in government departments or agencies such as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Government Legal Profession, or increasingly in private and public organisations, such as charities.

Read the Occupational Profile of a Barrister and The Bar Council: Becoming a Barrister guide.

Training Route

The route to training as a barrister has changed. From July 2020, a range of new Bar courses replace the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) as the mandatory vocational stage of training before pupillage. As universities and law schools now have more freedom to decide how their courses are taught and structured, you will find the Bar course advertised under a range of different names (eg, ‘ICCA Bar Course’, ‘Bar Practice Course’, ‘Barrister Training Course’).

This qualification (alongside being ‘called to the Bar’ by an Inn of Court) makes a Bar course graduate eligible for pupillage, the final stage of on-the-job training to qualify as a barrister.

The old BPTC application system, BarSAS, has closed. All applications for Bar courses commencing from 2020 onwards need to be made directly to the university or law school. LawCareers.Net have a list of featured course providers on their website which is a good starting point, and Chambers Student also have a comparison of providers available on their website.

All candidates must take the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT), designed to examine an applicant's chances of success at the Bar. The BSB has made a The Bar Course Aptitude Test.

Inns of Court

The Four Inns of Court are professional membership associations for barristers in England and Wales dedicated to promoting the rule of law and providing education and training to their student and barrister members. They each provide Scholarships, Dining Sessions (training), Advocacy training, Competitions, Lectures and Social events. An individual must be admitted as student member of an Inn in order to complete compulsory qualifying sessions.

The Honourable Society of The Inner Temple

The Honourable Society of The Middle Temple

The Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn

The Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn

Start considering scholarship application forms early for the BTC as the deadline is November of your final year (law) or GDL year (non-law), so be prepared. 

Non-law students

Until 2021, if you studied a non-law degree at university and want to become a solicitor or barrister, you must take a conversion course known as the Law Conversion Course (GDL, PGDL or MA Law). Search for courses via LawCareers.Net and Apply for courses via the Central Applications Board. 

If you’re a non-law student join The Radcliffe Club - The University’s Law for Non-Law Society. They run events and workshops which provide opportunities for you to talk with solicitors and barristers, find out how firms differ and get tips for applications.

Pupillage

Most barristers' chambers ('sets') recruit pupils a year in advance, with some chambers recruit just a few months (or even weeks!) in advance. Around half of sets recruit their pupils via the Pupillage Gateway, a centralised online application system which opens in January and has a deadline in early February. Other sets recruit directly and you can find out about their individual application processes and varying deadlines in Chambers Reports or on sets' websites. All pupillage vacancies at both types of chambers are listed on the system, so wherever you plan to apply, you should start by checking the Pupillage Gateway to browse vacancies from late November.

Keep updated on the impact of COVID-19 on the legal sector and recruitment of pupillages and mini-pupillages. 

Law Fairs

Each autumn, Careers Network runs a Law Fair. For 2021 this will be a Virtual Fair, which will feature over 50 law firms and a small number of chambers. You can find more information on the event on the Careers Fairs page of our website.

The following National Pupillage Fairs will be taking place:

The Bar Council Pupillage Fair – 16 October 2021 (online)

BPP National Pupillage Fair - 17 November 2021 (online)

Legal Cheek UK Virtual Pupillage Fairs - October and December 2021

TargetJobs Pupillage Fair – 27 November 2021 (London)

Work experience for aspiring Barristers

Work experience is essential in order to know if a career at the Bar will suit your interests, skills and motivations. There are a number of ways to get work experience:

Mini-pupillages

Find out which chambers offer mini-pupillages by searching at Chambers Student and LawCareers.Net. Chambers will consider applications at any time of the year and there are generally no deadlines. Many people apply in December or January, for Easter or summer experience.

Marshalling

This involves sitting with a Judge and provides opportunities to see Barristers making submissions in court and discussing cases with the Judge. Inns of Court will help to organise these opportunities.

Pro Bono work 

Build experience in advising people on legal issues and representing them in tribunals. Law Students can enquire with CEPLER about opportunities to pursue Pro Bono work within their School, or you can apply for volunteering roles at organisations such as Citizens’ Advice Bureau and the Free Representation Unit.

Public speaking and mooting

Take opportunities to debate, moot or talk to large groups. Taking part in mooting competitions is seen as very positive on CVs, particularly if successful. Check out the Guild of Students’ Student Groups to see how you can get involved.

Attend court and observe proceedings/trials

 The courts of England & Wales are generally open to the public and you should certainly visit a court during your studies so that you can see how the law works in practice.

Law Essay Competitions

Enter essay competitions that have a focus on a particular aspect of the law, to demonstrate your academic ability and boost your CV. Some essay competitions have monetary rewards, such as those offered by The Inns of Court or The Bar Council, whereas others offer the chance to take up an internship or work experience at a top law firm or chambers. 

If you’re a UoB Law student you can join The Holdsworth Club who run careers and networking events exclusively for Law School students.

Diversity Schemes

  • Deaf Lawyers UK - Set up by a group of deaf solicitors, barristers and law students to share information and raise awareness.
  • Vercida - Black Lawyers Directory - Includes careers information and networking events for students.
  • Discuss Programme - series of introductory career programmes for 1st year students (or 2nd years on a four year course) who are in receipt of means-tested grants and bursaries, or those who experience other forms of social disadvantage.
  • The Brokerage City Link - provides opportunities, including internships and mentoring, for young Londoners who are interested in a career in business, finance, professional services or corporate law.
  • InterLaw Diversity Forum - inter-organisational forum is for LGBT networks in law firms and all personnel (lawyers and non-lawyers) in the legal sector. 

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