laptop999
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Hi! I have a place to study the two-part Bar Course at City. I have also been offered a job that would last until December, thereby covering the entirety of the first part of the Bar Course. The first part of the course is entirely online, so there's no problem with making it to classes. But I'm worried that I'll be biting off more than I can chew, juggling employment with study.

I've asked a few people about it, and have received very different answers - representatives of City and ICCA tell me that I should treat the course as a full-time engagement, whereas friends who have completed the Bar Course tell me the workload is laughably small.

So can anyone help me out here? What would you consider the weekly time requirement of the Bar Course to be? Is taking on short-term, full-time employment delusional?
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leage_beagle
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It depends, and also nobody here will be able to say for sure given that the course is brand new. Three questions and I might be able to give you a better answer: (1) what’s the job, (2) how much work per day/week/exam did you do on your degree/GDL, and (3) how well did you do in your last degree/want to do on the BPTC?
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laptop999
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(Original post by leage_beagle)
It depends, and also nobody here will be able to say for sure given that the course is brand new. Three questions and I might be able to give you a better answer: (1) what’s the job, (2) how much work per day/week/exam did you do on your degree/GDL, and (3) how well did you do in your last degree/want to do on the BPTC?
Thanks so much for the response. (1) 'Job' is actually a non-corporate internship - I do not anticipate hours beyond 9-5 M-F, and possibly even some flexibility with that. (2) I did a very large amount of work during my law degree. (3) I did well in my degree from a good university. I'd be happy to get a VC in the Bar Course. Once again, thanks for any advice!
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leage_beagle
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In that case, I would imagine it would be doable, but pretty tough. With the full time old-style BPTC, it was possible, with very good discipline and if you're sharp, to do all the necessary work in three long days of the week most weeks. The difference between the BPTC (with the knowledge subjects, at least, which are the online part of the new course iirc) and uni studies is that the former is, generally, less intellectually difficult, but requires a greater volume of technical knowledge. You have to learn lots of rules, in a way that even law undergrads don't for most modules. So if you back yourself to do the work 'after work', can pick up and remember information quickly, and are prepared for a pretty busy year, you should be ok.

I did the bar course full time, tutoring 3-4 hours per week (at least), and still found the time to procrastinate so much that I probably could have fitted in at least a part time job, and I am not always the hardest worker. It cost me an outstanding, but I think that was a fair price to pay for having a decent social diary and not losing track of hobbies!

Will you be applying for pupillage as well? That might be something to take into account, though I'm not sure how that fits in timetable-wise with the new arrangement of the course/your job.
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laptop999
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Thanks so much leage_beagle. Your advice has been very helpful. I will be applying for pupillage too, probably - though I will be quite selective with where I apply, as I still have half a mind to pursue academia. I thought I could do all that in the new year, once the job is finished.

It's interesting that you mention that you didn't get an Outstanding. Have you found that to limit you at all? I'm a complete outsider, but it seems to me that everyone more or less agrees that the BPTC is just something you have to get through and who cares what your mark is, no matter what chambers you end up applying to. Or am I wrong about this?
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leage_beagle
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I’m actually finishing off the BPTC right now - would have done earlier but for COVID. I had pupillage lined up going in, actually a year before as I deferred. I’m certain I won’t get an outstanding, though, and also certain it won’t matter a jot. It also won’t matter if you apply during the course, and even after you’d have to do pretty terribly for it to be a problem, and probably come top of the year for it to be a noticed in a good way.
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Crazy Jamie
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(Original post by laptop999)
It's interesting that you mention that you didn't get an Outstanding. Have you found that to limit you at all? I'm a complete outsider, but it seems to me that everyone more or less agrees that the BPTC is just something you have to get through and who cares what your mark is, no matter what chambers you end up applying to. Or am I wrong about this?
You are wrong about that. An Outstanding sets you apart on the pupillage application form. Only a small minority of students obtain it (far fewer than obtain a First, for example). Of course you can build a strong application and get pupillage without an Outstanding, but it's definitely something to aim for if you think you have a realistic shot at it. You must, in any event, get a Very Competent. Relatively few sets actually have a defined minimum mark for the BPTC in the same way that some do for undergraduate degrees and A-Levels, but a Competent stands out as an issue with your application form. You have to get a Very Competent. So I'd be very wary of approaching the BPTC as something that you just need to get through. It is a challenging year because the style of learning and the things that you actually are learning are very different to anything that you've done in your academic life to that point. You're learning skills such as advocacy, drafting and opinion writing, and even the things that you are "learning" in the more traditional sense are predominantly litigation based, which is very different to learning principles from statute and case law, and is something that students often also find challenging. You have to be very careful of not taking on too much in the BPTC year. I appreciate that things will be different with the shift to the online element, but this is still a challenging course on any reading, not just for its content in isolation but also because of the adjustment required to settle into a course that is fundamentally different to what you've done before.
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leage_beagle
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(Original post by Crazy Jamie)
You are wrong about that. An Outstanding sets you apart on the pupillage application form. Only a small minority of students obtain it (far fewer than obtain a First, for example). Of course you can build a strong application and get pupillage without an Outstanding, but it's definitely something to aim for if you think you have a realistic shot at it. You must, in any event, get a Very Competent. Relatively few sets actually have a defined minimum mark for the BPTC in the same way that some do for undergraduate degrees and A-Levels, but a Competent stands out as an issue with your application form. You have to get a Very Competent. So I'd be very wary of approaching the BPTC as something that you just need to get through. It is a challenging year because the style of learning and the things that you actually are learning are very different to anything that you've done in your academic life to that point. You're learning skills such as advocacy, drafting and opinion writing, and even the things that you are "learning" in the more traditional sense are predominantly litigation based, which is very different to learning principles from statute and case law, and is something that students often also find challenging. You have to be very careful of not taking on too much in the BPTC year. I appreciate that things will be different with the shift to the online element, but this is still a challenging course on any reading, not just for its content in isolation but also because of the adjustment required to settle into a course that is fundamentally different to what you've done before.
Very willing to stand corrected on that - OP should know CJ is an experienced barrister, and I’m - well - not. My perspective, I think, Is skewed by two things: most people I know on the course either had pupillage going in, or got it before finishing, so there was never a grade to apply with, and the impression I’ve had from speaking to counsel both at my future chambers and at some others is that much of the technique taught on the course, particularly in the skills subjects, is only a pretty rough match for their experience of how things are done in practice.

I suppose I also took into account that a lot of my friends on the course took on teaching positions, did research work, wrote and published pieces etc., and generally took on a whole lot more work without compromising their ability to turn up and do fine on the course.
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Crazy Jamie
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(Original post by leage_beagle)
Very willing to stand corrected on that - OP should know CJ is an experienced barrister, and I’m - well - not. My perspective, I think, Is skewed by two things: most people I know on the course either had pupillage going in, or got it before finishing, so there was never a grade to apply with, and the impression I’ve had from speaking to counsel both at my future chambers and at some others is that much of the technique taught on the course, particularly in the skills subjects, is only a pretty rough match for their experience of how things are done in practice.

I suppose I also took into account that a lot of my friends on the course took on teaching positions, did research work, wrote and published pieces etc., and generally took on a whole lot more work without compromising their ability to turn up and do fine on the course.
We don't disagree significantly. We do on the impact of an Outstanding, but then as someone who has pupillage it is right to say that it won't matter to you. It matters for those who finish the course without securing pupillage.

You're actually right that the techniques taught on the course are only a very rough match at best to what you'll do in practice. I do take the view broadly that the BPTC should do much better when it comes to teaching the basic techniques and preparing students for pupillage. But you are assessed on what you are taught on the course, and the importance in learning those techniques is that you need them to pass the course, not because they'll set you up for practice. Because by and large they don't, and you'll do an awful lot more learning in that regard either in pupillage or in a relevant role before that.
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laptop999
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(Original post by Crazy Jamie)
You are wrong about that. An Outstanding sets you apart on the pupillage application form. Only a small minority of students obtain it (far fewer than obtain a First, for example). Of course you can build a strong application and get pupillage without an Outstanding, but it's definitely something to aim for if you think you have a realistic shot at it. You must, in any event, get a Very Competent. Relatively few sets actually have a defined minimum mark for the BPTC in the same way that some do for undergraduate degrees and A-Levels, but a Competent stands out as an issue with your application form. You have to get a Very Competent. So I'd be very wary of approaching the BPTC as something that you just need to get through. It is a challenging year because the style of learning and the things that you actually are learning are very different to anything that you've done in your academic life to that point. You're learning skills such as advocacy, drafting and opinion writing, and even the things that you are "learning" in the more traditional sense are predominantly litigation based, which is very different to learning principles from statute and case law, and is something that students often also find challenging. You have to be very careful of not taking on too much in the BPTC year. I appreciate that things will be different with the shift to the online element, but this is still a challenging course on any reading, not just for its content in isolation but also because of the adjustment required to settle into a course that is fundamentally different to what you've done before.
Thanks for the clarification, crazy jamie! Looks like I'll have to give it all some thought, but I appreciate your insight.

I suppose it's tricky, as both of you have identified, because we don't yet know what the new course will require. It's a bit of a gamble, I suppose. I just had another look on the City website, and they've estimated that Part 1 of the new bar course will require about 22 hours of work a week, over 16 weeks, plus a couple of weeks for revision. So, not quite full-time, but not negligible either. You're right though, crazy jamie, about not wanting to limp through and ending up with a Competent. It seems as though VC is the lowest grade you can get and still be considered a serious applicant.
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