The Student Room Group

BPTC as a Solicitor?

Hi all,

I am a qualified solicitor but I never practised as an associate i.e. I just did my TC and then left practice straight after and went back to academia. I am now looking to get back into legal practice as a barrister.

I wanted to know whether as a solicitor I am exempt from doing the BPTC? If I am exempt, would it be advisable to still do the BPTC because of what it teaches, I know very little about court procedure.

Even if I got pupillage in the next cycle there would still be a year's gap before starting, so I'd have a year to kill. Also, if I don't get pupillage, maybe doing the BPTC especially if I can snag a scholarship might be useful?

Would be grateful for your thoughts - I am currently deciding between a few things (including a 3-year PhD) so I'd be great to know where I stand with things.
Interesting situation. As a qualified solicitor you actively don't need to do the BPTC. You would instead apply to the Bar Standards Board. You used to have to do the Bar Transfer Test (BTT), but I think that was phased out. You can read more about the process as it is now here. I will admit that I know virtually nothing about this process. We've had a few solicitors join Chambers in recent years after transferring, and I know that one had to do a shortened first six and no second six (or perhaps a three month second six; I'm not sure) whereas I'm fairly sure the other one didn't have to do anything because they already had substantial advocacy experience. I don't know if either of them had to do any sort of additional examination. The best thing to do would be to have a read of the documentation linked through that webpage and/or email the BSB directly at [email protected].

However, the other issue beyond whatever you need to do to transfer is whether or not you would find a set that is willing to take you on a pupil. I doubt you'd get much, if any reduction, and obviously you haven't build up any sort of practical experience or business contacts, so whilst you don't have to go through the usual pupillage processes, here you might struggle to get pupillage without doing that. And if that's the route you're taking, the BPTC may end up being a practical option simply because otherwise it can be difficult to communicate to sets how you have transferred through the confines of the portal.

My initial advice would be to avoid doing the BPTC and going through the pupillage portal if at all possible. See what the BSB say, and then put some feelers out with local sets to see what sort of reception you get to the idea of you joining outside of the usual pupillage process. If it's viable to get pupillage without going through the portal, absolutely do that. If it isn't, as I say, I think practically you may have to do the BPTC in the end. Clearly you'll have some experience to draw on and should be able to turn yourself into a good candidate, but I'd exhaust other avenues first.
Reply 2
Original post by Crazy Jamie
Interesting situation. As a qualified solicitor you actively don't need to do the BPTC. You would instead apply to the Bar Standards Board. You used to have to do the Bar Transfer Test (BTT), but I think that was phased out. You can read more about the process as it is now here. I will admit that I know virtually nothing about this process. We've had a few solicitors join Chambers in recent years after transferring, and I know that one had to do a shortened first six and no second six (or perhaps a three month second six; I'm not sure) whereas I'm fairly sure the other one didn't have to do anything because they already had substantial advocacy experience. I don't know if either of them had to do any sort of additional examination. The best thing to do would be to have a read of the documentation linked through that webpage and/or email the BSB directly at [email protected].
However, the other issue beyond whatever you need to do to transfer is whether or not you would find a set that is willing to take you on a pupil. I doubt you'd get much, if any reduction, and obviously you haven't build up any sort of practical experience or business contacts, so whilst you don't have to go through the usual pupillage processes, here you might struggle to get pupillage without doing that. And if that's the route you're taking, the BPTC may end up being a practical option simply because otherwise it can be difficult to communicate to sets how you have transferred through the confines of the portal.
My initial advice would be to avoid doing the BPTC and going through the pupillage portal if at all possible. See what the BSB say, and then put some feelers out with local sets to see what sort of reception you get to the idea of you joining outside of the usual pupillage process. If it's viable to get pupillage without going through the portal, absolutely do that. If it isn't, as I say, I think practically you may have to do the BPTC in the end. Clearly you'll have some experience to draw on and should be able to turn yourself into a good candidate, but I'd exhaust other avenues first.

Thank you very much for this detailed reply, Jamie. I hadn't even considered trying to go through outside the pupillage process given my lack of experience, but I will look into it.

If I did go down the pupillage route, I was wondering whether you thought the BPTC is actually good from the perspective of making you a good barrister? I am aware that not having done the BPTC I may be a disadvantage if I start my pupillage and am unfamiliar with certain basic things (e.g. rules of civil procedure) compared to other pupils.

Additionally, I may have the option to do a partially funded Oxbridge PhD in law which would last 3-years. I am wondering whether this might be a good option as it would get me back into the UK university system (I have been abroad these past years) and it would allow me to do things like mooting which I have little experience with. Also I would likely do some teaching which might look good. I am also thinking about this route because even if I were to get pupillage on my first shot after applying next round (which seems unlikely) I understand I would be starting in autumn 2026 which is 2 academic years away (i.e. 2/3 PhD years). I think more likely is that I wouldn't get pupillage next cycle given that I have just pivoted towards this career, so if I got it in the future, I might be able to do the full PhD before starting pupillage (as I don't have to do use the gap between offer and start date to do the BPTC). Would this be a sensible option, because it might increase my chances (via mooting and teaching) or could it make me seem too academic?
(edited 1 month ago)
Original post by Histori
Thank you very much for this detailed reply, Jamie. I hadn't even considered trying to go through outside the pupillage process given my lack of experience, but I will look into it.

It's traditionally what you would do as a transferring solicitor. As I say, your lack of experience may make that problematic, but I'd definitely look into it and make sure it's not viable before you discount it.

If I did go down the pupillage route, I was wondering whether you thought the BPTC is actually good from the perspective of making you a good barrister? I am aware that not having done the BPTC I may be a disadvantage if I start my pupillage and am unfamiliar with certain basic things (e.g. rules of civil procedure) compared to other pupils.

No, I don't think so. The BPTC is a necessary vocational qualification, but it doesn't make you a good barrister. It gives you a rudimentary grounding in basic subjects and skills, and is obviously a notable departure from purely academic study, but it's still a long way from actual real life work as a barrister. I'm not saying it's entirely worthless because you will learn things on it that you will take forwards into pupillage, but once you actually start pupillage (or a decent advocacy role, for that matter), you should quickly develop those skills and knowledge to a pretty unrecognisable level based on learning from those around you. With actual knowledge like the CPR, like with any legal knowledge you will develop knowledge in what you need based on what you do in practice. There might be a bit more work involved initially as you get up to speed with things, but nothing that's worth a year out and a substantial sum of money to do the BPTC. It may be that you need to do it in practice for the reasons I highlighted in my last post, but I don't think the BPTC is ever an advantage in that sense on your application form or in practice.

Additionally, I may have the option to do a partially funded Oxbridge PhD in law which would last 3-years. I am wondering whether this might be a good option as it would get me back into the UK university system (I have been abroad these past years) and it would allow me to do things like mooting which I have little experience with. Also I would likely do some teaching which might look good. I am also thinking about this route because even if I were to get pupillage on my first shot after applying next round (which seems unlikely) I understand I would be starting in autumn 2026 which is 2 academic years away (i.e. 2/3 PhD years). I think more likely is that I wouldn't get pupillage next cycle given that I have just pivoted towards this career, so if I got it in the future, I might be able to do the full PhD before starting pupillage (as I don't have to do use the gap between offer and start date to do the BPTC). Would this be a sensible option, because it might increase my chances (via mooting and teaching) or could it make me seem too academic?

There are plenty of pupillages out there that start the same year as the application, albeit you need to be on the BPTC to apply for them. But fundamentally, yes, in your case this seems like a sensible option to me. As you say, it gets you back into the university system, it allows you access to extra curriculars that can boost your experience, and it also allows for a more seamless move into the BPTC if that's what you end up doing. It also, presumably, is something that you would genuinely be interested in, which also helps.
Reply 4
Original post by Crazy Jamie
It's traditionally what you would do as a transferring solicitor. As I say, your lack of experience may make that problematic, but I'd definitely look into it and make sure it's not viable before you discount it.
No, I don't think so. The BPTC is a necessary vocational qualification, but it doesn't make you a good barrister. It gives you a rudimentary grounding in basic subjects and skills, and is obviously a notable departure from purely academic study, but it's still a long way from actual real life work as a barrister. I'm not saying it's entirely worthless because you will learn things on it that you will take forwards into pupillage, but once you actually start pupillage (or a decent advocacy role, for that matter), you should quickly develop those skills and knowledge to a pretty unrecognisable level based on learning from those around you. With actual knowledge like the CPR, like with any legal knowledge you will develop knowledge in what you need based on what you do in practice. There might be a bit more work involved initially as you get up to speed with things, but nothing that's worth a year out and a substantial sum of money to do the BPTC. It may be that you need to do it in practice for the reasons I highlighted in my last post, but I don't think the BPTC is ever an advantage in that sense on your application form or in practice.
There are plenty of pupillages out there that start the same year as the application, albeit you need to be on the BPTC to apply for them. But fundamentally, yes, in your case this seems like a sensible option to me. As you say, it gets you back into the university system, it allows you access to extra curriculars that can boost your experience, and it also allows for a more seamless move into the BPTC if that's what you end up doing. It also, presumably, is something that you would genuinely be interested in, which also helps.

Thank you very much again for your detailed reply - it is incredibly helpful.

In terms of my thinking, I am leaning towards doing the PhD option (hopefully I will not need to do the BPTC, which I will confirm) so I will be doing that for three academic years and hopefully can use that time to also research and develop my profile, such that I could maybe hope to get an offer to start pupillage after finishing my PhD.

My only follow up question is about the pupillage application process - so I gather from your replies that there are two tranches of pupillage vacancies: (1) c. 18-months in advance and (2) c. 6 months in advance and you must be on the BPTC (i.e. same year start). Do chambers tend to offer more than one than the other. I am essentially wondering whether the majority of vacancies are reserved for option (2) rather than option (1). Based on my situation I am unlikely to be able to do both the PhD and the BPTC, so I don't want to pursue the PhD route only to find out that most pupillages are not open to me but are reserved for those on the BPTC.

Thank you in advance.
Original post by Histori
Thank you very much again for your detailed reply - it is incredibly helpful.

In terms of my thinking, I am leaning towards doing the PhD option (hopefully I will not need to do the BPTC, which I will confirm) so I will be doing that for three academic years and hopefully can use that time to also research and develop my profile, such that I could maybe hope to get an offer to start pupillage after finishing my PhD.

My only follow up question is about the pupillage application process - so I gather from your replies that there are two tranches of pupillage vacancies: (1) c. 18-months in advance and (2) c. 6 months in advance and you must be on the BPTC (i.e. same year start). Do chambers tend to offer more than one than the other. I am essentially wondering whether the majority of vacancies are reserved for option (2) rather than option (1). Based on my situation I am unlikely to be able to do both the PhD and the BPTC, so I don't want to pursue the PhD route only to find out that most pupillages are not open to me but are reserved for those on the BPTC.

Thank you in advance.

It's just preference from individual sets. I don't know the exact proportion that go for one or the other, and some sets may well vary from year to year. There are plenty that do offer pupillages further into the future either way, because it allows them to actively consider final year undergraduates. Obviously (or perhaps not) you don't have to be actively doing the BPTC for the pupillages that start the same year. The majority of candidates are post BPTC.

Does sound to me like the PhD option is a good one for you.

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