Becoming a Barrister
So, now you know what being a barrister entails (and if you don't, click here), now it's time to find out how. The process of becoming a barrister can be broken down into three stages:
- The Academic Stage - This covers your education, including your degree and law conversion course for non law graduates
- The Vocational Stage - This is where you complete your Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), formerly known as the Bar Vocation Course (BVC)
- The Training Stage - This is where you undertake a pupillage and shadow a professional Barrister
You should bear in mind that training to become a barrister is a costly business, so make sure you're 100% sure this is the career for you before you start.
The Academic Stage
The subjects you choose at A-Level really don't matter greatly, nor is it a requirement that you study Law. However, no matter the subjects that you choose, you should aim to get three A grades. If you already know that you want to go into a career in law, then it would be a good idea to try, even at this early stage, to get some work exprience in the legal sector, so try local solicitor's firms and magistrate courts.
If you are studying Law at degree level then you have direct opportunities to get involved in relevant extra curricular activities, and not doing so is no excuse.
- In your first year you should join the Law Society, and get involved with mooting and debating, so you can begin to hone your advocacy skills.
- In your second year you should begin researching the chambers in which you will aim to do your pupillage. You should try to get some more work experience, such as a mini-pupillage or a summer vacation scheme at a law firm.
- In your final year you should join one of the inns of court - if you don't do this you cannot do the BPTC. Research law schools offering the BPTC and think about applying for funding/scholarships etc.
Law Conversion Course
If you are not studying Law at degree level, then:
- In your final year you should begin researching opportunities for pupillages and vacation schemes and any other work experience you can find. You should also now being applying for the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) which is the conversion course that will then allow you to take the BPTC.
- In your conversion year you should now be ready to join one of the inns of court - again if you don't do this you cannot do the BPTC. Research law schools offering the BPTC and think about applying for funding/scholarships etc.
Applying for the Inns of Court
When applying for the inns of court, you must demonstrate:
- Strong academic ability, in particularly research and analytical skills
- High levels of legal and commercial awareness
- Excellent written and oral communication skills
- Strong advocacy skills
- Decent levels of interpersonal skills
- Excellent time, project and people management skills
- Strong IT skills
- And good levels of responsibility and integrity
The BPTC - The Vocational Stage
Once you have graduate (and completed the GDL if necessary), then you will now be able to complete the BPTC. Applicants must complete an aptitude test before they are admitted on the course. Applications for the BPTC must be made by early January prior to entry. It is a one year course, though it can be studied part time over two years. The BPTC focuses on skills training, although six areas of legal knowledge are covered, which form a significant part of the year's work.
Recent changes mean that the BPTC has higher entry requirements and is harder to pass than the old BVC, so applicants must really be able to demonstrate all the skills listed above in the "Applying for the Inns of Court" section. The pass mark for the BPTC is now 60% (up from 50%).
Upon completion you will hopefully be called to the bar!
Pupillages - The Training Stage
A pupillage is where you shadow a professional barrister, giving you insight into the daily routine of a practising barrister and showing the ropes. The deadline to apply for a pupillage is April, and it is advisable to ensure you apply the first year you are eligible to; competition is fierce (both academically and personally) and there are more than three applicants for every two places.
A pupillage is completed in two six month periods known as "the first six" and "the second six". In the first six you will primarily be working on the cases of the barrister you are shadowing, helping to prepare documents, liaise with solicitors and see first hand the courtroom process. Having completed your first six, you will be awarded a Provisional Practicing Certificate, and you can then move onto your second six. In the second six you have more freedom, including the ability to appear in court yourself, and also to earn your own money.