Barrister | One of the two classes of lawyer found in common-law jurisdictions, originating in England. A barrister specialises in courtroom advocacy and differs from a solicitor, who, as well as dealing with a variety of legal matters, instructs a barrister to represent their client in court.
Bar Council | Otherwise known as the General Council of the Bar, this is the body representing barristers in England and Wales. The Bar Council is the Approved Regulator of the Bar of England and Wales, which discharges its regulatory powers through the independent Bar Standards Board. Its role is to promote and improve the services and functions of the Bar, and to represent the interests of the Bar on all matters relating to the profession, whether trade union, disciplinary, public interest or in any way affecting the administration of justice. (www.barcouncil.org.uk)
Bar School | An informal name for the institution providing the BPTC.
Bar Standards Board | The independent body responsible for regulating barristers in England & Wales. The BSB sets the standards for barristers’ education and training. (www.barstandardsboard.org.uk)
BCAT | Otherwise known as the Bar Course Aptitude Test, this is the exam that must be passed in order to gain admission to the BPTC.
Bench | A metonym used to describe the collective members of the judiciary. Etymology: simply where the judge or judges sit, stemming from the long bench upon which judges used to sit hundreds of years ago.
Bencher | The most senior member of an Inn of Court, also known as a Master of the Bench, who acts as a governor to the Inn. Historically, a bencher came from the most senior group of barristers who were permitted to sit on the bench during moots.
BPTC | The Bar Professional Training Course, formerly known as the Bar Vocational Course (‘BVC’). This is the postgraduate professional course that must be undertaken in order to practise at the Bar. It provides essential training and development of the skills necessary to becoming a successful barrister. To be accepted onto the BPTC, you need to pass the BCAT and either obtain: (1) an undergraduate degree with no less than second class honours, and pass the GDL thereafter, or (2) a qualifying law degree with no less than second class honours. (https://www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/qualifying-as-a-barrister/bar-professional-training-course/)
The Bar | The collective term for the whole barrister profession. Etymology: the wooden barrier in old courtrooms where barristers would stand to plead their case.
Call to the Bar | Upon completion of the BPTC, one is ‘called to the Bar’ by their Inn of Court. This ceremony entitles a BPTC graduate to be formally called a ‘barrister’, though tenancy must be obtained in order to use this title in a professional capacity.
Chambers | Also known as a ‘set’, this is the collective noun used to indicate a group of self-employed barristers who share a set of professional rooms, staff and ‘brand’.
Claimant | The person/body who initiates an action before a court. Formerly known as the ‘plaintiff’.
Clerk | A person responsible for running a set of chambers who engages in business activities, ensures that cases are appropriately instructed from the solicitor to the barrister, and organises a barrister’s timetable. The amount of clerks in a set of chambers depends on how many barristers reside there.
Continuing Professional Development | Often abbreviated to ‘CPD’. Barristers must attend a certain amount of CPD events (i.e. accumulate CPD hours) in order to be allowed to continue practising without penalties.
Counsel | Another term for a barrister; e.g. ‘counsel for the claimant’.
CPS | The Crown Prosecution Service. This is the body responsible for prosecuting criminal cases investigated by the police in England and Wales.
Defendant | The person or body accused or sued in a court of law.
Door Tenant | A barrister who has been granted permission to work outside the premises of chambers but still belongs to the set in question.
First Six | The first six months of your twelve month pupillage in which you will most likely be shadowing your Pupil Master and not taking on any cases of your own.
GDL | The Graduate Diploma in Law. This is the ‘conversion course’ that aspiring barristers who have graduated in a degree other than law must undertake before commencing the BPTC.
Inn of Court | The institution that has historic and exclusive rights to call appropriately qualified persons to the Bar. There are four Inns of Court: Inner Temple, Middle Temple, Gray’s Inn & Lincoln’s Inn. The role of the Inn is to provide education and training for students and barristers. It is a barrister’s central hub for his/her career and possibly social life, too; it provides a variety of dinners, events, societies, and financial assurance in the form of scholarships.
Junior | A barrister, typically in the early stages of his career; not a Queen’s Counsel.
Marshalling | Work experience that involves shadowing a judge.
Mini-pupillage | Work experience in chambers, typically of two to five days in length, which can either be gained informally through contacts or formally through applications. On a mini-pupillage, you will gain an insight into the life of a barrister and the work and nature of that particular set. Chambers and BPTC providers expect potential barristers to have completed mini-pupillages before applying. Several chambers offer assessed mini-pupillages, which often contribute to an application for pupillage.
Moot | A legal debate in which participants conduct a hypothetical case in a mock appeal court.
Pupil | The title given to a barrister who is undertaking a pupillage: the practical element of their training at a set of chambers.
Pupillage | Commonly known as the ‘year long job interview’, this is a sort of apprenticeship that completes a barrister’s training. During a twelve month pupillage, a pupil builds on the skills learnt during the BPTC and puts them into practice. It is split into two periods of six months called ‘sixes’; the first half is spent shadowing the Pupil Master, and the second half usually involves pupils taking on small cases of their own. This final stage of training usually lasts one year but, if a pupil is not offered tenancy a the end of it, it may extend into another six months (the ‘third six‘).
Pupillage Gateway | The online application system for pupillages, provided by the Bar Council. You can apply for a maximum of twelve pupillages between April and May each year. Some chambers do not subscribe to the Gateway and applications must be made directly to them instead.
QC | Otherwise known as Queen’s Counsel, this is a barrister who has been appointed by the Queen as ‘one of Her Majesty’s Counsel Learned in the Law’. QCs are often the most senior members of the Bar, and appear in the most serious and important cases; they are highly sought after due to their mark of excellence. Awarding the title of QC is based on merit but is typically awarded to a barrister with fifteen years experience or more. During the reign of a male monarch, this changes to King’s Counsel (‘KC’).
Qualifying Sessions | To be called to the Bar, a BPTC student must attend 12 qualifying sessions at their chosen Inn of Court. Qualifying sessions include various events such as dinners, residential weekends and advocacy courses, but they must be recorded by the Inn of Court in order to be qualifying.
Second Six | The second six months of your twelve month pupillage in which you will most likely be exercising your rights of audience by taking on some small cases of your own.
Set | Another name for chambers; a set of barristers’ chambers.
Silk | The informal name for a Queen’s Counsel; they are given the special honour of wearing silk robes in court. To ‘take silk’ is to be appointed as Queen’s Counsel.
Squatter | A pupil who has not been invited to become a tenant but can still ‘squat’ in chambers. They are known as squatters as they make legitimate use of the premises but do not belong to the set.
Tenancy | Following the completion of his/her pupillage, a pupil may be offered tenancy, allowing them to become a full member of chambers (a ‘tenant’) and practise as a self-employed barrister. A barrister enters into a tenancy agreement with their chambers; in exchange for ‘rent’ or a proportion of their fees, they receive accommodation in chambers and support from the clerks.
Third Six | If a pupil is not offered tenancy at the end of their pupillage, then they will likely apply to commence a ‘third six’ at another chambers. This would give them another six months as a pupil, with a view to obtaining tenancy at their new set.