The Bar – How?

1. Experience

It is essential to have experience in order to be taken seriously by barristers’ chambers when you apply for pupillage. After all, you need to have an idea of what you are getting yourself into at the Bar. There are a range of things you should consider getting involved in or attending:

Mooting – an oral debate on a hypothetical legal case, representative of an appeal case in front of a judge. Mooting provides invaluable insight into how to create legal arguments and speak publicly. Many Chambers expect students to have mooted at some point during their University life as mooting helps develop advocacy skills, thinking on your feet and improving confidence. Warwick Law Society holds mooting competitions. More information can be found here: http://warwicklawsociety.co.uk/extracurricular/mooting/.

Mini-pupillages – work experience in barristers’ chambers, obtained either through personal contacts or through a formal application process. Placements last for between two days and a week, and are unpaid (though some chambers do reimburse travel costs). During a mini-pupillage you will shadow a barrister, attend court or read over cases. Some chambers expect pupillage candidates to have already completed an assessed mini-pupillage at their chambers. An assessed mini-pupillage requires that the pupil be formally assessed and will form part of the pupillage application for that set. A mini-pupillage is highly important as it provides an opportunity to see what really happens in chambers and which area of law you find most interesting, as well as exhibiting your commitment to the Bar. Take a look at our spreadsheet for extensive mini-pupillage details.

Vacation schemes – gaining experience in a solicitors’ firm can be really helpful in ensuring that the Bar is for you. Chambers do look favourably on those who have completed work experience at solicitors’ firms, though you must justify why you went to work there and how your experience has proven that practising at the Bar would a better career for you.

Marshalling – this is where a student accompanies a judge at court over a short period of time. Marshalling can be really interesting as it allows you to see the workings of a court and how a judge formulates his reasoned judgment when he/she hears a case. Marshalling is offered to all BPTC students but, if it is possible for you to marshal during your undergraduate degree, it would look great on your CV and pupillage applications. Contact your local Crown Court (specifically the court manager or listing officer) and ask whether marshalling is offered there. For more information, visit www.allaboutlaw.co.uk/index.php/careers/work-experience/marshalling-what-is-that.

Free Representative Unit (FRU) or Law Clinics – students can represent clients in tribunals. Before you can represent clients at the FRU, there are some exams you must pass. However, it is worth your while in that it provides an excellent opportunity to prepare and present cases. Chambers will recognise that you have developed and practised using your advocacy skills in a legal environment, which is spot on in terms of relevant experience.

Law fairs, National Pupillage Fair and chambers’ open days – all provide you with an opportunity to speak to barristers, pupillage committees and pupils. You may want to ask for their advice on the Bar in general, an area of law, getting (mini-)pupillages, or what it is actually like to be a barrister.

Inns of Court – provide open days, have tours and educational secretaries that are available to answer your questions on the Inn and its student support mechanisms.

Bar Professional Training Course providers – often hold open days and free events that help you decide which provider is best for you and what the BPTC is really like.

This list is certainly not exhaustive. There are many other things you can do in order to get more experience and boost your CV for a career at the Bar, including:

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2. Inns of Court

The Inns of Court provide education, training, support and scholarships for BPTC students and pupils. You have to join an Inn before you can begin your BPTC, since you are called to the Bar specifically by your Inn. There are four Inns of Court, all of which are based in London – Inner Temple, Middle Temple, Lincoln’s Inn and Gray’s Inn.

You can only apply to one Inn, at a cost of around £100, and it is essential that you join before your BPTC starts (usually by May of the year you wish to commence your BPTC). To join you must order/download the application from the Inn’s website, and must have completed or are completing a law degree or Graduate Diploma in Law.

The Inns offer various scholarships and bursaries to their students to help out with BPTC course fees, accommodation and living expenses. You do not need to be a member of the Inn before applying for a scholarship, though you can only apply for a scholarship to one Inn. Information on the scholarships available to students can be found on each Inns of Court website.

Things to consider when joining the Inn:

  • Size of the Inn;

  • Range of scholarships available;

  • Training and education;

  • Support offered (i.e. mentors);

  • Student societies;

  • Dining events.

Click here for a table comparing the four Inns of Court
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3. BPTC

The Bar Professional Training Course is a one year skills-based course which aims to prepare students for pupillage and life as a barrister. The BPTC grade requirements are a minimum of a 2:2, though it is important to note that it will be very difficult to get a pupillage on a 2:2, so careful consideration should be made before spending money on the BPTC.

The BPTC course teaches skills such as:

  • Legal research;

  • Written skills;

  • Advocacy;

  • Interviewing skills;

  • And many more.

Aptitude tests have been introduced as part of the BPTC providers’ admissions process. Coming into force in early 2013, they ensure that those applying for the BPTC have the required skills in order to succeed. For more information on the tests, visit the Bar Standards Board website: www.barstandardsboard.org.uk/qualifying-as-a-barrister/bar-professional-training-course/aptitude-test.

The BPTC can be studied at:

  • BPP Law School (Birmingham, Bristol, Cambridge, Leeds, Liverpool, London, Manchester);

  • Cardiff Law School;

  • City Law School (London);

  • Manchester Metropolitan University;

  • The University of Law (Birmingham, Bristol, Chester, Guildford, Leeds, London, Manchester, York);

  • University of Northumbria (Newcastle);

  • University of the West of England (Bristol).

The cost of the BPTC is high – in London it can cost almost £17,000 and outside of London around £13,000. However, the Inns of Court offer scholarships and the BPTC providers offer loans, so it is worth spending some time researching those options before committing yourself.

Key dates for applying:

  • October – BPTC Online Website opens

  • January – Closing date for first round applications

  • March –  Offers made from first round applications

  • April – End of acceptance period for first round offers

  • April – Second round applications opens

  • May – Deadline for joining Inns of Court

  • August – Last application round ends

  • September – BPTC closes

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4. Pupillage

Pupillage is the last stage of training before becoming a fully fledged barrister. It is a period of twelve months’ practical work and experience under the supervision and guidance of an established barrister. Some call it the ‘year long job interview’. Normally taken up straight after completing the BPTC, a pupillage is divided into two six month periods (‘sixes’). In the first six you shadow your pupil supervisor and are non-practising. However, in your second six you will practise, which means that you can supply a legal service and exercise your rights of audience. Once your pupillage is complete you will hopefully be offered tenancy at your Chambers. If you are not offered tenancy then you can undertake a third six at another Chambers in order to secure tenancy there.

The competition for pupillage is fierce, to say the least. On average there are 2,000 BPTC graduates every year fighting for 400-450 pupillage places. This should not put you off – somebody has to get those places!

When deciding which chambers to apply to, there are several things to consider, e.g. the specialist areas of law you wish to go into. For detailed information and in order to apply, visit the following:

  1. Pupillage Gateway – a website that lets students search and apply for pupillages online. You can apply for a maximum of twelve pupillages between April and May each year.

  2. Chambers’ Websites – not all chambers are on Pupillage Gateway and, therefore, that may mean that you apply directly to chambers. The advantage of this is that you can apply via Pupillage Gateway and still continue to apply to individual chambers without any limit.

  3. The Pupillage Pages – an incredibly useful website that provides a great deal of information on getting a pupillage.

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