Bar Training describes the process you have to complete in order to become a fully qualified Barrister.
Bar Training is split into three sections:
Many aspiring barristers will wonder how long bar training takes. The process as a whole (assuming we start the count after you graduate from an undergraduate degree) will often take 2-3 years if completed on a full-time basis (the year variance being for the completion of your PGDL conversion course if your degree was non-law).
First thing’s first, you’ll need to obtain a law degree. This means you will certainly need to attend university (while solicitor apprenticeships are growing in popularity, barrister apprenticeships have not come to fruition yet).
Many will choose to complete a qualifying law degree at this stage (such as an LLB), but it is also possible to complete a non-law degree (for example a BA in History or a BSc in Chemistry), followed by the PGDL conversion course (taking a year if studying full-time). This provides the academic foundation of your career going forwards.
Before you begin your Bar Training Course, you must be a student member of an Inn of Court. For those commencing the Bar Course as one part, you must join an Inn 12 weeks prior to the start. For those who are undertaking their Bar Course in two parts, membership must be applied for 12 weeks prior to the start of Part 2.
The Inns of Court are professional membership associations that provide collegiate and educational activities, as well as offering support for barristers and students. While joining an Inn of Court is a requirement before you can start your Bar Course, many barristers recommend joining an Inn early on in order to take advantage of the numerous benefits, including the networking opportunities and access to a wide range of facilities.
Joining an Inn of Court is relatively easy – applications must be made directly to your chosen Inn with an Admission Declaration. This form enables the Inn to identify any issues which may call into question whether you are a fit and proper person to practise as a barrister.
Something to bear in mind is that you can only apply to join one Inn. The choice of Inn doesn’t affect the area of law in which you practise or your pupillage/tenancy options. In truth, all Inns of Court offer broadly similar services on many of the key factors. To support your decision, you can visit or contact the Inns to find out more about what makes each Inn individual:
Some of the main factors you might consider when choosing between them include:
The vocational component of bar training is fulfilled through the Bar Course, a compulsory academic program (previously the BPTC) that you have to complete if you want to become a barrister.
This step was previously referred to as the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), now commonly known as the Bar Practice Course (BPC). Institutions such as The University of Law offer BPC, a comprehensive training program, designed to be more flexible and better prepare aspiring barristers for the practical aspects of their final stage of training: pupillage.
There are 9 organisations approved to deliver the vocational component of Bar Training by the Bar Standards Board. They are:
Each educational body provides different study and training options – from courses that offer completion of the Bar course in two parts, to courses that combine the program with a Law Masters.
The main factors that you might consider when choosing between each course includes:
Previously, you needed to pass the BCAT (Bar Course Aptitude Test) in order to get onto a Bar Course. It was essentially a form of admissions test focused on critical thinking skills (similar to the Watson Glaser), but the Bar Standards Board removed this requirement in 2022, stating that they no longer believed it was a good indicator of future success (the test reportedly had a 99% pass rate).
You may still need to complete other forms of the admissions process for entry onto a bar course, however – for example in attending admissions interviews or completing a personal statement. Check with each provider individually for more details.
Once you complete your bar course, you’ll likely want to look for pupillage. This is a very competitive part of becoming a Barrister, as there are far fewer pupillage places than students graduating from the vocational component.
Many aspiring barristers will look to complete a mini-pupillage first (usually during the PGDL or Bar Course) in order to gain some relevant experience and develop contacts.
Before committing large amounts of time and money to pursue this route, it’s important to think very carefully about whether you are fully committed to qualifying as a Barrister.
Although pupillage can only commence upon the completion of the Bar Course, and students can choose to apply during their Bar Course, applications are open to students who plan on undertaking the Bar Course in the following year. The generally accepted rule is to apply for pupillage at least a year in advance, as pupillages usually start in September or October one year after an application is accepted by chambers.
Your pupillage will usually last for a year and consist of six months shadowing a senior barrister and six months working independently under the supervision of a senior barrister.
Completing pupillage is the final step in becoming a Barrister. Once this has been completed, you’ll want to secure some form of employment, which is known as ‘tenancy’ for barristers. You’re essentially still self-employed, but have your own space within a chamber (set) from which to work.
Most pupil barristers will first look to the chambers that they undertook pupillage in for a tenancy offer, however, in some instances, this isn’t available – in 2020, the chance of receiving a tenancy invitation was 74%. This is an issue comparable with the trainee retention rate issue for solicitors.
In the case of not receiving a tenancy offer, barristers can apply for a ‘third six’, effectively extending their pupillage in the hope to receive an offer further down the line, or they can look to other chambers for tenancy.
In short, the process of becoming a barrister (and specifically fulfilling the requirements to satisfy the Bar Training aspect) is certainly a demanding one. However, with careful planning, a consistent work-rate, and a genuine passion for the work you’re going into, it’s also a realistic career for aspiring lawyers to consider.
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