Want a quick answer? Take a look at our frequently asked questions on becoming a barrister – a round-up of every query that’s been raised to us. If you’re looking for a more detailed overview, make sure you go to our How to Become a Barrister page.
Barristers are lawyers that also act as advocates in court. They work alongside solicitors in disputes and are vocally involved in trial proceedings.
There are many differences, so for a more in-depth look, visit our Difference Between Solicitor and Barrister page. However, arguably the main difference is that barristers have the responsibility of submitting arguments in court before judges, opposing counsel and sometimes a jury, whereas solicitors generally do not.
You must complete an undergraduate law degree, or an undergraduate degree followed by the GDL. You must also pass the BPTC as a postgraduate degree at law school. To be accepted to study the BPTC, you must pass the BCAT (See What is the BCAT? below). Finally, you must be accepted into chambers as a pupil for a year – you will join as a “trainee” in your route to qualification.
Chambers welcome applications from those with an undergraduate degree in law and those who have studied another degree, and have then completed the GDL. It does not matter if you have shown interest in another undergraduate degree before your application to become a barrister.
When applying to become a barrister, legal work experience is essential. Mini-pupillages are preferred, as they show an interest in gaining experience shadowing barristers, and becoming familiar with their work. You must be able to talk about your experiences and why you are interested in those fields of law. Mooting and debating is also great experience, as barristers are advocates in court.
Vacation schemes and informal work experience in solicitors’ firms is also advantageous – it allows you to explain why you think you will be more suited and more successful as a barrister as opposed to a solicitor.
Whilst there are apprenticeships for solicitors, paralegals and chartered legal executives, unfortunately there aren’t any as of October 2017 for barristers. However, the second we hear of one, we’ll keep you posted.
The BCAT is the Bar Course Aptitude Test – it is an aptitude test you must pass in order to accept your place to study the postgraduate degree of the BPTC. There is no recommended preparation needed for this test, but it examines your critical thinking and reasoning skills – its definitely worth completing a few practice tests beforehand to get used to the style of questions.
Pupillage is the 12-month period you spend in chambers training in becoming a barrister. You can think of it as a barrister‘s training contract equivalent. If you are successful in your Pupillage, the chambers may ask you to join as a tenant – a qualified and practising barrister.
You can choose to study the BPTC as a postgraduate qualification after your undergraduate law degree, or after passing the GDL. However, if you apply and are offered a place as a pupil at a chambers before you begin your studies, the chambers usually pays your tuition and living costs.
When you are applying to study the postgraduate BPTC, or to join a chambers as a pupil, you must be a member of an Inns of Court.
There are four Inns of Court, which represent and unite those studying to qualify as a barrister, or those who are already practising as a barrister. They are Middle Temple, Inner Temple, Lincoln’s Inn and Gray’s Inn.
You can attend dinners or lectures with other members at your Inns of choice. You will be “called to the Bar” at your Inns of Court upon qualification. Applications are made through the Inns of Courts’ websites, and there is a small application fee to join.
Becoming a barrister requires applications being sent to chambers via the Pupillage Gateway. Alternatively, a number of chambers accept their applications through cover letters and application forms on their individual websites.
This depends on the barristers position. Here is a rough table, although you can read more on our How to Become a Barrister page.
If you pass the BPTC in England, you will be eligible to be called to the Bar to practise as a barrister in England and Wales (given you have Pupillage).
As some countries have a different system of legal professionals, not all countries will recognise the qualifications that differentiate a barrister from a solicitor. For example, in the US, attorneys do the work of a solicitor and also speak in court when necessary – so there is no distinction as there is in the UK.
If you are keen to practise law abroad, you will have to check the route to qualification in the country you are looking into, as majority of English chambers will not have locations abroad. You might have to qualify as a professional again in your desired location, if the country operates with a separate solicitor-barrister system.
You can ask questions and share advice with other aspiring barristers here!
Page written by Amy Cheng.
Loading More Content