For those unfamiliar, it’s paramount to first grasp what a barrister does. A barrister represents individuals or entities in court, provides expert legal opinions, and offers advice on legal matters. Historically, becoming a barrister involved undertaking the Bar Training Course (BTC) after completing a law degree or conversion course.
However, the proposed barrister apprenticeship, currently under consideration by the Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE), introduces a new pathway. Mirroring the format of solicitor apprenticeships which have been available since 2016, it offers a combination of practical experience and academic learning, directly moulding apprentices into professional roles.
The news, as broken by Legal Cheek, indicates that IfATE already lists a Level 7 barrister apprenticeship, suggesting its parallel nature to the existing apprenticeship for solicitors. Key decision-makers, including barristers’ chambers across England, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Bar Standards Board, and Bar Council, have all expressed interest and support, emphasising its potential significance.
Esteemed institutions, such as Trinity Chambers, St Philips Chambers, and others, have joined forces with governmental bodies to design the curriculum. This consortium suggests that the apprenticeship program will be holistic, taking input from both the practising and regulatory segments of the legal industry.
However it is important to note that this apprenticeship is still in development stages and it will go live (by April 2024) depending on the uptake of training providers and employers.
Diversity and Inclusion: IfATE’s spokesperson has emphasised the game-changing potential of this apprenticeship to make the barrister profession more accessible. With traditional routes often criticised for being elitist, this move could usher in a wave of barristers from varied socio-economic backgrounds, enriching the profession’s perspectives.
Competitive Landscape: The introduction of barrister apprenticeships could alter the landscape of legal recruitment. As seen with the solicitor apprenticeships’ rising popularity, leading legal chambers and organisations might soon compete to offer the most appealing apprenticeship programs, making the legal sector more dynamic.
Enhanced Practical Training: An apprentice barrister will likely be more hands-on from the onset, potentially leading to a generation of barristers with robust practical experience accompanying their academic knowledge.
For law students, this development can be both an opportunity and a call for adaptability:
As the UK legal landscape shifts to embrace barrister apprenticeships, aspirants should be aware of the institutions that are at the forefront of this transformation. Not only will these firms and organisations potentially offer the apprenticeship opportunities, but their involvement also signals a commitment to nurturing new talent and evolving with the times.
Here’s a list of firms and organisations that are instrumental in shaping this new era of legal training:
Chambers of Note:
Regulatory Bodies and Councils:
Including these organisations in your radar as you navigate the world of barrister apprenticeships can give you a competitive edge and a clearer direction in your budding legal career.
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