November 16, 2023
The legal profession, historically shrouded in tradition and rigidity, is on the brink of a monumental shift. Come April 2024, the UK may see the inception of barrister apprenticeships, revolutionising the way barristers are trained and recruited. This shift not only signifies a transformative moment for the legal sector but also presents a potentially more inclusive avenue for aspiring lawyers.

What Is A Barrister Apprenticeship?

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.

Early Developmental Stages

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.

Implications For The Legal Profession

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.


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What This Means For Law Students

For law students, this development can be both an opportunity and a call for adaptability:

  • More Choices: Apart from the traditional route, students can now consider barrister apprenticeships as a viable entry point, especially if they favour a more practical approach over academia.
  • Increased Competition: With more entry pathways, competition might surge, requiring students to be more strategic about their career decisions.
  • Costs: The apprenticeship route might be financially more feasible for many, reducing the hefty costs associated with traditional legal education.

Which Organisations Could Offer Barrister Apprenticeships?

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:

  • Trinity Chambers: Recognised for its comprehensive practice areas ranging from family law to criminal law, Trinity Chambers is one of the leading lights in this initiative.
  • St Philips Chambers: With a sterling reputation in both national and international legal circles, St Philips offers expertise across multiple legal disciplines.
  • Cornwall Street Chambers: Known for its extensive criminal and civil litigation practices, this chamber is a heavyweight in the Midlands’ legal arena.
  • 33 Bedford Row: This London-based chamber boasts a wide-ranging practice, making it a desirable destination for any budding barrister.
  • Clerksroom: An innovative provider of legal services, Clerksroom is another key player to watch out for.

Governmental Bodies:

  • Crown Prosecution Service (CPS): As the principal prosecuting authority in England and Wales, the CPS’s involvement signals the apprenticeship’s potential reach into public sector legal roles.
  • Government Legal Department: Serving as the government’s principal legal advisers, their involvement ensures that the apprenticeship maintains the highest standards.
  • Ministry of Justice: This major government department oversees the entire criminal justice system, civil justice, land registration, and other associated topics. Their stake in this initiative further reinforces its importance and reach.

Regulatory Bodies and Councils:

  • Bar Standards Board: As the regulatory body for barristers in England and Wales, their collaboration guarantees that the apprenticeship aligns with professional standards.
  • Bar Council: Representing barristers in England and Wales, the Bar Council’s participation ensures that the apprenticeship is tailored to the evolving needs of the profession.

Tips For Aspiring Barristers

  • Stay Updated: As the initiative is still in its formative stages, it’s essential to stay updated with news from these organisations and any new entrants to the scene.
  • Network: Attend legal events, webinars, or seminars hosted by these institutions. This can give you insights into their approach to the apprenticeship and provide valuable networking opportunities.
  • Research and Prepare: Each institution may have its unique approach or requirements for the apprenticeship. Ensure you thoroughly research each one and tailor your applications accordingly.

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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