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Thinking about becoming a barrister and want to know about the vocational component of bar training? Currently referred to as the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), the vocational component will include different courses from September 2020 and will prepare you for your final stage of training, pupillage.

This page tells you everything you need to know about the future courses available to you and information about the application process.

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What is the Vocational Component of Bar Training? (currently the BPTC)?

The vocational component of bar training is a postgraduate course. It is designed to prepare you for pupillage and barrister practice through the teaching of advocacy, criminal and civil litigation, sentencing, evidence and professional ethics. The course also allows you to choose elective modules to narrow your expertise to a field you hope to practise in as a qualified barrister.

The vocational component will replace the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) in September 2020, and there will be several different ways in which you can study for this:

Three-step pathway – Academic, followed by vocational, followed by pupillage or work-based component. This pathway is the same as the current pathway, which would normally consist of a law degree (or non-law degree with the GDL), the new equivalent of the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), and pupillage.

Four-step pathway – Academic component, followed by vocational component in two parts, followed by pupillage or work-based component. This pathway consists of a law degree (or non-law degree with the GDL). This is then followed by the vocational component in two parts and pupillage or work-based component.

Integrated pathway – Combined academic and vocational components followed by pupillage or work-based component.

Combined academic, vocational and pupillage or work-based components. PLEASE NOTE: This pathway will not be available by 2020, and it may take several years or more for apprenticeship/modular models of training to become available.

Who Can Apply for the Vocational Component of Bar Training?

You can apply for the vocational component if you are aspiring to be a barrister and have:

How Long is the Vocational Component?

The current BPTC course is offered on either a full or part-time basis. Full-time courses usually last one year and part-time courses usually last two years. The new vocational pathways are more flexible than what was previously available. The full-time course typically involves three to four full days of teaching a week, with the part-time alternative consisting of two evening sessions a week – for example, 6pm to 9pm.

Depending on your circumstances, there can be advantages to selecting either option. Part-time programmes may be particularly appealing to those wishing to work full or part-time or those wishing to gain some practical legal experience whilst they study.

What Does the Vocational Component Involve?  

The courses available aim to prepare you for pupillage and beyond, with particular emphasis on developing advocacy skills. Such skills are vital if you want to become a barrister.

Musch like the BPTC, the courses are designed to equip you with the skills necessary to:

  • Represent clients in court
  • Prepare documents and presentations for court hearings
  • Advise clients
  • Understand how the English legal system works
  • Determine which formalities and courts are relevant to which cases

The core modules are the same as the BPTC’s and include:

  • Evidence
  • Criminal and Civil Litigation
  • Sentencing
  • Professional Ethics
  • Advocacy

In addition, you can specialise in particular fields of law in your chosen modules. For example:

  • Company Law
  • Commercial Law
  • Advanced Criminal Litigation
  • Fraud and Economic Crime
  • Family Law
  • Employment Law

It is a good idea, if possible, to choose modules based on the area of practice you may wish to enter as a qualified barrister.

Note: you cannot commence pupillage or begin tenancy in chambers until you have passed the course.

How Much Does the Vocational Component of Bar Training Cost?

The costs start from approximately £13,000 and go up to £19,000, without taking into account living and travel expenses. 

Where Can I Study the Vocational Component of Bar Training?

Several UK institutions that have previously run the BPTC will offer the new vocational component. Some based in London include BPP, City University and the University of Law and others are based in Nottingham, Cardiff, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds and Newcastle.

For a full list of institutions, use our Course Comparison Table.

Becoming a barrister with BPP from BPP on Vimeo.

What are the Entry Requirements?

Before you can commence the vocational component of bar training, you must:

  • Obtain, as a minimum, a lower second class honours (2:2) in a Bachelor of Laws degree, or a 2:2 in a non-law degree and a pass on the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). Note, however, that when applying for pupillage Chambers are likely to look more favorably upon students who have achieved a 2:1 or higher at degree level and commendation or distinction at GDL level.
  • Join one of the Inns of Court. The deadline for joining is 12 weeks before your vocational component is due to commence.

Joining one of the Inns of Court

There are four Inns of Court which are solely responsible for calling barristers to the Bar. They are all situated in London and include:

When selecting your Inns of Court, you might want to consider:

  • Scholarship and funding opportunities available
  • The design, structure and layout of the Inns
  • The education and training events that the Inns offer, along with convivial opportunities to meet practising barristers.

You are only required to join one Inn and there is a one-off joining fee. You are then a member of the Inn for life. If you are applying for funding through your studies, you can apply for a scholarship at your chosen Inn. Each Inn offers different scholarships of different sizes. It is crucial to do your research before you apply to make the most of the funding opportunities available!

When you commence the course, you will be required to attend 10 of the Inns sessions in order to pass. These events include residential training weekends, skills-based workshops and lectures. You will become an active member of the Inns through your completion of the course.

What Does the Vocational Component of Bar Training Application Process Involve?

Under the previous system, you had to apply for the BPTC through the Bar Student Application Service (BarSAS). After September, you must apply for the vocational component directly through your institution(s) of choice. some institutions have rolling deadlines, while others’ will be fixed. 

What Happens After Your Application(s) Have Been Submitted?

Some institutions may give you an offer directly from your application, whereas others may invite you to an interview/assessment day. This may involve an essay-based exam, a mock court hearing speech and/or an interview. 

Is There Any Funding Available for the Vocational Component?

It’s a good idea to look into scholarships that are offered to financially support your course. The Inns of Courts have scholarship programs, which you can apply to for a scholarship prize that helps finance your studies. Take a look at the individual Inns websites to find out more.

The institutions themselves usually have scholarship programmes too, so there’s nothing to lose by sending in applications for both.  

The Vocational Component and Pupillage

It is important to note that completing the vocational component (currently the BPTC) does not automatically guarantee pupillage. Securing pupillage is a competitive business with fewer pupillage places than students graduating from the vocational component. Before committing large amounts of time and money to pursue this route,  it is important to think very carefully about whether you have what it takes to go all the way and qualify as a barrister.

Step-by-Step Vocational Component Application Guide*

Step 1 – Be on track to complete either a:

Step 2 – Research vocational component providers (use our Course Comparison Table to help get you started)

Step 3 – Apply through your preferred institution(s)

Step 4 – Join one of the  Inns of Court, and apply for any relevant scholarships

Step 5 – Sit the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) during the summer preceding commencement of the course

Step 6 – Attend any interview/assessment days the various providers’ request

Step 7 – Begin the vocational component!

*Alongside this process, it is important to continue building your legal work experience through mini pupillages, mooting, court visits and judge marshalling. It is also important to apply for pupillage if you are yet to secure one.

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