So, you want to become a barrister? Well, you have a long and probably arduous journey ahead of you, but the rewards – both personal and financial – will be worth the hard work. Law is a very highly paid profession, but this means it is just as highly sought after, meaning the competition will be great.
If you want to become a barrister yourself, the main way to achieve your aim involves three steps: the academic, the vocational and the pupillage.
The first step on the road to being a qualified barrister is getting a degree – either a Qualifying Law Degree or a degree in any other subject, as long as you do a conversion course (Graduate Diploma in Law) afterwards.
You will need, at the very least, a 2:2 in your chosen degree; third class Honours will not be accepted. The degree is intended to prepare you for the vocational stage, and you will not be able to progress to that until you’ve studied the Foundations of Legal Knowledge: Public Law, EU Law, Criminal Law, Property Law, Obligations and the Law of Trusts. If you’re already put off, I’d suggest a change of career – maybe you need some employment advice!
The Vocational Stage
Next, you must undertake the BPTC – the Bar Professional Training Course. This usually takes the form of a single year, full time course, but you can instead choose to do it part time, which will take twice as long. The part time course is good for work experience, however. It is a mostly practical course, involving role playing and advocacy, and also teaching you how to write up legal documents.
When it comes to assessing your progress, each institution has its own methods, but you will typically have to take multiple choice tests to determine how knowledgeable you are about key areas. Your practical skills will, of course, be demonstrated practically – advocacy via recorded examinations and written papers to prove your competence in writing. Once you’ve passed, you may move on to your pupillage.
Pupillage takes one further year, and is incredibly competitive: last year, almost 3000 people applied for it. It normally takes place within a barristers’ chambers, where you will receive practical experience under the supervision and guidance of a suitably experienced barrister. During the first six months, you will typically spend most of your time shadowing, researching and observing your supervisor in court. After these six, you will be eligible to be Called to the Bar.
Once you’re Called – congratulations! This is the equivalent of a graduation ceremony, and you have now earned the right to the title of barrister! However, before you can practise, you’ve got to complete the final six months.
During these months you are allowed to take on work of your own, still with a supervisor for a helping hand. Once that’s done, you are officially a practising barrister, so you deserve a pat on the back! Now all you have to do is obtain tenancy within a barristers’ chambers…
About this post:
This is a guest post by Jamie Knop for Employment Advice Now in Leeds.