How to Become a Barrister

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Facts and Figures

Once you have satisfied yourself you have the qualities to become a barrister, and the potential to develop your knowledge and skills further, you should also consider some of the ‘facts and figures’ concerning a career at the Bar before you commit yourself.

In brief, approximately 1800 students take the Bar Course every year and, typically, the number of pupillages offered is about 550 each year. Some students who complete the Bar Course return overseas or turn to other professions. However, students are allowed to seek pupillage for up to 5 years after completing the Bar Course, so the competition for pupillages is extremely intense. Over 3,000 individuals may be applying for pupillage in any particular year, and some Chambers have over a hundred applicants for each pupillage placement, and at present there are only a limited number of pupillages at the Employed Bar. All pupillages are awarded on merit only following a fair selection process. Please also see the reports of the Bar Standards Board's monitoring visits to the Bar Course providers here.

Up to date and detailed statistics are available on the BSB website. The Providers of the Bar Course also publish their own statistics about the number of students they take on the Bar Course each year, and how successful their graduates are at obtaining pupillage or other appropriate positions. Details of the costs of the course at each provider are also given on their websites. You are also strongly advised to read the Bar Council booklet ‘It’s Your Call’, which is updated from time to time and which includes additional information about a career at the Bar.

You should also realise that, following pupillage, obtaining a tenancy in Chambers or a suitable position at the Employed Bar can also be very challenging. Each year there are normally fewer tenancies available than pupillages, and Chambers do not always offer tenancy to their own pupils.

Seek Advice

Do, therefore, check out the detailed information on the websites listed below. Remember that you also need to meet the formal entry requirements before you start the course: at least a second class honours degree in law (or in another subject plus a conversion course), Inn membership, adequate language skills and passing the new Bar Entry Test. You should find out as much as you can and give the information serious consideration before committing yourself to the study - and financial and other expenditure that this requires.

So, to make a realistic assessment of whether you are suited to a career as a barrister you should:

  • Seek guidance from your university law tutors and careers advisers
  • Contact the Education staff at the Inner Temple (we are happy to answer any queries and also organise open days / tours / careers presentations for university students)
  • Find out more about the profession and look at the statistical information
  • Try to gain relevant experience such as working for a law firm, doing a mini pupillage or marshalling for a judge
  • Try to talk to people who have studied for the Bar, for example to a recently qualified barrister.

If you have faith in yourself, your capabilities and your potential to succeed after hard work and effort this should not discourage you. For good candidates, from whatever background, financial support (for example Inner Temple Scholarships, or loans) is frequently available, and the final rewards - both in terms of job satisfaction and financial remuneration - can make it a very worthwhile career.

Helpful advice

You will find helpful advice on the following websites:
The Bar Council
The Bar Standards Board
BPP Law School, London, Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham  
City University, London
University of Law, London and Birmingham
Cardiff Law School
Manchester Metropolitan University
University of Northumbria, Newcastle
Nottingham Law School
University of the West of England, Bristol