How to Become a Barrister

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This section will provide you with information on becoming a barrister and how the Inner Temple can help you throughout your training.

We are very glad that you are seriously thinking of pursuing a career as a barrister. Being a barrister can be an extremely rewarding career if you:

  • have a high level of intellectual ability
  • are articulate in written and spoken English
  • can think and communicate under pressure
  • have determination and stamina

Please visit the pages in this section for facts and figures about becoming a barrister and the different stages of training.

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

Whilst at School

A-level subjects

When choosing A-level subjects, it is important for you to consider the subjects that will provide you with the best foundation to succeed in your university degree and subsequent career training. Being a barrister requires high levels of in-depth analysis, which is often best learned from taking more traditional A-level subjects. The combination of A-levels can be an important aspect of your application. Consider those courses that are both of interest to you and that will challenge you academically.

Subjects that are not considered ‘core’ A-levels for competitive university admission may be considered likewise by Chambers. For example, while many school students take A-level Law because they believe it will add to their law application, this subject does not necessarily add to an application if you do not have the basics in other areas, such as English, which is needed to excel in legal careers. In addition, certain law degrees may require you to have an understanding of specific subject matter. For example, if you are considering a university degree course in combined language and law, it may require an A-level in that specific A-level language for admission.

School grades

You will also, of course, need to work hard to achieve the best grades possible. Aspiring barristers should focus on getting the best grades in challenging subjects that are of interest to them. Your ability in those courses could not only affect your chances of receiving an offer of a place at university, particularly at the most selective universities, but also your professional progression in a range of careers later in life.

The Bar is a competitive profession and you will need to demonstrate that you have excelled academically in your school and at university. Some Chambers and Employed Bar institutions look back to your school grades to assess your application compared to the many other outstanding applicants.

Increasing competition has meant that the majority of pupillage positions are offered to those with at least an upper second class honours in their undergraduate degrees and high A-level grades. Chambers may consider exceptional candidates outside this range but you should remember that you will be competing with those of high academic merit.

Extra-curricular activities

Demonstrating a passion for the legal profession through extra-curricular activities is important, particularly if you wish to show that you have ability that is not demonstrated in your grades. In school, you should consider voluntary activities that demonstrate your passion in law and advocacy. Chambers will want to see that you are well-rounded and can apply your learning to practical situations. You might like to think about starting up a debating or mock trial team at your school and competing in regional or national events. For more information, see the Bar National Mock Trial.

You could also get involved with activities that will build on your presentation and speaking skills, such as drama or public speaking. This will help you to make sure that a career as a barrister is right for you.

Stage 1 - University

Please note: the Bar Vocational Course (BVC) was renamed the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) in 2010.

Year 1

  • Research legal profession (e.g. attend Inner Temple Question & Answer Day in June, arrange a tour of the Inn)
  • Apply for work experience (e.g. mini-pupillage in a chambers or work experience in a solicitors' firm)
  • Join Mooting and Debating societies at university. Get involved in other extra-curricular activities which will strengthen your communication skills (e.g. acting, journalism, public speaking and volunteering)

Year 2
(or Final Year for Non-Law Undergraduates)

  • Investigate funding possibilities for the law conversion course (CPE / GDL) or Bar Professional Training Course (e.g. Inner Temple Scholarships)
  • Check closing dates for applications to courses and funding (see Scholarships section)
  • Apply for mini-pupillages and other law-related work experience
  • Attend Legal Careers Fairs and Pupillage Fairs (March/April)
  • If applying for conversion course, initial round allocations are from February to mid-April (see Central Applications Board website for further details)
  • Enquire about pupillage applications (see Pupillage Gateway)
  • Obtain application details for BPTC

Final Year
(or Conversion Course Year for Non-Law Graduates)

  • Join Inner Temple (it is compulsory to join an Inn of Court before starting the BPTC)
  • Apply for BPTC through the Bar Student Application Service website
  • Apply for Inner Temple Scholarships by closing dates (first Friday in November)
  • Apply for pupillage via the Pupillage Gateway in March/April
  • Attend Pupillage Fairs

Stage 2 - Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC)

Please note: the Bar Vocational Course (BVC) was renamed the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) in 2010.

  • One-year academic course (two years for part-time students)
  • Taught at one of the 11 validated BPTC Institutions
  • A skills-based course designed to prepare students for their 12 months of pupillage and to lay the foundations for future practice

During your BPTC Year

You must complete 12 Qualifying Sessions with your Inn in order to be Called to the Bar. These include advocacy weekends, education days, lectures and dining. Please see Qualifying Sessions section for more details.

You may find the following useful in preparation for pupillage interviews:

  • Mock interviews - arranged by the Inn
  • Mini-pupillages (Pupillage Handbook available from the Inn or at Pupillage Gateway)
  • Pupillage Advice Evenings - arranged by the Inn
  • Alternative modes of pupillage (e.g. Employed Bar)

Once you have successfully completed your BPTC course and Qualifying Sessions, you can be Called to the Bar. Call Night is the graduation ceremony for students and takes place four times each year. For more information please visit the Call to the Bar section.

Stage 3 - Pupillage

In order to practise as barrister you must undertake a pupillage. This is a one year "apprenticeship" with a chambers or other approved organisation (e.g. Crown Prosecution Service, Government Legal Service).

Your pupillage year is split into two parts: a non-practising six months and a practising six months.

The first six months consist of shadowing one or more pupil supervisors and other members of chambers and usually involve undertaking legal research, drafting opinions and observing in court.

First six pupils must satisfactorily complete and pass the following training in order to receive a provisional practising certificate:

In addition, pupils can embark upon the Forensic Accounting Course. A minimum 20 hours should be completed by the end of the first three years of practice.

During the second six months, pupils will continue to shadow a Pupil Supervisor but will also be allowed to accept professional instructions. On satisfactory completion of the second six, pupils will receive a Full Qualification Certificate.

Stage 4 - Tenancy in Chambers or Employment

As a fully-qualified barrister, the final stage in pursuing your career is to secure a tenancy in chambers or in employment.

Independent Bar

As a barrister at the independent bar, you are self-employed and effectively run your own business. Once you have secured a place in chambers, you are able to share the cost of offices, clerks and bills with the other members of your chambers.

Opportunities for tenancy can be as competitive as other areas of your training. Sometimes, you may be offered tenancy at the chambers in which you completed your pupillage. Otherwise, you must seek out a tenancy as you would other forms of employment; applications to specific chambers which may specialise in your area of law and responding to advertisments in legal publications or on websites.

Employed Bar

A barrister at the employed bar works directly within a commercial company or public sector organisation. At senior levels, an employed barrister may manage a team or become involved in the development of legal policy or strategy for that organisation.

New Practitioner Training

As a newly qualified practitioner at the independent or employed bar, you must complete 45 hours of continuing professional development (CPD) each year for your first 3 years including at least 9 hours of Advocacy Training and 3 hours of Ethics. After that, you must undertake 12 hours of CPD every year that you continue to practise.

Please click here to visit our New Practitioners section for further details.