Overview of the profession

There are more people who want to become barristers than there are places available, and early signs are that Covid-19 may have a significant impact on opportunities.

Being a barrister is unique varied and rewarding. It is vital to carry out significant research about the role, the route to qualifying and about employers as well as gaining critical relevant work experiences and understand your motivations to become a barrister. It is a profession that welcomes applications from career changers as well as recent graduates, so be prepared to apply in successive years until you have sufficient life and work experiences.

The majority of barristers are self-employed, and practice from Chambers. There are barristers who are employed, operating within law firms and commercial/charitable organisations and receive a salary. The role involves advocacy at Court, reviewing legal cases, and drafting advice to Solicitors. It requires a genuine and authentic interest in the law and its application, an ability to deliver persuasive argument as an advocate, an ability to think quickly and adapt to change at short notice. Barristers need to demonstrate high academic ability and communicate exceptionally well in writing and verbally.

Routes to qualification and important changes from September 2020

There are 3 components to training to become a barrister and full details can be found at the Bar Standards Board website.

  • The academic component:
  1. an Undergraduate law degree or
  2. any Undergraduate degree plus the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL).
  • The vocational component:
  1. A Bar Training Course offered by an Authorised Education and Training Organisation (AETO)
  • The pupillage or work based learning component.

In addition, you must also:

  • Complete the Bar Course Aptitude Test and
  • Join an Inn of Court (before you start the vocational stage)
  • Meet the requirements in the Professional Statement for Barristers

Since September 2020 the route to qualification changed, replaced with a wide choice of courses available all with differing names. Course providers must be authorised by the Bar Standards Board, and can combine the academic and vocational stages, be part time or full time, online and face to face, and can combine an LL.M. You need to research all the options carefully, and keep up to date as new providers are entering the market and more to arrive 2021 onwards.
Applications are made individually to each AETO so it is important you do thorough research. As this is a new system from September 2020, it will be changing all the time so keeping connected has never been more important to inform your decision.

Observations on qualifying as a barrister from September 2020

  • New changes: Until September 2020, the vocational stage on the route to qualification was by one course named the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and was offered by various providers but was essentially the same. From September 2020, there are more varied ways of training, and the courses differ both in name and content depending upon the provider. The providers are now called Authorised Education and Training Organisations (AETO). A list can be found by visiting the Bar Standards Board - Training & Qualifications and you need to conduct extensive research around which course fits you best.
  • Impact of Covid-19 so far: The impact of Covid on barristers may be significant. Courts have closed, or conduct hearings online and in this period, the Bar has seen a reduction in work. Pupillages may be deferred or postponed in many cases, and mini-pupillages and work experiences have seen cancellations or a move online. It seems that opportunities will, certainly in the immediate, be restricted so having a ‘Plan B’ to gain relevant work experiences in the meantime, is highly advised. Keep informed and up to date in the relevant sector articles and updates and attend new online virtual pupillage fairs that are being widely advertised..
  • For students already enrolled on the BPTC, assessments and exams have moved online, and keep in touch with your AETO if you are enrolled on a Course commencing September 2020.

Get experience and develop skills

The Bar requires good academic ability and transferrable skills. Many stipulate a 2:1 minimum requirement, others do not, but work and life experiences are critical.

  • Work experiences include mini-pupillages, short periods of work experience within Chambers. Competition is fierce, and many of these opportunities are currently either moving online or being postponed.
  • Any work experience is valuable - remember that barristers represent their clients, so work experience in a sector related to their area of interest can be very useful.

  • Equally, work or voluntary experiences are highly valued by legal employers across all areas – it demonstrates commitment, team, engagement and skills required to be a successful adviser – even if not with a legal employer. For barristers, any roles with an advocacy or advisory element would support your application

Find out about careers and jobs