A bright guide on How to become a barrister

The path to becoming a barrister is very challenging and competitive.  Aspiring barristers can come from any degree discipline and they will need to undertake additional training and study after they leave university.  

You could find yourself following in Amal Clooney's footsteps and advising on who should own the Elgin Marbles

For Law students…

You will need to complete an undergraduate degree in law (LLB). You will then apply to the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) which takes a year full-time to complete or 2 years part time. Entry to the Bar is exceptionally competitive so you’ll need at least a 2.i in your undergraduate degree (if not better) to be considered. 

You will need as much relevant work experience as possible before you submit an application. Mini-pupillages are the best type you can get and you can see the list of chambers that offer these here.  If this isn’t feasible for you then look at other work shadowing, paralegal work, and voluntary work. You should also consider how you’ll demonstrate your public speaking ability and interest in the law.  

After completing the BPTC, prospective barristers than undertake a year-long pupillage – essentially a year of training in barristers’ chambers or in an organisation which is approved by the Bar Standards Board.

Once your training is complete, the final step would be to secure tenancy in a set of barristers’ chambers or go into practice as an employed barrister.

The path to becoming a barrister is very challenging and competitive.  Aspiring barristers can come from any degree discipline and they will need to undertake additional training and study after they leave university.  

For non-Law students…

You don’t need to have studied law to become a barrister – but it will mean an additional qualification if you did do a different subject. 

You will have to complete a conversion course before you can complete the qualifications/stages outlined for law students. You’ll need at least a 2.1 in your degree to apply for this.

Law conversion courses are normally referred to as the Common Professional Examination (CPE) or the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). They are designed to prepare non-law students for the next level of study for prospective barristers which is the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) (see the section above for more details).

To become a barrister you will need…

Excellent academic ability

This is a very intellectually demanding role. If you have excellent research skills and enjoy analysing information to put together arguments, both written and verbally,  you could find this a very enjoyable field. In addition, given the competition to becoming a barrister you will need to have top grades to make yourself stand out.  

Exceptional communication skills

First class written and oral communication are essential.

To enjoy working with people

Barristers present information, give advice and are called on for their professional opinions every day once they are qualified. They are expected to maintain a high standard of professionalism throughout.

Something to bear in mind is that solicitors have more interpersonal time with clients than barristers. They will form closer working relationships so the two should not be confused if this is the part of the role that appeals.

Relish speaking in public

Public-speaking experience is essential if you want to make it in this sector. Prospective barristers should enjoy speaking in public and presenting information.

And finally...

A passion for the Law and strong commercial awareness along with work experience will help to to get ahead.

You should also bear in mind that when starting out salaries can be considerably low for trainee barristers and the period of time before they start earning the salaries that are often quoted for qualified barristers (e.g. barristers with ten years or more experience can earn up to £1,000,000) can be quite significant.

Scholarships and sponsorships are available for students undertaking training – but these are not guaranteed.  Likewise, pupillages can have excellent starting salaries – some chambers will offer salaries up to £65,000 for the best – but this isn’t the case everywhere. Years of hard work and training will be required regardless of the path each barrister takes.

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