Becoming A Barrister - Bar Council

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BECOMING A01

Supported by the Inns of CourtINTRODUCTIONChoosing to become a barrister opens upthe possibility of embarking upon oneof the most dynamic and challengingcareers available.This brochure will introduce you to life as a barrister.It will provide you with the information you need tohelp you decide whether or not a career at ‘the Bar’(as the profession is commonly known) would bethe right choice for you. It will explain the necessarysteps towards this career path, how and when youneed to take them, and where you can find supportalong the way.On the Bar Council website you can download anelectronic version of this brochure and see profiles ofa range of barristers, who explain why they decided tojoin the profession. You can find all this information atwww.barcouncil.org.uk/careers. If you have any furtherquestions you can email careers@barcouncil.org.uk.Alternatively, if you want to get a better idea of thecareer path ‘at a glance’, you will find a short helpfulreference guide at the back of this brochure.0203

WHAT IS ABARRISTER?In England and Wales, the legalprofession is split into two maingroups: barristers and solicitors,with legal executives making anincreasingly important contribution.There are over 16,000 practisingbarristers, but over 136,000 solicitors.Whilst there is some overlapbetween the work of barristers andsolicitors, barristers still mainlyundertake work which has beenreferred to them by solicitors.Many barristers specialise in just onearea, or a small number of areas, of law.Others have more general practices andwill provide advice and advocacy across awide range of areas of law.Althoughmostbarristersareself-employed, they don’t work in isolation, buttend to group together in offices knownas ‘chambers’, to which they pay ‘rent’to cover the cost of the building and itsstaff. Chambers’ colleagues and staff canbe a key source of professional supportBarristers are specialist legal advisersand friendship for barristers at all levelsand advocates who, providing they haveof their career.undertaken the necessary training, canappear in all courts, including the HighThere are also around 3,000 employedCourt, Court of Appeal and the Supremebarristers, who work for organisations,Court. They play an extremely importantrather than for themselves. Employersrole in helping individuals and institutionsof barristers include the Governmentunderstand, pursue and defend theirLegal Department, the Crown Prosecutionlegal rights.Service, financial services institutions,industry and commerce and the ArmedBarristers are probably best known forForces, where they work as in-housewearing wigs and gowns and presentingadvocates or advisers. The type of worklegal arguments in court. But there isthey do depends on their employer, butmuch more than that to a career asrequires them to possess the samebarrister. Many barristers hardly everabilities in specialist legal advice andappear in court and, in some courts, wigsadvocacy as any other barrister.and gowns are no longer worn. As well as“It is wonderful to be able to stand upand represent someone in court usingyour skills, to win a case for them.”Simon O’Toole,5 Pump Court chambers04court work, many barristers specialise inTraditionally, barristers had to be instructedadvising individuals, companies and a wideby solicitors, and most of the Bar’s workvariety of institutions on legal documents,still comes from this source, althoughcompany structures and broader businesssince 2004, members of the public haveissues relating to the law.been able to instruct barristers directlythrough the Public Access Scheme.05

WHO IS THE BARLOOKING FOR?Despite popular misconceptions andstereotypes, there is no such thing as a‘typical’ barrister. Barristers come froma wide range of social, academic andprofessional backgrounds. There are,however, certain skills and abilitiescommon to most of those who succeedat the Bar. Academic ability and strongcommunication skills are vital.committed to widening access, and to creatinga diverse and inclusive profession.The Bar Council runs a number of initiatives,such as the Bar Placement Week, a workexperience opportunity aimed at Year 12 and13 students and the e-mentoring platform,designed for Year 12, 13 and undergraduatestudents. For more information on these, visitwww.barcouncil.org.uk/careers.You don’t need a first class degree from Oxfordor Cambridge to become a barrister. If youare from a Black, Asian, or ethnic minoritybackground, have a disability, identify asLGBTQ , come from a low-income backgroundand/or are a woman, there are lots oforganisations, including the Bar Council, keento support you in accessing the profession.The Inns of Court offer many opportunities tolearn more about careers at the Bar, such asopen days and attendance at law fairs.You can find out more information at ity-diversity-and-inclusion.html.In Summer 2018, the Bar Council launched ‘Iam the Bar’ to profile the experiences of thosewho have succeeded at the Bar from nontraditional backgrounds. The award-winningcampaign is designed to increase socialmobility across the Bar and support fair accessto the profession. You can find more aboutthis year’s Social Mobility Advocates ns/iamthebar.html.“I thought I had to hide my backgroundto fit in with other barristers. I now see itas a strength and wear it with pride.”Natasha Shotunde, 5 St Andrew’s HillYou should also possess strong communicationskills. Over the course of your studies, youshould develop the ability to express argumentsand ideas clearly in writing, with attentionto detail. Whilst many barristers appear incourt only rarely, you should be confident atspeaking in public. You should also be able tocommunicate effectively with a wide variety ofpeople - from judges to members of the public.The Bar is looking for trustworthy, independentminded and flexible problem solvers whoare always open to new challenges, ready toadapt to changing circumstances and who willmaintain high standards of ethics and integrity.The Bar Council and the Inns of Court are06Griffin LAW scheme is the Gray’s Inn’s vehiclefor promoting social mobility and access to theBar. The Inn works with selected secondaryschool and sixth form students to introducethe legal profession, build knowledge of therule of law and develop skills in advocacy andpersuasion. Our Griffin students are identified bytheir schools as having aptitude and potential,but insufficient access to opportunity. Griffinstudents take part in a bespoke 8 week skillscourse which is delivered by student membersof Gray’s Inn and culminates in the Griffin MockTrial where the Griffin students play the role ofcounsel in a mock trial. For further information,see wwww.graysinn.org.uk.The Pegasus Access and Support Scheme(PASS), run by the Inner Temple, is aimed at highachieving university students and graduatesfrom non-traditional backgrounds. It provideswork experience and skills development. Inparticular it provides access to and fundingfor mini-pupillages. For more information, visitwww.innertemple.org.uk.The Neuberger prize, awarded annually byLincoln’s Inn, offers financial support andnetworking opportunities to exceptionalstudents at non-Russel Group universities. Formore information, please see www.lincolnsinn.org.uk.A similar scheme (Access to the BarAwards) is run by Middle Temple, whichinvites nominations from individual lawschools. For further information, seewww.middletemple.org.uk.07

WHY SHOULDYOU BECOME ABARRISTER?The Bar can offer one of the moststimulating, varied, challengingand exciting careers available.Whether delivering a closingspeech to a silent courtroom,negotiating the terms of a newcontract, cross-examining awitness, mediating a divorcingcouple, arguing against theremoval of a client’s welfarebenefits or delivering complexlegal arguments to a High CourtJudge, no two days as a barristerare the same.The issues concerned may vary vastlybetween different areas of the law, butthe core challenges are alike. A careerat the Bar is focused primarily on solvingproblems and resolving disputes, so ifyou relish winning an argument, reachinglogical and reasoned conclusions, andproducing solutions to difficult issues, thenyou should thrive at the Bar.Due in part to its small size, the Bar is a verysociable and close-knit profession. Manyvalue the camaraderie of chambers, thesocial events run by the Inns of Court andother organisations and the friendshipsWhilst the criminal Bar is arguablywhich they form through shared challengesmost visible to the general public, manyand interests.barristers gain as much satisfaction froma complex business negotiation as othersdo from a successful criminal prosecution.“Being a self-employedbarrister has allowed me,with the support of my clerks,to choose exactly how andwhen I want to work. Thisenables me to work full timeduring term time and take offthe school holidays.”Kama Melly QC,Park Square Barristers chambers0809

HOW DO YOU BECOME A BARRISTERAND WHEN DO YOU NEED TO MAKETHE KEY DECISIONS?If you are interested in becominga barrister, it is never too earlyto start thinking about whatqualifications and experience youmight need in order to succeed.The Bar is a small profession and there isvery high competition for training places,known as ‘pupillages’. Good GCSEs, A-levelsand a lower second class honours degreeare minimum requirements.There are three main components involvedin becoming a barrister: an academiccomponent, comprising an undergraduatedegree in law or an undergraduate degreein a non-law subject with a conversioncourse, such as the Graduate Diploma inLaw; a vocational component, comprisingstudy for the vocational qualification; anda work-based component, consisting ofwork-based learning/pupillage.GCSE yearsIf you are already considering a careeras a barrister, then this is the perfecttime to start gaining experience whichwill bolster your CV and to find out asmuch about the profession as you can.You may also be able to secure workexperience with a local firm of solicitors10or with a local court, to give you a closerinsight into a career in the law.As well as concentrating on achievinggood grades, it is important to rememberthat sets of chambers will be looking forother skills and experiences which makeyou stand out. Start to think about whatimpressive or unusual outside interestsyou might enjoy which might make you amore desirable and rounded candidate.It is also important to read as much as youcan - books, newspapers, blogs - to buildup your confidence and knowledge. It willalso build up your English language skills.A-level yearsThere are no firm rules about which subjectsyou need to study for A-level. You should tryto make sure that they are subjects whichyou enjoy, and in which you have a naturalinterest. It is usually better to study subjectswhich are more traditionally academic andwhich involve an element of writing, so thatyou can demonstrate your communicationand analytical skills from an early stage.You may wish to look at university admissionrequirements and preferred A-level subjectsfor certain degree courses.There is no requirement for you to studylaw at A-level. It will be helpful for you tothink about the types of subjects whichmight equip you with some of the skills youwould require at the Bar, such as the abilityto argue a point in a logical, reasoned andarticulate manner.Your A-Level years are a good time tostart to gain some experience of publicspeaking, such as debating, and toconsider applying for short periods ofwork experience, known as mini-pupillageswith sets of chambers. There are a limitednumber of chambers which offer these tounder-18s and you will need to check theirwebsites for details.What to study at universityAt some point during your A-Level studies,you will have to choose whether toundertake an undergraduate law degreeor a non-law degree. If you choose a nonlaw degree, you will need to undertake anadditional one-year conversion course,sometimes called a Graduate Diplomain Law (‘GDL’), after completing yourundergraduate degree. This conversioncourse will add additional costs so it isimportant to factor this into your decision.You do not have to study law at universityin order to become a barrister. It is verycommon for barristers to complete degreesin other subjects and then ‘convert’ to lawafterwards. For the right person, this canbe a very helpful step in choosing a career,as it allows them to defer their decisionon whether or not to go into the law whilststudying a subject in which they have astrong interest, and through which theymight later choose to pursue a differentcareer path. Some areas of practice, suchas intellectual property (which relates tothe protection of ideas and designs) andmedical law, value undergraduate degreesin science, for example. It is important tokeep in mind that whatever subject youdo choose to study, almost all pupils willhave achieved either a first class or uppersecond class degree.“Be strategic. You want yourCV to tell a story the endingto which could plausibly read:‘and then they becamea barrister’.”Duncan McCombeMaitland Chambers11

TIMELINE TO THE BARPenultimate year of undergraduate lawstudy / final year of non-law studyFinal year of law degree orGraduate Diploma in LawVocational yearWork-based component/PupillageThroughout the yearFrom SeptemberThroughout the yearOctoberLaw students Start thinking about gettingsome relevant work experience. Doplenty of research into chambers / minipupillages.By beginning of NovemberBy MayNon-law students Apply for GraduateDiploma in Law scholarship from the Innsof Court.Sit the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT).Apply for scholarship for the vocationalcomponent from the Inns of Court.Throughout the yearApply for membership to an Inn ofCourt 12 weeks before commencing thevocational component.January/FebruaryApply for pupillage through the PupillageGateway by February deadline.www.pupillagegateway.comDon’t forget to attend the Bar CouncilPupillage Fair in the autumn beforeyou apply for pupillage: www.barcouncil.org.uk/pupillagefair.12Apply for pupillages to non-pupillagePortal sets if unsuccessful in theprevious year.Finish the vocational component. Havingpassed the course, and completed yourqualifying sessions, you will be eligible tobe Called to the Bar.January/FebruaryIf unsuccessful in obtaining pupillagelast year, apply for pupillage beforeFebruary deadline.Start pupillage. Some pupillages maystart at different times of year.SummerMake a tenancy application at yourChambers or apply for an employedposition. If successful, tenancy oremployment will be offered. If you are notsuccessful, you can apply for a third six oran employed position elsewhere.OctoberStart tenancy or employment.Remember to complete your 10qualifying sessions to ensure you areeligible to be Called to the Bar.13

Applying for pupillageYour final year of a law degree or conversionyear will be your first opportunity to applyfor pupillage, the practical element of yourtraining to become a barrister. Each yeargraduates apply for pupillage and additionallythose applicants are joined by those whodid not obtain pupillage the year before.Graduates of the vocational component canapply for pupillage to commence five yearsfrom the date they pass the course.Theapplicationprocessvariesaccording to the set of chambers ororganisation, with many using the BarCouncil’s online application system(www.pupillagegateway.com) and otherschoosing to manage their applicationsindependently. Make sure you researchyour chosen chambers/organisation inadvance to ensure that you are aware of allrequirements and deadlines.You should attend the Bar Council’sPupillage Fair in Autumn of the year youare applying - see www.barcouncil.org.uk/pupillagefair. This provides you with anopportunity to meet and talk to barristers,representing a wide variety of chambers andorganisations. There is also a programme ofsessions for students, to provide informationand assist with pupillage applications.Take as much time as you can toresearch different sets of chambers andorganisations, and take care in preparingyour application(s) and, if relevant, your CVand covering letters (which you may need toprovide if a set of chambers or organisationto which you wish to apply does not use14the online application system). A singleset of chambers might receive hundreds ofapplications for just one or two pupillageplaces. Make sure that your application istailored to that specific opportunity.Pupillage interviews might involve problemsolving tasks and mock advocacy exercises,as well as the sort of questions you wouldexpect in any job interview. Some setsof chambers sift applicants by invitinga relatively large number for a short,ten minute interview. Needless to say,regardless of the length of the first interview,first impressions are very important.Vocational ComponentThe second component of training is thevocational component, which trains you inthe practical skills and knowledge to becomea barrister. This has traditionally taken theform of the Bar Professional Training Course(BPTC), but there will be several changestaking place next year. From September2020, the Bar Standards Board will permittraining providers to offer several new waysto become a barrister. These changes willbe gradual, but if you are a sixth-form oruniversity student, these changes are likelyto affect you. The pathways that are currentlyavailable are as follows: Three-step pathway: Law degree/conversion course, vocational componentin one part, pupillage/work-basedcomponent. This pathway is most like thepathway with the BPTC. Four-step pathway: Law degree/conversion course, followed by thevocational component and pupillage/work-based component.All pupillage vacanciesare advertised on thePupillage Gatewaywww.pupillagegateway.com15

Integrated pathway: Combined academicand vocational components, followed bythe pupillage/work-based component.For example, a law degree or conversioncourse combined with the vocationalcomponent.It is important for you to make sure thatyou consider all of the options before youchoose a vocational component provider.Bear in mind that course fees andaccommodation outside London may becheaper. You may already have given somethought to where you wish to undertakeyour pupillage and eventually practisegeographically, which may help to guideyour choice.If, as is quite common, you are notsuccessful in gaining pupillage duringthe final year of your law degree or duringconversion course, you will have anotheropportunity to apply during your vocationalcomponent year. During this time, youshould have opportunities to improve thequality of your applications by obtainingfurther relevant experience.At the same time, you will undertaketraining courses provided by your Innin order to qualify to be ‘Called to theBar’. The process of being ‘Called tothe Bar’ culminates in the graduationstyle ceremony at which you formallybecome a barrister (although you will notbe permitted to practise until you havecompleted pupillage).16Having joined an Inn, you should take theopportunity to ask your Inn for a ‘sponsor’or ‘mentor’: a practising barrister who canprovide practical advice and can help tointroduce you to life at the Bar. Most Innswill not allocate sponsors to students untilthey are taking the conversion course orvocational component.You need to have completed your ‘QualifyingSessions’ with your Inn (which might includeresidential training weekends, skills-basedworkshops or attending lectures followed byformal dinners with barristers and judges)and must have passed the vocationalcomponent in order to be Called to the Barby your Inn. This ceremony takes place inMarch, July, October or November. You caninvite guests, and it is a memorable occasionfor those taking part.Post-Vocational ComponentBecause chambers recruit pupils wellin advance, if you apply successfullyfor a pupillage whilst undertaking thevocational component, you will probablyhave a year-long gap before your pupillagestarts. There are still lots of useful thingsyou can do with that year to harness yourlegal skills. If you are unsuccessful in yourpupillage applications, you can still apply tocommence pupillage up to five years aftercompleting the vocational component. Ifyou wish to reapply again for pupillage,regardless of what you choose to do in themeantime, make sure that you continueto improve your CV and seek experiencewhich will strengthen future applications.17

PupillagePupillage is the practical stage of trainingto be a barrister, which you can commenceup to five years after completing thevocational component. This is eithercompleted in a set of chambers or withanother approved organisation. Pupillagesusually start in September or October, oneyear after you have been accepted by thechambers (so successful February 2017applicants will commence pupillage inautumn 2018).Pupillage is the work-based componentof qualifying as a barrister. You will beassigned pupil supervisors - barristers inthe same set of chambers or organisation- who you will shadow, and for whom youwill undertake supervised work.Pupillage lasts for 12 months (or 24months if running part time) and is brokenup into the ‘first six’ months and the‘second six’ months. In your ‘second six’,you will be eligible to undertake cases onyour own, albeit under close supervision.Chambers are required to fund your pupillagewith a minimum award of 18,436 perannum for pupillages in London and 15,728per annum for pupillages outside London.Some chambers provide considerablylarger awards; particularly chancery andcommercial sets, which are competing withthe large commercial law firms for applicants.Most chambers allow you to keep the moneywhich you earn in your second six.Recruitment methods vary betweenchambers, but decisions about ‘tenancy’18(long-term places in chambers) are usuallymade about ten months into pupillage.Competition for tenancy can be strong,with some chambers taking on severalpupils but only retaining one as a tenant.Appraisal might be based simply on your pupilsupervisor’s assessment of your abilities, oryou might have to take part in a formal mockadvocacy exercise. Other sets of chamberstake on every pupil with a view to makingthem a tenant if they perform well. You willalso need to pass an assessed advocacycourse taught by your Inn or Circuit. Therewill also be compulsory negotiation skillscourses and an ethics exam from 2021.network of solicitors who will ‘instruct’ you(essentially paying you to provide specialistservices) on a regular basis.Once you are a tenant, most chamberswill require you to pay a proportion ofyour earnings (‘rent’) to cover the costsof chambers’ employees and othershared overheads.The Employed BarIf you do not gain tenancy at the chambersat which you completed your pupillage,you can apply for a ‘third six’ at anotherset. This might allow you to gain exposureto other types of work, and will give youanother chance to apply for tenancy. ThirdSix pupillages are advertised on the BarCouncil website ).A proportion of those Called to the Barcomplete their pupillages with, or later goon to gain jobs with, organisations whichemploy them as permanent or contractedmembers of staff. Approximately 10% ofpupillages are employed Bar pupillages,most of which are offered by the CrownProsecution Service or the Government LegalDepartment. This might give them more jobsecurity and access to benefits such as paidsick leave, paid holiday and parental leave.Their work will vary greatly depending on theiremployer. Employers of barristers include theCrown Prosecution Service, the GovernmentLegal Department, the Armed Forces, localGovernment and private companies.TenancyProfessional conversionOnce you are a tenant, your income willcome entirely from the work you take on,either in your own right or, at the start of yourcareer, when acting as the junior memberof a team of barristers. With the support ofthe chambers’ ‘clerks’ (who are responsiblefor assigning work to the barristers in theirchambers and, in many cases, generatingnew business), you will need to build up areputation amongst potential clients and aIn some cases, it might be possible to qualifyas a barrister by an alternative mannerto the conventional path. For example,qualified solicitors may be exempted fromsome of the usual training requirements byundertaking the Bar Transfer Test (BTT).Third SixSilk and judicial appointmentMany of those barristers who havedeveloped a good practice choose toapply to become Queen’s Counsel laterin their career. If they are successful, theywill become Queen’s Counsel (and canadd the much-coveted letters “QC” aftertheir surname) and gain the right to weara silk gown in Court, for which reasonthey are often known as “silks”. Thistitle recognises that they have achievedexcellence in their field, and is awardedby the Lord Chancellor at a high profileceremony. QCs appear in the most seriousand important cases.Many barristers choose to apply to becomejudges later in their career; in fact, themajority of higher court judges are formerbarristers. Many barristers also sit as parttime judges (for example, as recorders,Deputy District Judges or Tribunal Chairs)whilst still practising at the Bar.19

FUNDINGYOUR TRAININGOne of the greatest concerns formost aspiring barristers is thecost of entering the profession.It is important to understand,before you make any long-termcommitments, exactly what thatcost might be for you.Between them, the four Inns of Court makescholarship awards of about 6 millionOther sources of financial helpinclude:every year, the majority of which is for the The Kalisher Scholarship Trust, which coversthe vocational component course feesvocational component, but awards are A number of high street banks, which offerfor two aspiring barristers each year, andalso available for the conversion coursegraduate loans, which can be large enoughprovides a variety of smaller bursaries andand pupillage. Some of the Inns alsoto cover the costs of a substantial portion ofawards including an annual 3,000 essaymake grants available for internships andyour studies and accommodation.prize. The aim is to encourage and supportfor students or pupils of the Inns who areYou should factor in the tuition fees foraffected by disability and can demonstrateyour undergraduate degree (which arefinancial need.only payable once you start earning), thetalented students who would otherwise not The government offers a Postgraduatebe able to pursue a career at the criminalMaster’s Loan, that you may be eligible forBar. For more information, please visit theif you study a combined LLM and vocationalTrust’s website: www.thekalishertrust.org.conversion course (if you studied a non-lawAll the Inns award their scholarshipstraining (which is offered by some providers).degree) and the vocational component, asand grants on merit, with financial needAlthough these loans are only available to If you are successful in obtaining a pupillagewell as living costs. Costs for all of thosebeing taken into account. It is importantstudents who are resident in England, thebefore undertaking your vocational training,courses will vary depending on whereto note that candidates may apply for aWelsh government also offers some loanssome chambers will allow you to receiveyou study them and you should try toscholarship to one Inn only, and must beand bursaries.part of your pupillage award in advance offind out as much as possible in advance.a member of that Inn to take up any awardThethat is offered.BarStandardsBoardwebsiteprovides information on the variousFor further information on the scholarshipsbarstandardsboard.org.uk and conversionand grants available from the Inns, on thecoursevocationalFor more information on the PostgraduateMaster’svocational component providers www.andpupillage, which is known as a ‘draw down’.Loan,pleaseseehere:You may also need to consider part-time workwww.gov.uk/funding-for-postgraduate-study.and paralegal work. As well as assisting youfinancially, the right experience could help yourcomponentcriteria that are used to determine awards,For more information on options for studentsproviders list the cost of courses on theirand application procedures and deadlines,resident in Wales, please see here: www.websites.please visit their respective arch for pupillage.and-doctoral-students. Please note thatWhilst funding your path to the Bar is aLincoln’s Inn (www.lincolnsinn.org.uk)these are unlikely to cover the full fees fordaunting prospect for many applicants,Inner Temple (www.innertemple.org.uk)the course, so do bear that in mind whenthere is a range of help on offer, from theMiddle Temple (www.middletemple.org.uk)considering this as a possible option.Inns, from banks and from a number ofGray’s Inn (www.graysinn.org.uk)bursaries, as set out below.2021

WHERE THEBAR IS BASEDQualifying Sessions will might includeFor further information on the Barresidential training weekends, skills-basedCouncil, please visit www.barcouncil.workshops or attending lecturesorg.uk.The Bar Council and the BarStandards g.uk.ChambersThe Bar Council represents barristers inMost self-employed barristers group togetherThey also provide extensive library and ITEngland and Wales, and comprises a councilin sets of chambers, enabling them tofacilities, support for barristers and studentof barristers who meet regularly, supportedshare office space, staff costs and otherThere are four Inns of Courts: Lincoln’smembers and other forms of ongoing training,by an executive of employed staff. The Baroverheads. Chambers will usually be headedInn, Inner Temple, Middle Temple andparticularly extensive advoc

BARRISTER? "It is wonderful to be able to stand up and represent someone in court using your skills, to win a case for them." Simon O'Toole, 5 Pump Court chambers In England and Wales, the legal profession is split into two main groups: barristers and solicitors, with legal executives making an increasingly important contribution.

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