Becoming a barrister
Find out the route you need to take to become a practising barrister in the UK.
Following completion of a qualifying law degree, you will need to complete your Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and pupillage. Barristers need to have good powers of persuasion, whether oral or written, and to be able to explain complex issues so that their clients, members of a jury or other non-specialists are able to follow the argument clearly.
How do barristers work?
Most barristers are self-employed, but work in groups in what are known as "sets" of barristers' chambers, sharing premises and support services. These sets will often specialise in just one or two main areas of the law and will look to develop a reputation in that field which will attract further work. Approval by the existing members of a set for another barrister to join them is known as obtaining tenancy. Tenants in a chambers have to contribute from their earnings to the cost of running the chambers, and they don't receive a monthly salary, or sickness or holiday pay, relying instead on their personal earnings to pay for their upkeep both in chambers and at home. A smaller number of barristers are employed by a company or a law firm - this group is known as the "employed Bar" (as opposed to the "self-employed Bar").
How do I become a barrister?
The initial (academic) stage of qualification as either a barrister or a solicitor is the same: you need either to obtain an undergraduate law degree or, if you already have a first degree in another subject, you can opt instead to complete a law conversion course (the Graduate Diploma in Law.
You then need to complete the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) to obtain the required set of legal skills - this can be done either full or part time. At this stage you are also required to join one of the four Inns of Court as a student member and undertake a number of qualifying sessions. At present, on successful completion of the BPTC and the Inns qualifying requirements you will be Called to the Bar and are able to describe yourself legitimately as a barrister.
The next stage is pupillage at a set of barristers' chambers or another approved legal environment - this is split into two periods of six months each, known as the "first six" and "second six". There is an annual application round for pupillage and members of our Pupillage Advisory Service will help you to identify and apply to sets of chambers suitable to meet your career aspirations. They will also help with obtaining mini-pupillages during your BPTC so that you can obtain some experience of life in chambers.
During the pupillage "first six" you will be assigned a pupil supervisor (one of the barristers) whom you will observe and assist. If you complete this period satisfactorily you will be given a certificate which will allow you to work on your own during the "second six". During that time you will start to take on cases and clients of your own and may represent them in court.
Once you have completed your pupillage you will be eligible for tenancy (a permanent place in a set of chambers). There is no guarantee that you will be taken on in the chambers where you undertook pupillage (this can also sometimes be two different sets for the first and second sixes) but you may also have made other contacts during the pupillage period which will help you to find a permanent place.