What do I have to do to become a barrister in England and Wales?
Much like applying to become a solicitor, becoming a barrister breaks down into three principal segments: academic background, barrister-specific training and practical application.
In exactly the same fashion as training for solicitors, non-law students will need to take a conversion course in law – usually the common professional examination (CPE) or the graduate diploma in law (GDL). Those who have completed a law-based undergraduate degree can progress straight to the Bar professional training course (BPTC).
The Bar professional training course (BPTC)
The Bar professional training course, or BPTC, is the academic study specifically tailored towards becoming a barrister. The course is delivered by a number of different course providers across England and Wales and can be completed full time within a year or part time over two.
Applicants should consider the location of their training institution in terms of their future career, as the legal sector for barristers is broken into six ‘circuits’ in England and Wales. ‘Circuits’ are the geographical divisions in which law cases are heard – while barristers aren’t restricted to working within only one circuit, the ties that their training institution has to the circuit and chambers within that circuit are important for securing mini-pupillages and pupillages.
A pupillage is the practical stage of training as a barrister. A pupillage is held within a set of chambers and will typically run for 12 months, split into two segments of six months.
Pupillages are heavily oversubscribed, with fewer than 500 available each year across England and Wales (and 1,200 people passing the BPTC each year). The minimum award for pupillages is £12,000 for 12 months, but many sets – particularly in London – pay well above this (up to £65,000).