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Applying to BarSAS: What to do

If you want to train to become a barrister in the UK, you’ll need to complete the Bar Professional Training Course (BPC). And to get a place on the course, you’ll need to apply through BarSAS.

Applications for BarSAS open on 17 December, so it’s the perfect time to get everything together in preparation. To give you a head start on your application, along with a good idea of what you can do to make your application as strong as possible, we sat down with The University of Law’s Future Pupil Programme Coordinator, Joe O’Leary. Having extensive experience in the BPTC, Joe’s given us a lowdown on BarSAS and his top tips on nailing your application.

Let’s start with an easy one… What is BarSAS?

BarSAS stands for Bar Students Application Service and is a centralised service that processes all applications for places on the BPTC at any university. Think of it like the UCAS for the BPTC. This means that while you can contact providers to discuss the details of their programmes, they can’t process an application directly.

What you need to do

Firstly, you need to complete your application. This consists of a written application essay, references and a number of questions about your heritage background (these are just for monitoring purposes and don’t affect your application). For BPTCs starting in September 2019, the first round of BarSAS applications are open from 17 December 2018 until 18 January 2019, during which time you can submit your application. The second round of applications (Clearing) opens on 12 April and closes on 2 September.

You also need to complete an aptitude test called the BCAT. It’s an online multiple-choice test that focuses on critical thinking and reasoning. You don’t have to complete this before submitting your application, but it’s a necessity for when it comes time to enrol on the BPTC. The BCAT is available to applicants on the Bar Standards Board website from 17 December 2018 to 23 September 2019, so you’ve got plenty of time for this bit.

To be able to enrol on the BPTC you must have been accepted as a member of an Inn of Court. Like with the BCAT, you have a fair bit of time to get this done. The deadline for joining an Inn is 31 May 2019.

Tips for your written application

Try to show clear and logical thinking, and the ability to communicate that thinking well. Be concise and avoid repeating yourself; check what you’re writing to make sure you’ve not talked about the same achievement or experience more than once. Look at the application as a whole and make it tell a story; your story. Make it scream authenticity and be unique, but leave the clichéd tale of adolescent dreams of becoming a barrister out. Even if it’s true, it can come across of hammy and insincere. Just focus on what inspires and motivates you to become a barrister.

It goes without saying that a commitment to a career at the Bar is the key point you want to get across, but there are various ways to can demonstrate it. One of the best things you can do is that age-old writer’s trick of showing, not telling. Remember you’re writing to experienced practitioners and they’ll understand the significance of your work experience or mini-pupillages; simply saying that you’ve done it is enough when it pertains to skills learned. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t inject some personality into your application, though. Offer up some of your own perspective to give the reader an insight into who you are and what your motivations might be.

Like with any application or CV, you need to make sure it’s flawless too. So absolutely no typos, grammatical errors or inexplicable punctuation. Be sure to proofread your work rigorously and ask others to check it for you too; they’re likely to spot things that you may have missed.

Applying to The University of Law

We are unique in that we run a selection event as well as requiring the usual BarSAS application. That’s because we want to make sure that you’re surrounded by a group of students who are committed to the course and can help to create an environment of hard work and dedication.

Once you’ve completed your application, ULaw will review it and, if you’re successful, you’ll be invited to a selection event where you’ll be asked to conduct a small piece of advocacy and undergo an interview.

Tips for the selection event

The selection event at ULaw is designed to identify one main thing: your potential to become an exceptional advocate. The key word there is potential; you’re not expected to be the finished article or to have the legal knowledge or procedure required of a barrister. All the materials you’ll need are given to you on the day, along with time prepare.

For the advocacy assessment, brevity is your friend. Keep your submissions clear, logical and short. Look at the facts and remain straight forward in your analysis – there are no trick questions and nobody’s trying to catch you out.

When it comes to your interview, it’s that same old advice, really: be yourself, be honest and try to relax. Remember that, like with any interview, it’s also a time for you to determine whether you’re happy the University is the right fit for you.

If you want to become a barrister, find out more about our BPTC on our website.