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Summertime Swotting: Preparing for the BPC

You’ve applied to a place at an Inn of Court and now you’re waiting to start your BPC course. Congratulations. It’s time to start prepping, so what can you do over the summer months to make sure you’re fighting fit for September? We asked Matt Withers, Future Pupil Programme Coordinator at The University of Law, what aspiring barristers can do to get a step ahead.

Work Experience

Some chambers are happy to accept students over the summer to build on your existing knowledge and experience. It’s a great way to get a feel for working in chambers, and you could even get the chance to join the barristers in court. Some chambers are more flexible than others, so you might be able to arrange your mini pupillage over the phone; others might ask you to apply more formally. Get in touch and be prepared to talk about what you can offer, and not just what you want to get out of the experience.

You can also volunteer with pro bono organisations such as the Free Representation Unit (FRU) – a service providing free legal representation for the public and advocacy experience for junior lawyers – to assist in cases and practise your case management skills.

Your work experience placements will give you some great material to use in your pupillage applications, so make sure you keep detailed notes throughout each one to refer to later.

Take a trip to court

With courts open to the public, you’ve got an almost endless supply of real-life cases to watch and learn from. Pay a visit to your local Crown or magistrates’ court, or even spend some time in the capital exploring the Supreme Court and Royal Courts of Justice. Due to the nature of some cases, the courts may not be open to the public at certain times, so check online before you plan to visit.

Our top tip is to keep a journal of your experiences and observations. Pay attention to the barristers’ styles of advocacy; think about what works, what doesn’t work, and particularly what annoys the judges. Not only is this useful for your development, but it makes for more great content to include in your pupillage applications too.

Visit the Inns

The Inns of Court are some of Britain’s oldest institutions, with incredible historic buildings and a rich heritage. All four of the Inns offer guided tours for students, so you can find out all about the history of English law. Take the time to do this before you start the BPC course because there may not be time during your qualifying sessions. And while you’re there, visit the Inns’ education and training departments to find out what they have on offer to help you through your course and after.

Book a place at the ULaw BPC mixer

Each year ULaw hosts a BPC Mixer at its London Bloomsbury campus. The Mixer gives aspiring barristers the chance to find out more about the Inns, mooting, pro bono and post-BPC opportunities. There’s also a Q&A panel of experienced barristers and tutors and a chance to network at the end of the event – something that’s part and parcel of chambers life.

The BPC Mixer is open to current ULaw BPC students and anyone holding an offer to start the BPC at ULaw in September. To find out more and to book a place, email pupillage@law.ac.uk.

Refresher Reading

The BPC course looks at areas of contract, tort and criminal law that you may not have dealt with since the first year of your law degree. It’s a good idea to dust off your old books and notes for a recap. Remind yourself of the fundamentals and you’ll be ready to hit the ground running at the start of your course.

Go shopping

There are three essentials that BPC students say they simply cannot live without (aside from coffee, of course): sticky notes, highlighters and a wheelie suitcase. Head down to your local stationery shop and treat yourself to a rainbow of highlighters – you’re going to need a lot of colours – and a whole lot of sticky notes in varying sizes. Find yourself a sturdy suitcase with wheels and a handle for lugging around your text books too – there will be a fair few of them.