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What is the difference between the BPC LLM pathways?

The Bar Practice Course (formerly Bar Professional Training Course) is the postgraduate qualification that enables individuals to practise as a barrister in England and Wales. You can also complete a master’s qualification alongside your BPC meaning you’ll get a BPC LLM qualification. But did you know that there are three ways that you can complete the BPC LLM? To clarify each of these pathways, we talk to our BPC specialists to help you discover which option is perfect for you.

By Cara Fielder. Published 07 July. Updated 6 February 2024.


What are the three options and why do we offer multiple BPC LLM pathways?

We offer three BPC LLM programmes at The University of Law. You can choose to write a dissertation, study additional modules or complete pro bono work to obtain your LLM award. Our three BPC LLM pathways offer choice and flexibility so that you can choose an LLM that suits your situation.


Additional modules with Head of Bar Practice Course, Beverley Dawes, and National Programme and Student Affairs Director for Academic Master’s in Law, Joanna Webster-Jones

What are the benefits of the additional modules route?

The additional modules route allows you to study two specific areas of academic law in context.  These areas of law are not generally covered (or at least not in detail) on the standard BPC course.  You can delve deeper into two specialist areas of law that interest you.

What additional modules are on offer and how many do you need to take?

Full-time students will study 2 x 30 credit modules in the term following completion of their BPC modules. Part-time students can choose to study 2 x 30 credit modules in the term following the completion of their BPC modules or 1 x 30 credit module in each of the two terms following the completion of their BPC modules.

The optional modules are part of the University’s academic master’s in law (AMIL) suite of programmes, which means that BPC LLM students will join and study alongside a community of postgraduate master’s students from across the University.

There is a wide range of modules on offer, detailed in the .

What will students gain from the additional module pathway?

Studying additional modules will provide specialist, technical legal knowledge in context to complement your professional training.  You will obtain a comprehensive understanding of legal research techniques, demonstrate current awareness of a specialised legal field, and enhance your critical evaluation and reasoning skills.

What skills does the additional modules pathway develop?

The additional modules pathway develops many skills that will be vital during your career:

  • Critical thinking, evaluation and analysis
  • Sound reasoning
  • Presentation and communication skills
  • Research methodology and techniques
  • Problem-solving
  • Independent learning
  • Organisational skills
  • Time management
  • Confidence
  • Motivation

What opportunities does the additional modules route bring?

Students choosing the BPC LLM optional modules can improve their career opportunities by widening their legal knowledge and breadth of skills.


Dissertation with Head of Student Dissertations and Research for Academic Master’s in Law, Daniel Weston

What are the benefits of the dissertation route?

The dissertation route allows you to convert your qualification into a master’s degree via a particularly academic path. As opposed to the other routes, this will involve the completion of a substantial piece of academic research under the supervision of an academic member of staff. The skills developed in this process are distinct, as it will involve deep engagement with current scholarship on a matter important to you. Research skills and writing skills are key to the successful completion of this path and doing so will provide the means to illustrate those in a distinct way.

What does the dissertation consist of?

The dissertation is a 15,000-word project which is broken up into stages. Firstly, you will complete an initial proposal based on some provisional research. This is used to allocate you a supervisor – after which you will develop a full, final proposal with supervisory meetings. After this, you will begin to advance the hypothesis in your proposal with deeper research and the writing of the piece, with feedback on a sample draft prior to submission.

What will students gain from taking the dissertation pathway?

There are several key skills necessary to do well on the dissertation pathway which will overlap with those learned during the rest of your course but applied in a more scholarly direction. Among these skills are argumentation, analysis, research, communication through writing, critical thinking, and a fairly specialised area of knowledge. Your dissertation is one way in which you can demonstrate a keen interest in an area of law you might wish to practice and explore from an academic perspective.


Pro Bono with Academic Manager and Head of Clinical Education,  Antonia Kirwan

What are the benefits of the pro bono route?

The pro bono pathway gives you a chance to engage in real-life, hands-on work experience working under the supervision of a qualified solicitor.

What happens during pro bono?

You will be assigned a supervising solicitor, usually specialising in one area of law. They then work in this area and engaging in client interviewing, drafting advice letters, preparing court bundles, and where possible, engage in advocacy in court under the supervision of a solicitor. They are required to draft an 8,000 – 9,000 word critical reflective report at the end of the year.

What will students gain from the pro bono pathway?

You will learn a new area of work and will experience meeting real-life clients. You will develop essential lawyering skills such as drafting advice letters, witness statements and advocacy skills as well as general interpersonal skills. You will also develop reflective learning skills which form an important part of the assessment requiring them to draft a critical reflective report.

What skills does the pro bono pathway develop?

  • Client care
  • Conferencing/interviewing
  • Drafting
  • Advocacy
  • Teamwork/team building
  • Time management
  • Organisational skills
  • Critical analysis/reflection/self-analysis
  • Working under pressure and to deadlines

What opportunities does the pro bono route bring?

Work experience is useful for students seeking employment in the legal profession.

Is one pathway more popular with students? If so, why?

All our BPC LLM pathways are popular, as they give you the chance to obtain a master’s level qualification whilst learning new skills and knowledge. The pro bono route is popular as it offers the opportunity for you to practice the skills and knowledge learned on the BPC and apply these to real cases. It is a good opportunity to develop your CV and gain practical experience and insight. The dissertation route is popular with students wanting to develop a deeper understanding – and conduct research into – a specific area of law they are interested in. The optional modules route is popular with students wanting to complete their LLM after the BPC assessments and teaching have finished, as well as to gain insight into two new areas or subjects of their choosing.

Do employers prefer any particular route? If so, why?

All our BPC LLMs offer different benefits to students, so employers regard all LLM pathways highly. There is no one particular route which is better or preferable than the others. It depends on what you want to achieve during your LLM and demonstrate to prospective employers. For example, if you want to demonstrate in-depth knowledge and understanding of a specific area of law, you may want to choose the dissertation route. If you want to gain valuable work experience and insight into real cases and demonstrate an understanding of practice, then you might choose the pro bono route. If you want to learn new areas of law and demonstrate a broader range of knowledge and experience to prospective employers, you might choose our optional modules route.


Discover more about studying the BPC with us.