Important information for those wishing to study for the Bar of England and Wales.
Is it right for you?
We are very glad that you are seriously thinking of pursuing a career at the Bar. However, you must think carefully about whether you have the potential to make a successful career as a barrister. A career at the Bar is very demanding, requiring high standards.
The Bar can offer an extremely rewarding career if you:
- Have a high level of intellectual ability
- Are highly articulate in written and spoken English
- Can think and communicate under pressure, and
- Have determination and stamina and are emotionally robust
Once you have satisfied yourself you have these qualities, and the potential to develop your knowledge and skills further, you should also consider some of the 'facts and figures' concerning a career at the Bar before you commit yourself.
In brief, approximately 1800 students take the Bar Course every year and, typically, the number of pupillages offered is about 550 each year. Some students who complete the Bar Course return overseas or turn to other professions. However, students are allowed to seek pupillage for up to 5 years after completing the Bar Course, so the competition for pupillages is extremely intense. Over 3,000 individuals may be applying for pupillage in any particular year, and some Chambers have over a hundred applicants for each pupillage placement, and at present there are only a limited number of pupillages at the Employed Bar*.
Getting a tenancy
You should also realise that, following pupillage, obtaining a tenancy in Chambers or a suitable position at the Employed Bar can be very challenging. Each year there are normally fewer tenancies available than pupillages, and Chambers do not always offer tenancy to their own pupils.
Do, therefore, check out the detailed information on the websites listed below.
Remember that you also need to meet the formal entry requirements before you start the course – a second class honours degree in law (or in another subject plus a conversion course), Inn membership, and adequate language skills. The BSB has introduced a Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT), which you will be required to pass by the August of the year you commence your studies. Further details can be obtained via the Bar Standards Board website.
You should find out as much as you can and give the information serious consideration before committing yourself to the study - and financial and other expenditure that this requires.
So, to make a realistic assessment of whether you are suited to a career as a barrister, you should:
- Seek guidance from your university law tutors and careers adviser
- Go to the Inns and speak to their Education staff (they organise open days for university students)
- Find out more about the profession and look at the statistical information
- Try to gain relevant experience such as working for a law firm, doing a mini pupillage or marshalling for a judge
- Try to talk to people who have studied for the Bar, for example to a recently qualified barrister
If you have faith in yourself, your capabilities and your potential to succeed after hard work and effort, this should not discourage you. For good candidates, from whatever background, financial support (for example from the Inns of Court, or loans) is frequently available, and the final rewards - both in terms of job satisfaction and financial remuneration - can make it a very worthwhile career.
Our selection process
The University of Law is committed to producing exceptional advocates and so, since 2015, we have required all applicants to undergo an assessment before obtaining a place on the BPC.
Top reasons why Selection Events can benefit you:
- Gain confidence in knowing whether a career at the Bar is right for you
- Practice your advocacy skills in a 5-minute "plea in mitigation"
- Take the opportunity to compete for Advocacy Scholarships
- Get vital practice for pupillage interviews
You will find helpful advice on the following websites:
This notice is issued jointly by the four Inns of Court, Bar Course providers, and the BSB and Bar Council.
*Information is available about the number of students who take the Bar Course each year and the availability of pupillages. Up-to-date and detailed statistics are on the BSB website.