The Bar Professional Training Course
Following the completion of a qualifying law degree, or a non-law degree coupled with completion of a law conversion course, students seeking to be barristers must apply for and successfully complete the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). This can be completed full-time over a year, or part-time over two years. The BPTC provides students with the skills required to bridge the gap between the academic study of law and the profession in which they apply their knowledge. Accordingly, the curriculum places a heavy emphasis on practical skills such as opinion-writing, negotiation, and advocacy, as well as areas like resolution of dispute out of court, professional ethics, and procedural law.
The Inns’ role
At the same time as (or before) registering for the BPTC, students wishing to become barristers must apply to become members of an Inn of Court. The Inns, which are professional societies, provide what might be described as an education which is complementary to the curriculum of the BPTC. Prospective Bar students choose which of the four Inns they would like to join, and each Inn adapts its educational programmes to accommodate the numbers joining each year. At the end of the course, students are ‘Called’ to the Bar by their Inn of Court. In advance of their Call, students must complete 12 Qualifying Sessions provided by their Inn (one of which is the Call Ceremony itself).
"The Inns are the foundation of a barrister's life and work. They protect so many elements that constitute the identity of a barrister, fostering collegiality and high standards as well as providing a wide range of educational opportunities."
(Baroness Ruth Deech, DBE, QC, Chair of the Bar Standards Board, Bar Council Annual Report, 2010)
Qualifying Sessions offered by the Inns of Court are, by definition, both educational and collegiate. The four Inns provide a variety of Qualifying Sessions each year with a view to presenting students with a wide choice to enable them to learn about the law and more broadly about the legal profession, as well as to develop their advocacy and public speaking skills.
The Qualifying Sessions are designed to add to the skills and knowledge gained on the Bar Professional Training Course and to bring the students’ learning to life through contact with practising barristers and judges.
Qualifying Sessions may incorporate lectures from senior practitioners, mooting, or talks about working at the Bar from established members of the profession. Whichever format they take on each occasion, they demonstrate that the profession sees itself as a continuum: students are taken seriously as the most junior members of the Inn on the first steps of the profession and are encouraged to take part in the life of the Inn.
Call to the Bar
‘Call’ is the graduation process which confers on students studying for the Bar a formal degree - that of the ‘Utter Bar’. It is also The Bar Training Regulations, which are the responsibility of the Bar Standards Board, provide for members of the Inns to be called to the Bar when they have passed the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and attended 12 educational ‘qualifying sessions’ delivered by their Inn, provided that they are considered to be a fit and proper individuals to become practising barristers.
Call to the Bar by an Inn of Court is the gateway to entitlement to practise, but it is also only the first step which barristers must undertake of a range of further training and education throughout their careers. The first of these is Pupillage.
Having successfully completed the Bar Professional Training Course and been Called to the Bar, a trainee barrister, known as a ‘pupil’, must then undergo work experience training under the supervision of a Pupil Supervisor at an Approved Training Organisation - that is, chambers or an organisation accredited by the Bar Standards Board. This comprises a period of twelve months’ “pupillage”, divided into two six-month terms.
The First Six
During the first six months (“the 1st six”) the pupil undertakes compulsory and assessed training under the direct supervision of a registered Pupil Supervisor within an Approved Training Organisation. This is a non-practising period: that is, the pupil does not hold a practising certificate and cannot represent clients in court. Training within these six months will include shadowing practising barristers in court to observe advocacy and court conduct, drafting pleadings and other documents such as contracts, preparation of written advice and attendance at conferences with clients.
The pupil is also required by the Bar Training Regulations to undertake an external, assessed, compulsory advocacy training course. This is provided to pupils, depending on where they are based, by the Inns of Court and Circuits. Instruction is delivered by trained trainers, who are senior barristers and sitting and retired judges. Again, their services are delivered without payment. The Inns normally cover all Approved Training Organisations within the South Eastern Circuit. The remaining Circuits provide courses for pupils within their catchment areas.
The Inns and Circuits have developed their own curricula and assessment criteria for delivery of the Pupils’ Courses within the framework of the Bar Training Regulations. Pupils must successfully complete the advocacy training course before commencing the second six months of pupillage. The compulsory practice management course may be undertaken during the first or second six months. The structure and delivery of each course may vary from Inn to Circuit, but all the courses include compulsory elements. At the Middle Temple, the Pupils’ Course combines advocacy training and practice management in a two-week full-time course.
Practice Management covers everything necessary to consider and respond to in self-employed and employed practice, e.g. ethics; equality and diversity; the practitioner’s relationship with and responsibility to the Bar Council and the Bar Standards Board; the “logistics” of the Bar (for example, how the Inns and Circuits work); discipline and complaints; record keeping; insurance; and relationships with clients, solicitors, clerks and the courts.
The advocacy training portion of the course focuses on four target areas: skeleton arguments, oral submissions, examination-in-chief and cross-examination. Pupils are monitored on their performance in the advocacy portion of the course.
Successful completion of this course, along with official sign-off being received from the pupil’s Pupil Supervisor, will entitle the pupil to obtain a Provisional Qualification Certificate issued by the Bar Standards Board which may then entitle them, in due course, to receive a practising certificate issued by the Bar Council. The course must be successfully completed by the end of the pupil’s first six by which time the pupil must also have been called to the Bar.
The Second Six
Possession of a practising certificate allows the pupil to enter the second six months of training with rights of audience and the ability to represent clients in court. The period of the second six is still closely overseen by the Pupil Supervisor.
Pupil Supervisors are drawn from a pool within an Approved Training Organisation. The Bar Training Regulations stipulate that barristers must “normally” undergo training before they can be approved as Pupil Supervisors. Again, the Inns play an important role here, for barristers must apply to become Pupil Supervisors via their respective Inns, before undertaking training with one of the Inns.
Pupil Supervisors regularly assess competence, mentor, monitor progress and offer feedback. In addition to the compulsory pupil course, which pupils undertake at theirInnor on Circuit, further training within the Approved Training Organisation or externally may also be required, depending on the nature of the practice of the organisation.
The Pupil Supervisor is responsible for ensuring that the pupil has satisfactorily completed all training requirements during the pupillage period. The Bar Standards Board provides a checklist which is to be used by Pupil Supervisors to ensure pupils undertake all areas of training and development. At the close of the second six, pupils will submit to the Bar Standards Board a certificate of completion of the second six, signed by the Pupil Supervisor. In turn, the Bar Standards Board will issue a full qualification certificate (issues of conduct excepted) that allows a pupil to receive a full practising certificate from the Bar Council.
The following link shows the present-day route to qualification at the Bar