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 1600 students take the Bar Course every year and, typically, the number of pupillages offered is usually just under 400 each year. Some students who complete the Bar Course return overseas or turn to other professions. Students are allowed to seek pupillage for up to 5 years after completing the Bar Course, so the competition for pupillages is extremely intense. Well over 3,000 individuals may be applying for pupillage in any particular year, many 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 (1).
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 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, adequate language skills and passing the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT). 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 advisers
- 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, undertaking mini pupillages and, if you can arrange it, 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 scholarships 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.
The Bar Council has launched a highly effective advice tool called the e-Mentoring Scheme. Students interested in joining the Bar can sign up to this online resource and be connected with a barrister who has already been through, and overcome, many of the barriers that students face when joining the profession. There is also a bulletin board which advertises open dayus and other opportunities in the profession relevant to students who are thinking about joining the profession or are already working towards joining the Bar. Further information about the e-Mentoring Scheme can be found on its dedicated page on the Bar Council’s website. Applications (online only) are now being accepted for students interested in being mentees on the scheme.
You will also find helpful advice on the following websites:
The Bar Council (www.barcouncil.org.uk)
The Bar Standards Board (www.barstandardsboard.org.uk)
Lincoln’s Inn (www.lincolnsinn.org.uk)
Inner Temple (www.innertemple.org.uk)
Middle Temple (www.middletemple.org.uk)
Gray’s Inn (www.graysinn.org.uk)
BPP Law School, London and Leeds (www.bpp.com)
City University, London (www.city.ac.uk)
The University of Law, at various locations throughout the UK (http://www.law.ac.uk/)
Cardiff Law School (www.cf.ac.uk)
Manchester Metropolitan University (www.law.mmu.ac.uk)
University of Northumbria, Newcastle (www.law.unn.ac.uk)
Nottingham Law School (www.nis.ac.uk)
University of the West of England, Bristol (www.uwe.ac.uk)
(1) Information is available about the number of students who take the Bar Course each year and the availability of pupillages. You are also strongly advised to read the Bar Council booklet ‘Your Career as a Barrister’, which is updated from time to time and which includes additional information about a career at the Bar.
Up to date and detailed statistics are on the BSB website - see below
The Providers of the Bar Course also publish their own statistics about the number of students they take on the Bar Course each year, and how successful their graduates are at obtaining pupillage or other appropriate positions. Details of the costs of the course at each provider are also given on their websites.