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Do You Want to Become a Barrister?

by Martin Lewis
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Dreaming of becoming a barrister may be a worthy ambition, but what motivates you to become a barrister?

It is true, that a successful barrister can become wealthy, but are there not easier ways to make money?

The amount of studying to obtain a law degree, not to mention the different branches and specialisations, is a daunting prospect. Like all of the old professions, there is a wealth of information to assimilate, but the law, although based on basic principles and statues, is a living thing. It can change with new presidents and rulings, due to circumstances and over time.

To become a qualified barrister, you have to have a love of the law or at least a fascination for it. Not only do you need to memorise a great deal of information, but you also need to present it in a structured and coherent fashion. Advocacy in the English tradition is based on oral argument or presentation. This is where your performance comes into play.

Becoming a Barrister

Many view it as a vocation from a young age, certainly when they decide to pick a profession as they enter higher education. They may see the law as a force for good, equality and justice, a chance to make a difference. Others will see the rule of law as the ultimate expression of civilisation and want to be part of it.

Still, others come to the law later in life, because of some experience or just the need to do something more worthwhile than they have been doing in their careers.

Many are professionals who switch careers.

Barrister walking

Age is no barrier

Barristers work in the High Court, Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court.

Shakespeare said, ‘All the world is a stage’ and we certainly think every courtroom is a theatre. A barrister is one of its star performers. Do you have what it takes to perform your legal knowledge to the courtroom for them to judge?

This is one of the questions you need to ask yourself before you consider becoming a barrister. It’s not for the faint of heart or the timid.

Steps You Need to Take to Become a Barrister

Step 1

Study for an approved law degree, also known as a ‘qualifying law degree’ and you have to achieve a grade of no less than a 2.2.  If you are an older entrant, switching careers, you need to prove that you have a higher education degree of no less than a 2.2 grade in your previous studies.

The area of study doesn’t matter, only the qualifying division.

Career changers will then have to have to pass the Common Professional Examination (CPE) or the Graduate Degree in Law (GDL).

It is worth noting that any law degree must include the following 7 areas of study:

Public Law: which has three strands.

  • Constitutional Law
  • Administrative Law
  • Human Rights Law
  • Property and Land Law

Obligations: which has two parts

  • Torts
  • Contracts

Equity and Trusts

Criminal Law

Top Tip: anyone in university who likes to engage with others in intellectual debate and is thinking of a career in law, would be advised to join a debating society. Professional barristers use the method of ‘mooting’ to sharpen their wits and keep their edge.

Barrister SigningStep 2

Following the initial educational requirements of a law degree, you will then have to take the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT). This is pretty self-explanatory. It’s a test to determine whether or not you have what it takes to become a barrister.

It focuses on your ability to reason and think critically.

You will then have to join one of the Four Inns of Court; Grey’s Inn, Inner Temple, Lincoln’s Inn and Middle Temple. Once you have joined one of the four Inns, you may have the chance to pick up a scholarship or pay for your own tutorage.

Step 3

Now you have your foot in the door, you will progress to the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). This is a one year course which teaches advocacy, through role-playing, the writing up of legal documents and the formation of opinions.

Alternatively, it can be turned into a two-year, part-time course if you choose to work alongside your learning. To complete the BPTC you need to pass 12 ‘qualifying sessions’ to the satisfaction of the supervising barrister.
Then you will be ‘Called to the Bar’, as it is phrased and work as an unregistered barrister.

Step 4 – The Final Stage

The last part of a barristers training is the gaining of practical experience, known as pupillage. The ‘pupillage’ is a work based component that is split into two parts; six months as a non-practising barrister and another six as a practising one.

After completing every stage of barrister training, you can then apply for your Practicing Certificate as a fully qualified barrister.
barrister papersA change in the perception of the Legal Profession
The Bar was once a white, male-dominated institution, and so was perceived as such. Nowadays, it actively encourages applicants from all backgrounds. Almost 70% of new, accepted applicants are women with the number of applicants from ethnic minorities also steadily and inclusively rising.

Your Career as a Barrister

Most barristers are self-employed, although they work in chambers or sets of partnerships.

Alternatively, they can also work for the Crown Prosecution Service or Government Legal Services.

The other option is to work privately and exclusively in the industry for one or a number of clients although, as a new barrister, the previous options are more likely to be the best way to increase your courtroom experience.

Costs involved in becoming a Legal Professional

The BCAT will cost you £150.00.

The BPTC will set you back anything from £13,000 to £18,000.

The remuneration you can expect when joining a chamber as a trainee barrister has a minimum of £12,000 per year, but that is set to change in Sept 2019. There is an upgrade in salary to over £18,000 in London and to over £15,000 outside of the capital.

Alongside the tuition fees for your studies and the costs of taking the exams, you’ll also need to spend out on your legal wear. However, this is a much more enjoyable expense for new barristers.

The Tailor De Jure range of legal wear is perfect for any new or established barrister looking for professional, high-quality legal attire. Our barrister’s gowns start from £100 and our premium quality horsehair wigs start from £325, we also offer legal wear essentials packages from £425.

Purchasing your first gown and wig is a memorable moment in a young barrister’s career. It marks the conclusion of a chapter of hard work and studying and beginning of a new life fighting for fairness.
Barrister talkingIn Conclusion

Do you think you have the intellectual ability to become a barrister?
Are you articulate, detail orientated and able to work well under pressure?
Do you love taking complex and difficult issues and cutting to the heart of the matter?
Are you a people person?

If the answer to all these questions is yes, then go for it! Being a barrister is intense, hard work and can be incredibly challenging. But above all else, it is interesting and absorbing. If you want to know more about the realities of being a barrister, check out our myth-busting guide to life as a barrister.
To find out more information about taking your first steps towards a career as a barrister, click here. The road to becoming a barrister can be long and difficult, but with will and determination, you will open up the path to a lifetime of fighting for fairness.

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