How to become a barrister

This brochure produced by the Bar Council tells you everything you need to know: 

Is it hard to become a barrister?

Becoming a barrister is hard work and very costly.  Barristers numbers are about a 10th of solicitors and we have all heard about how hard it is to get Pupillage even once you have the BPTC.  But what are the true facts?  As a starting point you should read this article on Chambers Student:

Timeline of actions

  • Stage 1: see the stage 1 timeline for a list of suggested actions to take to develop your career
  • Stage 2: this timeline will be available by 12 October.


Middle Temple Pupillage Podcast 

This is an ever-growing and excellent insight into becoming and being a barrister.   It’s hosted by Middle Temple members of 5 Essex Court. Podcasts focus on a different aspect of the pupillage process, from creating your CV and joining an Inn, to acquiring advocacy experience and doing pro bono work; from how to approach mini-pupillages, to applications and interviews. Listen to the Pupillage Podcast on:
iTunes –
Spotify –
SoundCloud –
MixCloud –


Target Jobs National Pupillage Fair

Every autumn the above takes place in London.   If you want to be a barrister it is worth attending.   However, if you miss out, or you simply want to consider whether to attend next year you can watch videos of the presentations given on You-Tube here – 


Vocational Training for the Bar

There is now more flexibility in the way that you study with one option allowing you take the academic part of the course first.  This way, you save lots of money by not paying the fess for the practical part of the course (which are substantially higher).   See the news at:

Previously the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) was the vocational course which you have to undertake before Pupillage.  This course has changed slightly and so has the name – but the name is not the same at each institute.   However, if you refer to it as the Bar Training Course everyone will know what you mean!    It is an essential part of training.   The course lasts one academic year (full time) and two (part time).  These courses are expensive (although the new version of the course has reduced the price by a few thousand!) and oversubscribed.  Most years there are twice as many applicants as places.   There is a number of entry requirements:

  •  2:2 degree.   However, given the rigour of the course and the statistical proof that those who succeed in finding Pupillage are most likely to have a 1st (the majority) or a 2:1 most providers will look more favourably on a 2:1.
  • BCAT – a critical thinking test (see below for links to more information).  Costs £150
  • English language capabilities.
  • Member of an Inn of Court – you must join one of the four Inns by 31st May in the year that you commence the BPTC

Applying for the course is no longer time bound although early applications are advised. Apply directly to the provider of the course via their website.

The below requires updating:  BPTC


In order to secure your place on the bar training courses you will need to pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT).  This is a multiple choice test of 60 questions which takes 55 minutes.   It tests your ability to recognise assumptions, evaluate arguments and draw assumptions.   You can read more on these weblinks:

The Inns of Court

There are four Inns of Court which provide support for barristers and students through a range of educational and social activities and, importantly scholarships for the vocational training.  Kent students have great success in gaining scholarships.
Before you start your vocational training you must join one of the Inns by 31st May in the year when your course commences.  The Inns are responsible for “Calling” barristers to the Bar. You can join as a student member while you are still at University.

Commercial Awareness

Don’t be fooled into thinking that you don’t need to be commercially aware – you do! 80% of barristers are self-employed so you need to know about business! Equally, if you are interested in the Chancery Bar then you also need to know about other peoples’ businesses!   You will find lots of resources for building commercial awareness on but the following bar-specific resources will also help.

  • 4 New Square podcasts – ‘Analysis: Commercial Dispute Resolution and Life at the Bar’. cover recent developments in commercial law and life at the Bar. You can subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Android and Google Podcasts (just type 4 New Square or the podcast name into your podcast app) or you can listen via their website here –
  • Criminal Bar Quarterly is a professional journal for criminal barristers.   If you’re interested in this practice area you may find some of the articles interesting.   You can download it for free on
  • come back for updates in the coming year



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Mooting, debating and public speaking

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