The Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), formerly the Bar Vocational Course (BVC), is the vocational stage of training that must be completed if you wish to become a barrister. It is a one-year, practical course, designed to provide training that is specific to the work of a junior barrister (a two-year, part-time course is also available at some law schools). Students are encouraged to participate in a range of activities (including mock trials, debating and extra mini-pupillages) that will help them to develop the necessary skills. The BPTC helps to prepare you for the 12-month pupillage and beyond.
Most of the skills are taught through student participation and role play. On one day, you might be producing draft recommendations and negotiating solutions to legal problems; on the next, you could be working through court procedures. The remaining time is spent gaining further legal knowledge. Throughout the course, there is a constant emphasis on a professional approach to work and you will be expected to attend classes on professional conduct.
Note that all students must have joined an Inn before registration on the BPTC.
What you learn
The types of skills that are developed include those that relate to casework, legal research, written and interpersonal communication, opinion writing, conference (ie, interviewing clients), drafting, negotiation and advocacy (ie, court work).
Students take modules in civil litigation and remedies, criminal litigation and sentencing, evidence, professional ethics plus two optional subjects chosen from a selection of at least six (which will vary from course to course).
Assessment techniques vary from college to college, but it is common to have a mixture of multiple choice, practical exercises (including videoed performances) and written papers. From 2012 three examinations will be set by the Bar Standards Board (BSB). These are civil litigation, criminal litigation and professional ethics.
Where to apply
Before choosing where to apply to for the BPTC, you should be looking for as much information as possible about the various course providers. You should try to find out about not only the academic programme, but also any links with the profession, the level of individual career guidance, the facilities available and any relevant extra-curricular activities.
To help you make your choice, use our Course search so that you can easily locate contact information and read the prospectuses for further detail on course modules and funding.
When to apply
Candidates are advised to submit their application as early as possible. For the 2013-14 academic year, the deadline for first-round applications is 10 January 2013, with a clearance pool for new applicants opening in April and closing at the end of August. Exact dates for future years should be checked well in advance on the BSB website.
How to apply
Applications for a place on the BPTC must be made through the BSB's central applications system at www.barprofessionaltraining.org.uk. As well as the additional criteria of individual providers, candidates must satisfy new BSB admission requirements. First, students must hold at least a 2.2 degree (either in law or non-law plus a pass in the GDL). Second, if English is not their first language, students must gain a score of at least 7.5 in all subjects of the British Council's IELTS test or a TOEFL score of 28 in each section..
In addition, candidates must take the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT), designed to examine an applicant's chances of success at the Bar. The test was piloted in 2009-10 and the Legal Services Board (LSB) authorized its introduction for all applicants in July 2012. Example questions are available on the BSB’s website.