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Barrister career path

Here's our suggested timetable for recruitment to the Bar. By all means draw up a timetable of your own, but if you do, make sure you're clued up about closing dates for the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and pupillage applications.

First-year law and second-year non-law students

Winter holiday and spring term
The key to this year is thinking ahead. Focus on getting top grades, do your homework on the Bar and get involved in achievement-type activities that will look good on your CV (eg, Duke of Edinburgh awards, debating/mooting, writing for the campus newspaper or captaining a sports team).  

Research and apply for work experience (be it a mini-pupillage or a non-formal placement) in chambers for your summer holiday. Try to arrange a few stints in different chambers to get an overview of the various work areas. For an alternative way to pick up much-needed experience, see our “Pro bono initiatives” section. Remember that without work experience, any application for pupillage is unlikely to be taken seriously. Work experience will not only give you a stronger CV, but should also help you to decide whether the Bar really is for you.

Join one of the four Inns of Court, which are non-academic societies that provide activities and support for barristers and student barristers. You must join an inn before 31 May of the year in which you intend to commence the BPTC, but it is a case of the earlier, the better in terms of getting involved with the activities or using the facilities (eg, library and common rooms).

Second-year law and final-year non-law students

Autumn term, winter holidays and spring term
Attend relevant careers events, including careers fairs, presentations and talks and pupillage fairs). Look into funding possibilities for postgraduate training (eg, local education authority grants and inn scholarships). Keep applying for mini-pupillages.

Non-law degree students will need to apply for the conversion course, known as the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). If you intend to study full time, you should apply through the Central Applications Board (www.lawcabs.ac.uk) from September onwards in your final year at university. The application system has recently changed so that there is no longer a closing date for applications; rather, applications are dealt with as they are submitted and institutions are notified weekly of new submissions. Applications for part-time courses must be made directly to the provider.

Summer holidays
Find out about pupillage applications. Look at the different BPTC providers and check their application details. Gain some further work experience.

Final-year law and GDL students

Autumn term 
Hot on the heels of your mini-pupillages, start making applications for pupillage. Finalise your funding options and be clear about closing dates for funding applications. For more on funding, see "Barrister finances". 

The centralised BPTC application system usually opens in November and closes in January. After offers have been made and accepted or rejected, a clearance round opens in April and closes in August. You can check the dates and apply at www.barprofessionaltraining.co.uk.

Spring term
Attend pupillage fairs, including the National Pupillage Fair, which is usually held in March. 

Applications for pupillage are made through the centralised site, the Pupillage Gateway (which replaces the Pupillage Portal and is the system formerly known as OLPAS). The gateway launched in February 2013. Most chambers (or 'Pupillage Training Organisations') are members of the centralised gateway system, but some are not. Nevertheless, available pupillages at both types of chambers are listed on the system, but non-members will have varying deadlines and methods of application, and you will have to check their individual websites for details.  

If you are applying direct through the gateway, it opens in March 2014 for candidates to browse the available adverts. From 1 April, candidates will be able to submit their applications. As a rule of thumb, you should apply for pupillage around 18 months before you wish to start - ie, in April 2014 for a pupillage beginning in September 2015. You can apply to up to 12 member chambers (but as many non-member chambers as you like). For more information on when to apply, see Pupillage deadlines.

Summer term
Pupillage offers via the centralised system will be made during August. Obtain a certificate for completion of the academic stage of legal training.

BPTC

If you were unsuccessful in your pupillage applications last year, apply again this year in the same way as above.

Once you have successfully completed the BPTC, you will have to undertake 12 qualifying sessions (previously known as 'dining') before being called to the Bar by your Inn.

Pupillage

Pupillage is one year spent in an authorised pupillage training organisation (either a barristers' chambers or another approved legal environment), usually split into two six-month periods referred to as 'sixes'.

First six
Without practising, you will observe and assist your pupil supervisor and other barristers in chambers. The intention is that you share your supervisor’s daily professional life. 

Second six
During these six months you will be entitled to supply legal services and exercise rights of audience as a barrister. You may have cases and your own clients, which you will represent in court. This is when you start to build up your reputation as a barrister. 

At the end of the second six, you must submit a certificate to the Bar Standards Board certifying that the second six has been satisfactorily completed. Provided that certain training conditions are met, you will be granted a full qualification certificate. Congratulations – you are a barrister!