updated on 04 September 2019
Here is the process of how to become a barrister, from studying, to pupillage, to qualifying. Your own journey might differ slightly if you take a break from studying or study part time, so make sure take into account 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 activities that will build up your skills and look good on your CV (eg, joining your student law society and getting involved in its activities, Duke of Edinburgh awards, debating/mooting, writing for the campus newspaper or playing for 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 you enrol on 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 – you want to have completed a few of these by the time you apply for a real pupillage.
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. There is not 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.
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
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.barsas.com.
Attend pupillage fairs, including the National Pupillage Fair, which is usually held in late November.
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). Most chambers 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.
The Pupillage Gateway opens for applications every January, with applications closing a month later. However, candidates can log in to the Gateway to browse vacancies and start preparing their applications from late November.
As a rule of thumb, you should apply for pupillage at least a year before you wish to start (ie, in January 2020 for a pupillage beginning in September 2021). 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.
Pupillage offers via the centralised system will be made during May (the next date being 7 May 2019). If necessary, obtain a certificate for completion of the academic stage of legal training from the BSB.
If you were unsuccessful in your pupillage applications last year, apply again this year in the same way as above.
Pupillage is one year spent in an authorised training organisation (either a barristers' chambers or another approved legal environment), usually split into two six-month periods referred to as 'sixes'.
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.
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, who 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 BSB 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!