updated on 08 March 2023
If you’re thinking of becoming a solicitor, take a look at our specific Solicitor finances page.
Becoming a barrister is expensive. Aspiring advocates should investigate potential sources of funding at each stage of the process.
First, there are your undergraduate degree tuition fees to consider. Universities can charge fees of up to £9,250 per year, so you should check the cost of your degree with individual institutions. However, be aware that most universities charge the maximum tuition fee of £9,250 per year for full-time students. International students can expect to pay much more (on average around £22,000 per year, according to the British Council).
There are two types of student loan available for your undergraduate degree:
Most students use both types of loan, but the loans are repayable only after you’ve graduated. At this point, you pay 9% on any earnings over the repayment threshold of £27,295 a year, £2,274 a month or £524 a week. If you earn less than that, you don’t repay the loan.
Some grants are also available from your university or indirectly through the normal loan application process (the money actually comes from your local education authority). Government maintenance grants were scrapped in 2016 – a move described as “disgraceful” by the National Union of Students.
Visit the government’s student finance website for more details of how financial support is administered. You can also use the government’s student finance calculator to estimate your loan amounts and any extra funding for which you could be eligible.
Law conversion/GDL fees
If you did a non-law degree, you have to study the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) before embarking on the Bar course. For 2023-24, fees range up to £13,600 (for a full-time course in London) but these can be significantly less outside London and are dependent on the individual education providers. Added to these fees are your own living costs.
Bar course fees
From September 2020, the BPTC was replaced by a range of new Bar course options. They all lead to the same destination – being ‘called to the Bar’ – but fees, formats and teaching styles differ among universities and law schools.
The good news is that many of the courses are less expensive than the old BPTC. Again, courses in London tend to be more expensive and, of course, you still have to pay living expenses.
Read LawCareers.Net’s guide to the new Bar courses for more information.
Student Loans Company postgraduate funding
Postgraduate loans from the government are available only for master’s courses, not diplomas or professional certificates, meaning that postgraduate loans aren’t available for the standalone law conversion or Bar course.
However, many law schools and universities offer these postgraduate courses with a master’s qualification included, so postgraduate loan funding is available if you choose a course with a master’s component.
Postgraduate loans go up to a maximum of £11,836 if your course started on or after August 2022. It’s up to the student to decide how they want to divide the loan between paying course fees and living costs.
Lendwise provides private postgraduate student loans with applications based on future earning potential, not just an individual’s credit score. To find out more about this loan and see whether you’re eligible, go to the Lendwise website.
Graduate bank loans
Loans for postgraduate study are also available from many high-street banks. A graduate loan is a viable way to fund the GDL, but you should exhaust all your other options first.
Contact your bank to find out what support it may be able to provide. You’ll be required to provide proof that you can repay the loan with the required time.
Inns of Court scholarships
For information about the scholarships available at each of the four Inns of Court, go to the Inns of Court Scholarships section.
Between them, the four Inns of Court offer millions of pounds in awards every year. The umbrella term 'award' is used to describe all scholarships, bursaries and grants.
Each Inn is a separate entity and so the rules governing scholarships differ. Amounts vary and all are awarded on merit, although some Inns have awards for certain achievements. Most awards are given to students on the Bar course (formerly the BPTC), but the Inns also have funds available for those on the GDL.
It’s advisable to apply in the final year of your degree or in the year before starting the law conversion or Bar course. The Inns’ websites have application forms that ask for character details, legal experience, income/funds and references. You can apply for scholarships at only one Inn. If the scholarship committee likes your application, it’ll invite you to an interview.
For a summary, read this guide to joining an Inn of Court.
Some grant-making trusts and charities may offer financial assistance to those seeking to qualify as a barrister. You can find information about grants, loans and other funds from your local education authority awards officer.
As of January 2022, the minimum pupillage award increased to £17,152 a year outside London and £19,144 in London. Prestigious chambers may award pupils more than this.
The minimum pupillage pay level will also increase year on year in line with the recommendations of the Living Wage Foundation.
It’s important to be aware that around two-thirds of Bar course students and graduates never go on to secure a pupillage, so the path to becoming a barrister is a highly expensive one with no guarantee of a career at the end of it. Reflect on whether you have the skills and CV to beat the odds before you enrol on the Bar course.