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From July 2020, a range of new Bar courses replaced the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) as the mandatory vocational stage of training before pupillage.
The variety of courses may appear confusing, with different fees and learning styles to consider, but all Bar courses approved by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) result in the same qualification: a Postgraduate Diploma in Bar Practice.
This qualification (alongside being ‘called to the Bar’ by an Inn of Court) makes a Bar course graduate eligible for pupillage, the final stage of on-the-job training to qualify as a barrister.
Wondering if you should do the Bar? Read this Oracle.
Transitional arrangements for BPTC students
The BSB says: From Summer 2022, if candidates “have not successfully completed the relevant assessments for whatever reason, including where mitigating circumstances apply as determined by your course provider”, you’ll be affected in a number of ways, including that you’ll be required to pass the new centralised assessments for civil litigation and professional ethics. Candidates can find full details about the transitional arrangements on the BSB’s website.
For more information read LCN’s Bar courses guide.
New Bar courses
The Bar courses can be studied in one or two parts. This flexibility means that there are now multiple pathways to becoming a barrister, rather than just one, as was previously the case:
Three-step pathway: similar to the old route. The academic stage (a law degree on its own or a non-law degree plus law conversion) is followed by the vocational stage (a postgraduate Bar course). The Bar course is followed by the third and final step – pupillage or work-based component.
Four-step pathway: the academic stage, followed by the Bar course divided into two parts, followed by pupillage. One part of the Bar course may be delivered through self-study (ie, no tutor contact). In this route, students don’t pay fees for part two of the course until they’ve successfully completed part one. With part two the much more expensive part of the course, this means that students who fail part one aren’t locked into paying the full fees (as they were on the BPTC). Students can also take a break after completing part one and return to part two at a later date. However, according to the Process evaluation – interim report, two of the five Authorised Education and Training Organisations that had previously offered the two-part course withdrew this offering by autumn 2022, leaving just three providers with this option for the 2023/24 academic year.
Integrated pathway: combined academic and vocational stages (where the Bar course is integrated into an undergraduate law degree) followed by pupillage.
Apprenticeship pathway: academic, vocational and pupillage components combined in an apprenticeship. However, while plans for barrister apprenticeships have been discussed, this route is not yet available.
Whichever Bar course you choose, you’ll learn both the legal knowledge required to be a barrister (eg, criminal litigation, civil litigation, evidence and sentencing) and practical skills (eg, advocacy, opinion writing and drafting, and conference skills).