Blessing Mukosha Park
The BPTC is the next essential step in your journey to become a barrister. Having just finished the course, I want to share my advice on preparing for it to ensure that you are as ready as possible for what is to come. If you are still unsure about what to expect, watch my video showing you a week in the life of a BPTC student.
The BPTC will see you learn skill subjects and knowledge subjects, including criminal and civil procedural rules. These are contained in Blackstone’s Criminal Practice and The White Book respectively. Both books are thick, heavy and come in multiple volumes with additional supplementary material provided in separate books. The reading is going to be dense and time consuming. If you watched my vlog, you saw how I was getting up at 7am to start my reading for the day.
The best way to prepare for this is by getting a really solid understanding of the structure of the Civil and Criminal courts. Understand the different divisions, how they function and their relationship to each other. Go back through your LLB or GDL notes and select some key cases from each of the seven core modules. Read the case again, not for the ratio per se, but for the procedure.
For example, if looking at a criminal appeal ask yourself questions like: how did this case reach the appellate stage? Why was permission to appeal granted? What kind of evidence was presented? Did the judge(s) find a particular type of evidence be insufficient or inconclusive? This type of close procedural reading of cases will help you when studying criminal evidence and procedure. civil procedure is slightly different to criminal and all claims start with some form of claim form being submitted to the court. Again, try reading civil cases to see the procedural issues at hand. In particular, look at issues of disclosure and limitation periods, as there are very specific rules governing these areas.
The BPTC aims to prepare you as much as possible for a career at the Bar. This is a professional qualification and therefore you need to think and act like a professional barrister throughout the course. BPTC students are bound by specific parts of the Bar Standards Board’s (BSB) code of conduct and associated guidance from the time that they enrol on the course, so be prepared for this. Read through the 10 Core Duties contained within the BSB Code of Conduct. Pay particular attention to Core Duty 5. This duty requires barristers not to undermine public trust and confidence in the Bar profession.
Carefully consider how you are meeting the BSB’s standards for barristers well before you start the course. One important thing is your social media. Anything offensive or inappropriate in light of BSB Code of Conduct guidelines could adversely affect you and mean that your career at the Bar is over before it has begun.
Take to your social media with a critical eye and apply the Grandma Test: would you be happy with your grandmother seeing that tweet, post or picture? If the answer is yes, then you’re probably fine. A top-tip is that before you start the course create a new account using your actual name and ensure that this is a clean, professional-looking page. That ensures that when anyone searches your name on Google you can control what they see. Think extremely carefully about everywhere your name appears on the Internet.
If you want to maintain a different account (which is not grandmother-approved) create a pseudonym for that account. I appreciate that a lot of barristers have anonymous accounts where they are quite vocal and forward and this may lead you into doing the same. Be careful though, even if you are posting anonymously you are still bound by the guidance and should still expect to suffer consequences for breaching the conduct rules.
Professionalism on the BPTC also means that cheating is absolutely prohibited. This is no shock I’m sure, but you may be surprised to hear that this includes group work with others. For your BPTC assessments you are absolutely forbidden from receiving help from anyone else and all work must be declared as your own. This of course doesn’t include preparation for tutorials but be aware that the expectation is that you will act like a professional barrister during the course, and barristers do not plagiarise, steal or pass off others’ work as their own.
The BPTC is about simulating life in practice as much as is possible. This means that you won’t be getting any homework in the sense that you may be used to at the undergraduate level. Instead you will receive written instructions that look just like the papers barristers receive from their instructing solicitors in real life. This includes a letter from your instructing solicitors, claim forms, witness statements, particulars of claim and so on. It will also usually contain a time estimate of how long you ought to spend researching and analysing the case papers.
Excellent time management is therefore essential on the BPTC and you need to be able to work for large periods of time without getting distracted. Now is the time to test out apps that help you stay off your phone and social media for set periods of time, and to practice doing large chunks of research without getting bored and feeling the urge to procrastinate. Procrastination is a sure-fire way to mess up on the BPTC because the work is cumulative, meaning you build your skills over time through practice. To test out your discipline, try reading a book distraction-free for two hours a day. The BPTC starts as it intends to go on from day one, so be ready for this.
Finally, your mini-pupillages will have allowed you to see the ways in which barristers work and manage their time. Before you start the BPTC, reflect upon these experiences and see what you can take away from them to prepare you for the course. If you have minis coming up before you start the course, then ask the barristers you are shadowing how they manage their practice, and how they fared during the BPTC.
The BPTC course is going to be intensive. My top tip for you if you’re preparing for the course is to imagine yourself as a barrister from the very beginning. If you think like a barrister, you will find yourself performing like one – and isn’t that the whole point? Good luck with the course!