The BPTC is designed to give people the skills to practise as a barrister. Applications are made via an online portal called BarSAS (which is similar to UCAS for university applications). The deadline for applications has just closed and offers from providers will be made shortly.
There are requirements for enrolling on the BPTC. Although these vary from institution to institution, applicants are usually required to have obtained at least a 2:2 in a qualifying law degree or non-law subject and a pass mark on the GDL. Applicants must also have passed the BCAT (a critical thinking test which most participants pass, although the pass mark has been increased recently) and various English literacy tests. Finally, applicants must have joined an inn of court. Although not a formal requirement, some thought should be given to funding the ever-increasing costs of the courses. It goes without saying that these qualifications alone are not enough to gain pupillage. As a result, some providers are restricting the number of course entrants and imposing more stringent entry requirements. However, it is still the case that many BPTC applicants will not end up working as a barrister.
It is also worth pointing out that the BPTC is valid for only five years. Therefore, if you are unsure whether the bar is what you want to do or if your CV is not up to scratch for pupillage applications, it may be worth putting off the BPTC for a year or so. The BPTC is relatively easy to get on as academic courses go, especially compared with the odds of gaining pupillage. There is nothing to lose by putting the bar course off for a while if there is any doubt in your mind and potentially a lot to gain. Many people go on to bar school as a default straight after university without doing proper research, but sometimes it’s better to stop and think if now is the right time.
If, having read the above, there is some doubt in your mind as to whether you are ready to commit to the BPTC, a good barometer is whether you have obtained any scholarships. It is no secret that the fees for the course are astronomical and continue to rise each year. Bank loans are available to cover the fees (and the accompanying interest rates) or the fees can be partly covered by working and doing the course part time. Scholarships, particularly those from the inns of court, are generally a good way to assess your prospects of obtaining pupillage at a particular moment in time. Besides, if you can fully fund the course by way of scholarships, the gamble becomes a lot less high stakes!
Although it is common advice not to take the BPTC unless you have pupillage, I don’t advocate that approach. While some will start the BPTC with an offer already under their belts, the vast majority will not. Conversely, on the LPC, it is normal for those taking the course to do so only once they have obtained a training contact and the course is quite often funded by the firm. Given the plethora of qualified candidates on offer, chambers are unlikely to take a chance on an unknown quantity.
Before embarking on at least one year of intense study, it is worth giving some thought to whether you are also ready to spend five years applying for pupillages and whether you are likely to obtain one in that time.