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Journey to the Bar: tips for aspiring barristers

updated on 23 November 2021

I am currently an unqualified barrister, meaning I have been called to the Bar but have not yet completed pupillage. I am still on my journey and hope my experience can encourage you and provide some tips for your journey to the Bar.

Get involved

Get involved with mooting early! I started mooting in my final year at university, it was a great experience, but I’d encourage students to start when they have fewer responsibilities. Mooting is vital for future barristers it gives you a real taster of preparing a case with limited deadlines and helps with your studies. I was part of a two-person team and managed to moot in the supreme court and at Inner Temple. It’s also a great networking opportunity so try to put yourself out there.

Sandwich course

I completed a sandwich course that allowed me to work at a family law firm during my third year. During this time I was fortunate to attend county courts throughout London to obtain non-molestation orders on behalf of domestic violence victims. This experience was invaluable, and I encourage all law students to get some type of court experience, even if it’s just volunteering at the Royal Courts of Justice. Being a barrister is a difficult journey, so the more experience you have the better!

Bar course

Nothing prepared me for the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), which has been replaced by new Bar courses. The course consists of a heavy workload with short deadlines. I encourage students to take notes as they go along to ensure that when it comes to revision your notes are fully prepared. 

The practical assessments are a great opportunity for you to develop your advocacy style. Try out different techniques when questioning your classmates and be prepared!

On a financial note check your Inn for any scholarship programmes. I had no idea about them until I was told by someone and I’m so thankful because Middle Temple helped me to fund the BPTC. All the Inns have different requirements so look around in advance because you can apply to only one.

Mini-pupillages

Despite having the huge workload of the university and/or work try to squeeze in time to apply and complete mini-pupillages. There are so many different areas of law and some are different from the issues your lecturer prepares you for during a workshop. I managed to secure mini-pupillages throughout my time at university. I’d say this is the best time to complete them.

Each chambers has different deadlines, and some require you to do a mini-pupillage before you can apply for pupillage so be sure to check their websites.

Post BPTC

I didn’t want to paralegal again after completing the BPTC, I wanted to get into court again as soon as possible. If you’re interested in a career at the Bar, I would still encourage you to look at solicitors’ firms as many have in-house counsel. I am currently an advocate at a national law firm, I attend county courts and first-tier tribunals across the country on behalf of private clients.

Some in-house firms also offer pupillage! I encourage any aspiring barrister to look for a job that will offer you first-hand court experience. I now have a level of confidence in court that I can use and develop throughout my journey to the golden ticket that is pupillage.

My experience as a Black woman

I have always been told by my family that I must work 10 times harder, unfortunately, they were not lying! Defying the stereotypes and stigmas attached to being Black is never-ending, but it’s not impossible. You don’t have to ‘sell out’ doing it either, always retain some of your personality and finesse and allow it to shine through no matter what room you’re in.

I believe getting to the golden ticket is all about connections. Network and keep in touch with people! I used to attend so many events, take lots of emails but then do nothing with them. You never know unless you try, and chances are if a barrister is giving you their work or personal email, they want you to contact them. The life of a barrister is very busy, so if one wants to help you, I urge you to seize the opportunity!

Finally, the Bar is far from representative of the legal profession. It’s expensive, hard work and yes you will have to work 10 times harder as a Black candidate, but you can do it!

When you make it up the ladder, remember to help the next person climb up. If we continue to share knowledge and resources, I believe we may eventually see a Bar that reflects our society.

I hope I have inspired you to keep going on your long journey to the Bar – I hope to see as many success stories on LinkedIn as possible!

For aspiring barristers check out:

Sherelle Appleby (she/her) is an assistant advocate at Browne Jacobson LLP. You can connect with her via LinkedIn.