updated on 06 June 2023
I’m considering becoming a barrister, but how do I know whether the Bar is right for me?
Reading time: three minutes
Identifying whether the Bar is right for you is tough so it’s important to dedicate time to understanding what life as a barrister actually involves. Unfortunately, the Bar isn’t all courtrooms, cross-examining and wigs like a good drama might lead you to believe. Sure, there are numerous personality types that’d suit the barrister lifestyle – from the boldest of mooters to those who prefer to quietly prepare for mock trials – however, there are some common character traits that anybody interested in life at the Bar should consider. We’ve highlighted some of the factors you should take into account when thinking about a career as a barrister.
Want to know exactly how to become a barrister? Check out this page from our Barristers hub.
Putting your best foot forward academically is crucial for any legal career but the Bar is well known for valuing intellectual prowess. According to the Bar Standards Board (BSB) the minimum standard for UK/Republic of Ireland undergraduate law degrees for “completion of the academic component” of Bar training is a lower second-class honours (2.2). Ideally, you’d have an upper-second-class honours or first-class degree. The latest research published by the BSB revealed that for UK/EU students, the proportion enrolling on Bar courses with a first-class degree has increased to 27% in 2022/23, an 11% increase since 2013/14. Put simply, academics are incredibly important if you’re an aspiring barrister.
Considering whether any profession is right for you is only made easier by experiencing first-hand what that role has to offer. Mini-pupillages are short work shadowing placements offered by barristers’ chambers and can last from one day to a week. Not only are they an essential part of any application to chambers, but they’ll also give you a real understanding of what the day-to-day life of a barrister looks like. The work you experience will differ depending on the barrister you’re shadowing, their practice, current cases and their individual character. Either way, it’s a non-negotiable for anybody considering life at the Bar.
With this in mind, a mini-pupillage could help you work out what kind of barrister you could see yourself as. Each practice area has its own demands regarding knowledge base, temperament, working practices and pay. The practice area you choose may determine whether life at the Bar is suited to you. For example, if you’re passionate about human rights, working as a specialist criminal barrister might be your calling or maybe you come from a more scientific background and intellectual property law could give you the chance to put that knowledge to practical use. Knowing the area you want to go into will help you to accept the right pupillage and decide whether the Bar is right for you.
Curious about practice areas? Check out these Barristers’ Practice Area Profiles on LawCareers.Net for insights from practising barristers.
Get stuck in
One word, mooting. Mooting is basically a mock trial and is great for aspiring barristers to develop their advocacy skills. A moot is a contest in which two opposing pairs of council argue a fictional legal case in front of a ‘judge’. Usually, this is a postgraduate student, practitioner or in some cases a literal judge! It’ll give you a taster of how to prepare a case within a tight deadline, engage with public speaking and will also help with your studies.
For more about mooting opportunities, read this LCN Feature.
There are so many opportunities to learn more about becoming a barrister and the Bar. It’s not an easy decision, but we have so many resources to help you decide what’s best for you.
Want to learn more?