The Bar Standards Board (BSB) regulates barristers and specialised legal services businesses in England and Wales in the public interest. It’s responsible for:
- setting the education and training requirements for becoming a barrister;
- setting continuing training requirements to ensure that barristers’ skills are maintained throughout their careers;
- setting standards of conduct for barristers;
- authorising organisations that focus on advocacy, litigation and specialist legal advice;
- monitoring the service provided by barristers and the organisations it authorises to assure quality; and
- handling reports about barristers and the organisations that it authorises, and taking disciplinary or other action where appropriate.
Training to become a barrister
In April 2019, new Bar Qualification Rules came into force. The rules are designed to ensure that training to become a barrister is more accessible, affordable and flexible, while maintaining the high standards of entry expected at the Bar.
The BSB implemented the new qualification rules between April 2019 and September 2021. This phased approach to implementation for some elements was designed to ensure that no prospective barristers were disadvantaged as a result of the introduction of the new rules. For example, students who hadn’t completed their Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) had the chance to do so as normal, with transitional arrangements until Spring 2022.
There’s more information about the Bar Qualification Rules, their implementation and intention on the BSB’s website.
The components of Bar training
Training to become a barrister comprises three components. These are:
- academic learning (gaining knowledge of the law itself; this is fulfilled by a law degree, or a non-law degree followed by a Graduate Diploma in Law/conversion course, which covers the seven foundations of legal knowledge);
- vocational learning (acquiring barristers' core skills such as advocacy via completion of a Bar course); and
- pupillage (learning to be a barrister on the job).
The Bar Qualification Rules state that Authorised Education Training Organisations (AETOs) can offer courses via a limited number of pathways, offering greater flexibility to aspiring barristers:
- a three-step pathway: academic component, followed by vocational, followed by pupillage/work-based component (ie, pupillage);
- a four-step pathway: academic component, followed by vocational component in two parts, followed by the work-based component (ie, pupillage);
- an integrated academic and vocational pathway: combined academic and vocational components followed by the work-based component (ie, pupillage); and
- an apprenticeship pathway(may become available in the future): combined academic, vocational and work-based component (ie, pupillage).
From September 2020 a whole new range of Bar training courses – some of which combine different components – became available to aspiring barristers. Training providers now offer much more choice for students and the vocational training courses are generally more affordable than the old BPTC. All prospective barristers should review the full range of training options available. A full list of organisations authorised to provide the vocational component of training can be found on the BSB website.
You can also read more about the different Bar courses on offer via LawCareers.Net’s guide to barrister training and the Courses search on the website.
Plus, for more information about the current requirements of each component read the BSB’s Bar Qualification Manual.
It’s also possible to qualify as a barrister in England and Wales by transferring to the Bar from practice overseas or by transferring to the Bar as a solicitor in practice in England and Wales. You can find out how to do this via the BSB website.
More changes to various aspects of Bar training
As well as those described above, the BSB’s extensive review has resulted in:
- changes to the way barristers are assessed during both the vocational and pupillage/work-based learning components, and when they’re assessed, which is set out in a new Curriculum and Assessment Strategy;
- more flexible rules regarding the way pupil barristers are supervised during their pupillage or other form of work-based learning;
- changes to the way pupil barristers are assessed against the competencies and threshold standards contained within the Professional Statement for Barristers – the document that sets out the skills, knowledge and attributes all barristers must be able to demonstrate on their first day of practice;
- changes to the minimum funding award, which must be paid to pupils during pupillage, is now set by the BSB annually taking into account the Living Wage Foundation's recommended hourly rate – with effect from 1 January 2023, it’s £20,703 per annum in London and £18,884 per annum outside of London; and
- a new Memorandum of Understanding with the Inns of Court that covers mandatory membership of an Inn, the administration of ‘fit and proper person’ checks and qualifying sessions.
More information about these changes, their implementation dates and any transitional arrangements are available on the BSB website.