We live in a litigious age. Lawsuits and countersuits as well as claims for compensation and so on mean that demand for lawyers is likely to remain high.
Barristers need to be able to dissect and explain complex issues in such a way that their arguments become clear and ultimately, persuasive. After all, members of a jury, for example, who have not been trained in the law will need to buy into your version of the situation if you are to secure the verdict you’re looking for.
The first academic step is to complete a law degree before completing your Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and pupillage. This postgraduate course allows graduates to be named and practise as barristers in England and Wales. There are 13 institutes that run the BPTC along with the four prestigious Inns of Court and are often collectively referred to as Bar School.
The BPTC is currently the most expensive legal course in Europe with some colleges charging fees exceeding £20,000.
If you already have a first degree in a different subject than law you can study for a Graduate Diploma in Law which effectively converts your qualification.
The BPTC equips would-be barristers with the required set of legal skills and can be studied either full or part time. At this stage there is also a requirement to join one of the four Inns of Court as a student member and undertake a number of qualifying sessions. On successful completion of the BPTC and the Inns’ qualifying requirements you will be ‘Called to the Bar’ and are able to describe yourself legitimately as a barrister.
Pupillage at a set of barristers’ chambers or other approved legal environment is split into two periods of six months each, known as the “first six” and “second six”. During the first six you will be assigned a pupil supervisor (one of the barristers) whom you will observe and assist. If you complete this period satisfactorily you will be given a certificate which will allow you to work on your own during the “second six”. During that time you will start to take on cases and clients of your own and may represent them in court.
After pupillage has finished you will be eligible for tenancy (a permanent place in a set of chambers). There is no guarantee that you will be taken on in the chambers where you undertook pupillage but you may also have made other contacts during the pupillage period which will help you to find a permanent place.
Although most barristers are self-employed, they tend to work in ‘sets’ of chambers that share premises and support services. Often sets develop a specialism and build up a reputation in that area of law that helps to attract clients.
The final step is to achieve tenancy. This is where members of a set allow a new barrister to join them. All tenants contribute part of their earnings to the running of the chambers. Being self employed they do not receive a set monthly wage.