If you want to become a successful barrister, a law degree or conversion course will only take you so far. To get the required vocational training you'll have to complete the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC)
The BPTC is a vocational stage of training, which equips students with the skills they need to become pupils and then fully-fledged barristers.
How long does the BPTC take?
It takes one year to complete full time, but a two-year, part-time option is available at six BPTC providers.
The amount of time you spend in the classroom will vary but on a full-time course you can expect between 10 and 16 hours a week. Many institutions will leave one day a week free for pro bono work, court visits and networking events.
What will I learn?
The emphasis is on learning through practical work, with many exercises based on briefs similar to those that barristers receive in the early stages of their career.
The course covers a number of compulsory subjects including:
- civil litigation evidence and remedies
- conference skills
- criminal litigation, evidence and sentencing
- resolution of disputes out of court
- opinion writing
- professional ethics.
In advocacy classes, students have to research the law in relation to the case, as well as court procedure to enable them to make their submissions. They then present their cases in mock courtrooms where they are expected to think quickly on their feet and respond to the opposing arguments.
How will I be assessed?
Assessment varies between BPTC providers but all providers test knowledge through written exams. Advocacy and conference skills are tested through practical exercises often involving actors and both seen and unseen elements.
Where can I study?
There are eight providers validated to run the BPTC in England and Wales:
- BPP Law School (Birmingham, Bristol, Manchester, Leeds and London)
- Cardiff Law School
- The City Law School, City, University of London
- Manchester Metropolitan University
- Northumbria University, Newcastle
- Nottingham Law School, Nottingham Trent University
- The University of Law (Birmingham, Leeds, London)
- University of the West of England, Bristol
To find a course, search BPTC courses.
What are the entry requirements?
The Bar Standards Board (BSB) require a minimum 2:2 law degree or for a student to have completed the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) to convert an unrelated undergraduate degree. However, some providers set their own minimum entry requirements that are higher than the BSB standard, so check with individual institutions before submitting your application.
All students must also be fluent in English and apply to join an Inn of Court by 31 May of the year they intend to start the BPTC.
You also need to pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT), which was introduced by the BSB. The test assesses applicants' critical thinking and reasoning but not their legal knowledge. It consists of 60 multiple-choice questions and takes 55 minutes to complete. Students have until the end of July in the year in which they intend to start the BPTC to pass the BCAT. It costs £150 for UK and European Union (EU) applicants and £170 for international students. More information and a practice test is available at TalentLens - The Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT).
How do I choose a BPTC?
- Location - You may choose to study in the area where you hope to practise once you've qualified as a barrister, particularly as law schools are likely to have good links with the Bar in their area.
- Cost - Fees will vary between courses and if you're funding it yourself this is something you need to think about. You may also want to consider the Inn of Court scholarships available, as well as whether the provider itself offers any scholarships, to help you out.
- Reputation - What does the legal world think of the institution? Are the academics well known in the sector?
- Course structure - How's it taught? What opportunities are there for extra-curricular activities such as pro bono? Are the class sizes reasonable?
When do I apply?
All applications are made online at the Bar Student Application Service (BarSAS). If you plan to do the BPTC immediately after your course ends, you need to apply in the autumn of your final year on a law degree or the first term of your conversion course.
How much does the BPTC cost?
Course fees vary depending on the institution. For example, The University of Law charges £18,150 for the full-time BPTC at its London Bloomsbury campus, including the BSB registration fee of £550, course materials, assessment fees and learning resources.
Meanwhile Nottingham Law School, at Nottingham Trent University, charges £14,800 for its full-time BPTC, inclusive of course materials, assessment fees and learning resources.
There is also a non-refundable £36 fee when applying for the BPTC through the BarSAS.
Is funding available?
Would-be barristers have the support of the Inns of Court. These barristers' clubs provide approximately £4million each year to BPTC students. A few barristers' chambers also offer money towards the cost of the BPTC.
Another way to pay for the BPTC is with a Professional and Career Development Loan (PCDL), which is available from The Co-operative Bank. Students can borrow between £300 and £10,000 to be repaid at the end of their studies. You could also fund yourself or take advantage of the scholarships and bursaries that are offered by universities. Search for funding opportunities and find out more about funding postgraduate study.