Becoming a Barrister
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On this portion of the site we will attempt to answer all the questions you could have about becoming a barrister.
And you’ll need to know as much as you can before you start your journey to the bar.
It’s so competitive.
For a brief overview on how to become a barrister please see this article which outlines the key steps you need to take.
A brief history
If you want to be a barrister you should at least know a little of the meaning and history behind the bar don’t you think? You probably know what being called to the bar is – the graduation ceremony for Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) students.
But do you know what “the bar” is? In old courtrooms the bar was an actual barrier which separated the rest of the court from the judge. Barristers would stand directly behind the bar facing the judge. These barristers historically used to be solicitors who had experience in higher courts. They were called barristers because they were called to the physical “bar” in order to address the judge. Since then the actual practice has changed but the terminology has remained.
How hard is it to become a barrister
Again, historically speaking, being a barrister was seen as one of the few suitable careers for rich upper class men. This notion of barristers being rich upper class white men has in some ways stayed with the bar to this day. Although it does somewhat have a basis in fact – 35% of barristers are women, 10% are from ethnic minorities (but 7.9% of the population are ethnic minorities) and over 30% went to Oxford or Cambridge.
These figures are constantly improving and the Bar Council do seem to be promoting social mobility even more. But becoming a barrister will still be very hard for the typical student. There are less than 500 pupillages available for 2500 students who apply to take the BPTC (taken from 2011 statistics). This means it’s very competitive, but not impossible. If you work hard, and have the raw ability you can shift the odds in your favour. Oh and some good family connections always help!
We look at the exact entry requirements in the articles above. But entry requirements needed by the BPTC providers, and the requirements needed to get a pupillage are very different. You need to consistently achieve great academics – in 2011 only 4% of people who obtained a pupillage got a 2:2 at university.
Academics alone won’t be enough; you need to demonstrate a real interest in becoming a barrister and be able to show that you have all of the required skills. Even someone who got a first from Oxford may not have the required soft skills to succeed at the bar.
Required skills of a barrister
So what are these soft skills we mentioned before? First of all you need to be able think think quickly on your feet. After all, you can plan as much as you want but inevitably something unexpected is going to come up. This could be a question from the judge, the response of a witness you’re questioning or perhaps a course of action from a rival barrister during the trial. Written and oral presentation skills also need to be excellent.
You need to be able to put your arguments across clearly and persuasively. Even if you have developed the most creative argument possible it’s no good without being properly presented. Being able to work under pressure, and deal with adversity is another crucial element. Things won’t always go your way and when they don’t you need to remain confident and sure of your own ability.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, you need to be responsible, be of sound character and possess plenty of integrity. You need your clients to trust you and believe in your advice & judgement. Still interesting in becoming a barrister after all that? Then check out the articles above.