So you want to be a barrister..?

So you want to be a barrister..?

Tuesday 11 November 2014 - Stephanie Chan

I had always wanted to be a barrister so during my undergraduate years, I tried to transform myself into a good candidate for the BPTC. In my first year, I participated in several open days with Middle Temple, Gray’s Inn and Brick Court Chambers to get a flavour of the life of a barrister. The skill of mooting is essential to prove your suitability for the Bar. I won my Understanding Law seminar moot in first year and went on to become the Second/Final Year Internal Competitions Organiser for Mooting Society in my second year. When final year came, I finished in second place for the internal competition and was also selected for the external team to represent our university in the Oxford University Press National Moot. If a career at the Bar is what you are looking for, these activities are priceless to hone the skills you will need.

Along with mooting, it is important to have legal experience. I only had one mini-pupillage but had several vacation placements with different law firms throughout university. I was fortunate to also have marshalling experience with a High Court judge in Hong Kong. Any legal experience is valuable experience so definitely exploit contacts and look for exposure to the legal system as much as possible.

BPTC – Tough but rewarding

The BPTC is vastly different to studying at an undergraduate level. The crucial difference between the BPTC course and the undergraduate law degree is the close contact. The BPTC course expects students to prepare and actively contribute to the lessons in order for discussions to be carried out on a particular topic.  It focuses on student-tutor contact and many core modules are taught in seminar groups of 6 – 12 people.

Oddly enough, the BPTC does not teach its students much substantive law. Instead, we are taught how to apply those legal principles in practice. The core modules include Civil Litigation (Evidence and Sentencing), Criminal Litigation (Evidence and Sentencing), and Professional Ethics. Other modules like Drafting and Opinion Writing are generally focused on the method and the form in which a barrister communicates with professional or lay clients.

So you want to be a barrister- Chris BeckettMy main tip to undergraduates would be to take the Criminal Evidence module. Most people don’t appreciate the value of this course until they have reached the BPTC. Even if you do not intend to become a criminal practitioner, Criminal Litigation is an essential course on the BPTC and hence it is important to have more knowledge than the topics taught under Criminal Law.

Moreover, the course content is taught much quicker than undergraduate level subjects. BPTC students are expected to learn one topic per seminar and to master that topic for the next. Consequently, there is little to no leeway for mistakes. Despite this, it is an enjoyable course that requires total commitment and serious dedication.

A message to future BPTC students

If you are thinking of applying for the BPTC it may be helpful to take on extracurricular activities at university. Many BPTC students have continued those commitments and are very active within the local community on a pro bono basis. The BPTC course is about bridging the gap between academia and practice and though it is tough, it is very rewarding.

Images courtesy of Chris Beckett under Creative Commons licence.

About the author

Author: Stephanie Chan