How to become a barrister

Interested in a career in law? Want to become a barrister? Our guide will explore the journey including requirements, qualifications and more.

Who is a barrister?

Barristers are well-known for wearing wigs and gowns. They are expert legal advisors who represent clients in court, investigations, or disagreements. They also offer advice to solicitors.

What does a barrister do?

A barrister will:

  • Advocate for clients in court
  • Be a source of legal advice for clients
  • Solve disagreements or disputes
  • Support clients

What do I need to become a barrister?

  1. This stage involves studying a law degree such as our LLB or our LLB with Business.

    However, you can still become a barrister without studying law. If you study a non-law degree, you can still become a barrister but will have to complete a conversion course like the Graduate Diploma in Law. This will generally take a year. 

    As this is a relatively competitive field, you should aim to achieve a first class or upper second-class, 2:1. Read our guide on understanding university grades.

  2. At this point, you will complete the one-year Bar course at a vocational course provider. This can be done full-time or part-time or as an integrated LLM.

    To qualify as a barrister, you will need to have joined one of the Inns of Court twelve weeks before starting. You can also ask your Inn for a ‘sponsor’ or ‘mentor’ who can introduce you to life at the Bar or offer advice. Certain Inns expect you to have a minimum of one application for a pupillage to gain access to a mentor or sponsor.

    Upon passing this vocational component, you will be 'called to the Bar' where you will celebrate in a ceremony much like a graduation. Although you cannot practise until you complete a pupillage.

  3. Next, you'll need to complete a pupillage year. A pupillage is the practical stage of training to be a barrister. Here, you will be assigned a pupil supervisor who you may shadow or undertake supervised work for.

    This is typically spent in barristers’ chambers, though the government or a small number of other organisations who offer pupillages. The chambers are required to fund your pupillage.

    Pupillages tend to last for 12 months full-time or 24 months being part-time. The first six months are non-practising and the second six are practising where you can lead on your own cases.

    You are given five years to gain a pupillage after you have completed the Bar training course. If you are unable to secure a pupillage, you can apply for an extension from the Bar Standards Board.

  4. Now you can find a set of chambers to practise permanently (this is known as ‘tenancy').

    You can normally gain tenancy at the chambers in which you completed your pupillage. However, this is highly competitive so if you are unsuccessful, you can apply for a probationary tenancy elsewhere for another six months.

    Students in a law courtroom

What type of barrister can I be?

There are different types of barristers. They typically specialise in a specific area of law. For example:

  • Chancery law (estates and trusts)
  • Commercial law
  • Common law (includes family, housing and personal injury law)
  • Criminal law
  • Entertainment law
  • Environmental law
  • Sports law

Career progression and pathways

You can join the Bar Council for continuing professional development and training opportunities.

How can I progress?

With experience as a barrister, you could:

  • lead a team
  • become a manager
  • apply to become a King's Counsel (KC)
  • become a judge
  • become an ombudsman

What is the King’s Counsel?

Very experienced barristers can become part of the King’s Counsel (KC). A barrister can achieve this once they have at least 10-15 years’ experience. A KC takes importance over other barristers in a court setting.

Frequently asked questions

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