Education and Training

Becoming a Barrister

There are three main stages to becoming a practising barrister.

Academic stage – An undergraduate degree in law (LLB) or alternatively an undergraduate degree in any subject followed by the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL).

Vocational stage – completion of the Bar Training Course usually one year of full-time study or two years part-time.

Pupillage – this is like an apprenticeship where you will gain practical training under the supervision of a barrister or barristers. Usually lasting 12 months, the pupillage is split into two six-month periods. The first six months is non-practising. During the second six months you will undertake your own work under supervision.  You need to successfully complete the year to be able to practice as a barrister.

Pathways to the Bar

To qualify as a barrister you will need to complete an academic component, typically a law degree or an unrelated degree and then the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), a vocational component (Bar Course) and a work-based learning component (usually pupillage). However, under the new rules there are four routes to qualification instead of just one:

Three-Step Pathway:        

Academic component, followed by vocational, followed by pupillage or work-based component.

Four-Step Pathway:          

Academic component, followed by vocational component in two parts, followed by pupillage or work-based component.

Integrated Academic & Vocational Pathway:

Combined academic component and vocational component followed by pupillage or work-based component.

Apprenticeship Pathway:

Combined academic, vocational and pupillage or work-based component. The provision of barrister apprenticeships is still being discussed; as such this route is currently unavailable.

Bar Course Providers

There are a range of institutions, known as Authorised Education and Training Organisations (AETOs) that have been authorised by the BSB to provide courses. These are:

BPP University Law School Cardiff University Manchester Metropolitan University
Northumbria University Nottingham Law School The City Law School City University of London
The Inns of Court College of Advocacy University of West of England

Continue to check the Bar Standards Board website for an up to date list of AETO’s:

Opportunities to acquire and develop advocacy skills

There are a number of ways an aspiring barrister can acquire and develop the advocacy skills required for a career at the Bar.  Listed below are examples of some of the avenues available. It is not an exhaustive list and we will publish details of other events and initiatives as and when they arise on our Events page.


Marshalling is a form of work experience, which involves accompanying a judge at a particular court for a short period of time. Marshalling opportunities are generally available to university law students.  To obtain marshalling experience your first port of call should be to enquire with your local courts via telephone or email.

If you are a BPTC student you will be able to apply for marshalling through your Inn.


Mini Pupillage

Individual chambers have mini pupillage schemes, which allow university (and sometimes secondary school) students to spend a few days shadowing a practising barrister at court or in chambers. A mini-pupillage is the perfect opportunity for students to see what it is like to be a barrister and decide whether a career at the Bar is for them. Visit the website of the chambers that interest you for details of their schemes.

Free Representation Unit (FRU)

The FRU recruits volunteers to provide free legal representation in a variety of cases. Volunteers have to meet a minimum academic criteria; in most cases completion of a qualifying law degree or commencement of the GDL although these requirements can be waived if a volunteer has appropriate practical experience

FRU run training days for their volunteers to introduce them to the relevant law and tribunal procedure, as well as explaining how FRU works. During the pandemic, FRU has been training volunteers remotely. The dates for future training days are published on their website.

Law Centres

Many law centres operate pro bono clinics in which volunteers provide advice under qualified supervision. Volunteer positions are listed on the National Law Centres website, or an approach can be made to a local Law Centre. Visit


Paralegals undertake a wide variety of administrative and legal work. They work with solicitors, barristers and/or chartered legal executives and are often associate members of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives (CILEx).

A paralegal’s role is to support lawyers in their work and they can choose to specialise in a specific area of the law. Visit

County Court Advocate

There are a number of companies offering county court advocate roles.  These roles involve attending county courts and providing representation to clients on a range of civil matters. Two well-known companies that offer county court advocate roles are LPC Law: and Quest Legal Advocates:

There are however, numerous other companies who offer these roles, including solicitors’ firms.

In house Solicitors’ Advocate

Many solicitors’ firms offer employed in house advocacy positions.  Instead of firms instructing external barristers to undertake their advocacy work, they use their own in house advocates to undertake that work.  Vacancies are usually advertised on solicitors’ websites and through legal recruitment sites.

Judicial Assistants

Judicial Assistants (JA) in the High Court of England and Wales are assigned to judges of the High Court across the three Divisions. They assist the judges to whom they are allocated, for example by carrying out research, summarising documents and providing general support for the judge in the organisation of their work and hearings.

The role of JA offers those in the early years of their professional practice a ringside view of the trial process and first instance decision-making from the perspective of the judge, for the most complex, high value and often high-profile cases.


Aimed at recently qualified barristers and solicitors who are in the early stages of their legal career, applications will be invited from those who have graduated with an excellent degree and will be able to demonstrate an outstanding intellectual ability, organisational skills, practical experience, and the ability to manage large and complicated workloads, as well as a high level of professional integrity. Applications will also be welcome from candidates with comparable early years’ experience, for example in academia.


For further information, please email